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Horse Tracks: Broncos draft needs are becoming clear

Good morning Broncos Country!

Virginia v UCLA Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The 2018 NFL Draft is just a little over a week away and the Denver Broncos draft needs are becoming more clear.

As stated in this piece, the Broncos are likely to draft a player or two who they met with at some point during the draft process. Especially a pre-draft visit with said prospects. So with that part of the process winding down, the Broncos direction on draft day are becoming more clear.

1: Quarterback of the future

The Broncos lack a quarterback of the future on their roster currently. Paxton Lynch was supposed to be it, but sometimes a boom or bust projects just busts. It sucks, but it is a part of the gamble that is the NFL Draft. Chad Kelly is on the roster and he hasn’t taken part in a meaningful game or practice since 2016 so the hype there doesn’t meet the reality. Kelly’s presence very likely does not stop the Broncos from selecting a quarterback anyways.

They have the 5th pick and have been doing their homework on the top four quarterbacks. They met and dined with Josh Rosen, traveled to LA to workout Sam Darnold last Friday, Josh Allen was in town on Monday, and next week they’ll meet with Baker Mayfield. Add in all the other meetings and such prior and the Broncos interest in a quarterback is legit.

I think the odds are they will take one at 5 if one they like falls to them and move on from Lynch. The interest is real but how everything shakes out in front of them will determine how this all ends.

2: A coverage linebacker

The Broncos put an emphasis on the inside linebacker position this offseason. They re-signed Todd Davis to a three-year deal and got themselves safety/dime-backer Su’a Cravens via a trade. He’ll play in sub-packages as a linebacker, but the Broncos do not appear to be satisfied with those two. They have been meeting with some day two linebacker prospects in the draft recently.

Ohio State’s Jerome Baker, BYU’s Fred Warner, Iowa’s Josey Jewell, and Washington’s Keishawn Bierria all visited Dove Valley last week. The Broncos figure to draft another linebacker, but who and when remains the question. Of the players who visited, I would like BYU’s Fred Warner the most.

3. Cornerback

Another position the Broncos have been focusing on is the cornerback position.

They traded away veteran cornerback Aqib Talib this offseason and would be looking for depth. Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby are the starters and they signed veteran Tramaine Brock and 2017 third-round pick Brendan Langley in the mix as well. However, they still appear to be looking at corner prospects to compete for that third cornerback spot.

General Manager John Elway values the cornerback position, so I could see a corner taken as high as the 5th overall pick, but I expect one to be added on day two or three. I’d expect another size/speed guy like Langley last season.

4. Developmental tackle

Right tackle was a big need for the Broncos entering the offseason but they added a band-aid option in veteran Jared Veldheer. He was traded from the Arizona Cardinals and likely will be their starting right tackle come week one. However, he is in the final year of his deal and the Broncos lack depth behind him.

The Veldheer addition likely takes an offensive tackle out of consideration in the first and second rounds, but I could see them targeting someone in the 3rd or 4th rounds. Someone who can serve as the swing-tackle this year and hopefully take over next year for Veldheer.

5. Offensive weapons

This need could potential be higher on the Broncos wishlist, but it’s one regardless.

As we know, the Broncos offense sucked the past few years. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are not getting any younger. They appear ready to move on from veteran running back C.J. Anderson, lack a third receiving option, and lack a clear-cut answer at tight end. All of these needs could be addressed during the draft, but do have former draft picks in place to step up.

2017 third-round pick Carlos Henderson could step up at wide receiver but is coming off a disappointing rookie year. Former fourth-round pick Devontae Booker and 2017 sixth-round pick De’Angelo Henderson will need to step up in 2018 if they do indeed move on from Anderson. Finally, they do have Jake Butt at tight end, but it’s unclear how good he will be once or if he ever gets healthy.

So the Broncos have answers potentially on the roster but how they feel about them will be evident after the draft is over with.

6. Interior offensive line

I do not think the Broncos view the interior offensive line as a major need.

They have starters Ron Leary and Matt Paradis already and seem excited about youngsters Connor McGovern and J.J Dielman. Head Coach raved about Dielman earlier this offseason and even called McGovern the starting right guard(for now). So they could just look to add some late round depth here.

Its possible what they said publicly is all bunk(like last year with Ty Sambrailo) and grab Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson at 5, but I think they’re happy with what they have. It will be interesting to see how this goes.

7. Edge rusher and defensive line

These two positions are two wild-card options during the draft. Shaq Barrett is an RFA and could receive an offer sheet before the draft and will be an unrestricted free agent. Former first-round pick Shane Ray has been disappointing and the Broncos will have to decide his fifth-year option here in the coming weeks. So this is a position that will likely see some depth added.

As for the defensive line, Adam Gotsis’s status makes this murky. It is unclear if his case will be decided before the start of the draft leaving the Broncos in a tough position. Could see another defensive end added as early as the second-round if they feel Gotsis will be unavailable.

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