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How early should Denver look for an inside linebacker in this year’s draft?

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Denver needs help at the inside linebacker position, but where is the sweet spot for them to target?

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Is this finally the year that Denver pulls the trigger on a high-round inside linebacker? Or, is there better value to be found in the later rounds?

The guys over at 1st & 10 at 10 on Orange and Blue 760 tackle this debate on their “Take the Case to Court” series, with Steve Atwater making the case for targeting an inside linebacker in rounds 1-2, and Ryan Edwards making the case for waiting until rounds 3-4.

Atwater makes a good point, that Vic Fangio has mentioned repeatedly the needs they have at the inside linebacker position, and how he feels it has evolved in today’s NFL.

Here were Fangio’s comments when asked about LSU’s Devin White at the NFL Coaches Breakfast:

“Yeah, I think he’s a guy that can stay on the field and play all situations. The NFL has changed so much in the last few years. In Chicago last year, we saw over 80 percent that we went against three wide receivers or more. Eighty percent of our plays, there were three wide receivers or more on the field. That’s not counting the two tight end packages where one of them is really a receiver. The thought process that a guy is a first- and second-down player and not a third-down player. You’re defending third-down stuff on first and second down too. I think that’s a thing of the past, to say a guy is a one-down player or two-down player. I don’t like to look at things that way any more.”

When comparing these comments against Denver’s current roster, there isn’t a guy at the inside linebacker position who I would consider a 3-down linebacker. Both Josey Jewell and Todd Davis struggled in coverage last year, so if Fangio were to continue his trend of staying with two inside linebackers in sub packages, like we have seen from most of his defenses, they have to upgrade the position.

On the other side of the argument, Ryan Edwards makes a good point that not only is it unlikely a guy like Devin White will be unavailable when Denver picks at #10, but Fangio’s comments on both Devin Bush and Devin White indicate he isn’t as high on them as he was on Roquan Smith who was picked #8 overall by the Bears last year.

When asked how White and Bush compare to Smith, Fangio said “I don’t think either one is as good as Roquan at this stage in their career. Roquan is a special player and a special individual. It’s going to take a while to see that in those other two guys.”

Now, just because they aren’t as good as one of the best inside linebackers to come out in awhile, doesn’t mean they’re not worth a top 10 pick, but Edwards points out that there is some good depth that could be had in the 3rd or 4th rounds. Guys like Germaine Pratt, Blake Cashman, or Te’Von Coney could be a developmental prospect for Denver to mold at a much lower price tag.

What do you think, Broncos Country? Give the segment a listen to see which side Judge Andrew Mason, ruled in favor of, and sound off with your own ruling in the comments.