The NFL Draft is a game of chance. Some teams make it more of a gamble than others, but every year teams spend countless hours scouting and analyzing players from the collegiate ranks in order to assemble a draft board of players they believe can make a difference upon entering the NFL. It is a meticulous and tedious process that expends an infinite amount of resources. It is perhaps the single most important event for teams looking to build a formidable dynasty worthy of Super Bowl contention year in and year out.
With 10 selections in this years draft and likely 11 in 2016 (due to compensatory selections), the Broncos will have the ammunition to be formidable players in the NFL Draft. It isn't easy to make trades on draft day, but with the wealth of picks the Broncos have over the next two seasons, don't be one bit surprised if you see the Broncos make some big moves in order to secure some of the top talent available in 2015.
As I've wrote before, this is likely Peyton Manning's last ride with the Denver Broncos. Beyond that, there is uncertainty for the team in regard to who will be the quarterback of the future for the squad. Additionally, there have been two schematic changes on offense and defense, which will necessitate obtaining players who fit the mold of the new vision of the Broncos going forward. It is an exciting time to be a fan of the Broncos, a contending team who will undergo a large facelift over the next two seasons and be much different than we have grown accustomed to over the past several seasons.
Given such, I have prepared five major predictions I feel will happen with the Broncos over the course of the NFL Draft, which begins next Thursday.
The Broncos will use two of their first three selections on fortifying their offensive and defensive fronts.
The Broncos Brass is has a lot of confidence and expectations for 2014 rookie offensive line selections Michael Schofield and Matthew Paradis, but without question the team will be using a high selection on a top flight prospect on the offensive line to give the Broncos more competition and long-term success at the position. Furthermore, despite the team making several defensive line signings this off-season they will draft a defensive lineman early.
2013 first-round selection Sylvester Williams is slated as the incumbent starter at nose tackle, however his back-up and former Tar Heel teammate Marvin Austin is a free agent after this season. Defensive ends Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson, who will see significant playing time in 2015 will also be free agents at the end of this year, so it is imperative the Broncos go to the well once more to find a prospect who can solidify their defensive fronts and be coached up by Wade Phillips and Bill Kollar.
This draft is deep in both regards, though I expect the Broncos to be active and do what is necessary to make sure they can find impact players on both fronts given the aforementioned.
The Broncos will draft an inside linebacker in the second round.
I don't know who the Broncos have rated the highest at inside linebacker, but I can assure you one will be drafted early by the squad. By my calculations, the second round seems to be the most logical landing spot for an impact inside linebacker in this draft. A variety of teams are also in need of a top flight prospect on the insider, so the Broncos may have to be proactive and move up in the second to ensure they get the man they desire.
With starters Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall hampered by lingering injuries, coupled with their free agent status at season's end, the Broncos need to have a contingency plan in place for the future. If I had to guess which player they would select, my dark horse candidate would be the team gambling on TCU's Paul Dawson, who has some of the best tape in this years class, but also comes with concerns regarding his character and work ethic.
Despite signing several tight ends this free agency period, the Broncos will draft one as well.
Owen Daniels, James Casey, Virgil Green and Joe Don Duncan were all brought in to compete this year to help replace the production the Broncos lost when Julius Thomas took the money and ran off to Jacksonville. While I have high hopes for Virgil Green and his expanded role in Gary Kubiak's offense, the three other signings do not offer much in the way of long-term potential for the franchise, which is why I expect the team to pick up a tight end in the draft who can develop accordingly on a cheap, four year contract.
The Broncos have been very active in the scouting of tight ends and have made the rounds at Pro Day's and with prospect visits to do their diligence on this years crop. One player I have mentioned consistently is Florida State's Nick O'Leary, who is a better football player than athlete who projects similar to former Colts tight end Dallas Clark. Another possible candidate is FCS prospect MyCole Pruitt, who has the ability to be utilized and many different manners and has enormous upside as a pass catcher in the NFL. I am certainly no Nostradamus, but I have strong feeling one of them will be wearing orange and blue very shortly.
An insurance policy for Demaryius Thomas will be drafted, likely in the fourth or fifth round.
John Elway had some strong words for Demaryius Thomas, who has been absent from the teams off-season activities thus far as he and the Broncos continue working on long-term deal that will ensure he is a Bronco for years to come. In a worst case scenario that doesn't happen, which implicates the future of the Broncos receiving corps in the future.
If Thomas lands elsewhere in 2016 (if a deal is not reached), Emmanuel Sanders and Cody Latimer would be the top receivers on the Broncos depth chart, but would lack anyone of substance behind them. This is a very deep draft for wide receiver, and while it isn't likely the Broncos will find someone of Thomas' caliber in the middle-rounds of the draft, they certainly can find a player capable of being a starter at the NFL level in that area.
Prospects to keep an eye on: Darren Waller, Georgia Tech | Tre McBride, Willam & Mary | Justin Hardy, East Carolina | Kenny Bell, Nebraska
The Broncos will draft a quarterback, but it won't be Bryce Petty or Garrett Grayson.
Over the course of the draft process, rumors have persisted from various outlets that the Broncos have a significant interest in both Bryce Petty and Garrett Grayson. I can't confirm or deny those rumors personally, but I don't see the Broncos using the high pick necessary to bring in either of those quarterbacks, especially with the other needs on the team. The team has already made that resource allocation mistake with Brock Osweiler and should learn from history and not repeat it again.
I'll float a name out there that many haven't stated in regards to the Broncos: Brandon Bridge from South Alabama.
He has all the physical tools you look for in a starting quarterback, but has limited experienced and certainly needs time to develop. Picking Bridge up in the late rounds of the draft seems more logical than using an early pick on Petty or Grayson, who in my opinion will be good back up players in the NFL, not quality starters capable of leading a team to the Super Bowl. If the Broncos want to find a legitimate starting quarterback for the franchise, they should wait until 2016, which will have far better options available to the than this years.
MHR Community, feel free to post your bold Broncos draft predictions in the comments below. I'd love to see what thoughts you have on the subject as well. Cheers!