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Denver Broncos 2012 Draft: When the Broncos Should Draft a Running Back

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28:  A general view of the Draft stage during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Zach PughContributor IIIApril 20, 2012

The months leading up to the NFL Draft are full of speculation, scouting reports, mock drafts and numerous possibilities for each team. While the talk about what your team should do with each pick can get redundant, it can generate good discussions.

In Denver, the discussion has been heavily reliant on what the Denver Broncos do with their first-round pick. Every scenario has been addressed in-depth, even going as far as trading away the 25th overall pick. Do the Broncos draft a quarterback, load up on offense for Peyton Manning or do they build the defense?

The Broncos need to build their core through the draft. This is a model that has worked well for last years' Super Bowl Champions, the New York Giants.

The approach to the draft should be no different, even with Peyton Manning. The best case scenario would be if the Broncos get three productive years out of Manning, and, if during that time they are building through the draft, they would still have a team that could maintain success after Manning retires.

Take it a step further and maybe the Broncos can land Manning's successor within the next two draft cycles. 

There is the ongoing discussion about whether teams should draft for best player available or for team need. The Broncos need an interior defensive lineman, but if the best player available in the first round is a running back, should they draft him?

Joe Fortenbaugh wrote an article last week about how the work horse running back is no longer a need in today's NFL. It's no secret that teams base their offense off the passing game. As Joe points out in his article, the amount of carries from the "top running back" on Super Bowl winning teams have decreased quite a bit since 1996.

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 08:  Willis McGahee #23 of the Denver Broncos points with the ball after a run against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 8, 2012 in Denver, Colorado.  (Phot
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Should the Broncos take a running back in the draft next week? Yes, but no earlier then the third round.

The Broncos managed to have the best rushing attack in the league last season with the combination of Willis McGahee, Tim Tebow and Lance Ball. The lowest yards per carry between the three was 4.2 by Lance Ball.

The offensive game plan will be different with Manning, of course, but if the offense can produce those type of numbers in the running game with McGahee and Ball, is there really a need to use an early round pick on a running back?

The biggest difference between the offense under Tebow and Manning is that under Manning the offense won't be so one-dimensional. There is an equal threat whether the play is a run or pass. So with the success of the running game last season, the Broncos could even get away with using McGahee and Ball this season.

If the Broncos wait until the third round to select a running back, they can still get a player who can contribute to the running game right away. Bernard Pierce, Robert Turbin and Chris Rainey are all projected to still be available. Chris Rainey should be available even in the fourth round and would be a nice addition for Manning to throw to out of the backfield.

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