The 2012 NFL draft is now just hours away. Beginning on Thursday evening, the draft has grown from a blip on your local news channel. It is now a full-blown prime time party.
Spanning three days, the NFL Draft now provides every team and fan with hope for what the future may bring.
The Denver Broncos are coming off one of their most exciting seasons in recent history. Yet they have a number of holes to fill on both sides of the ball.
Draft day surprises are the norm. Highly ranked players fall every year and conversely low drafted players come to the NFL with something to prove.
Think about past drafts. Players like DeMarco Murray (2011, Dallas, third round), Aaron Hernandez (2010, New England, fourth round) and Mike Wallace (2009, Pittsburgh Steelers, third round) are there for the taking.
Who should the Broncos take a shot at in the first few rounds?
Here are 10 players who the Broncos should definitely target if they are available.
If the Broncos do not have a cornerback fall to them in rounds one or two, Brandon Boykin out of the University of Georgia will be someone that they will have be watching.
Unable to workout at the combine due to a Senior Bowl injury, Boykin is definitely a playmaker.
He is a corner with good instincts that is not afraid to make a hit against the run.
Add to that, he is capable of being a factor on special teams as an explosive kick returner.
If Boykin falls to the third round at No. 87, the Broncos may have to pull the trigger.
Jared Crick is all over the mock drafts. No one is quite sure where and when he will go.
At just 6'4", Crick is going to have to play end in the NFL. That's fine, he has the speed and enough strength to do so.
Crick wasn't overly impressive at the combine which may hurt his stock.
Crick can play football. That's the bottom line. He has a relentless motor and will work hard every snap.
I think No. 57 is too high for Crick. The Broncos will have to wait until their third-round selection. But if Crick is still on the board in the third round at No. 87, they may have a decision to make.
Drawing comparisons to the Baltimore Ravens' Ray Rice, Doug Martin has a nice skill set.
He has a quick burst into the hole. He has soft hands out of the backfield. His size at just 5'9" gives him a low center of gravity and makes him difficult for defenders to find.
Willis McGahee is the starter in Denver, but after that, the Broncos have a number of question marks in their backfield.
Martin must be considered at No. 57.
No question the Broncos need to build that defense.
But what do you do at No. 25 if the top defensive linemen are gone, and Kendall Wright is still on the board?
Wright has big time acceleration and goes and attacks the football while it is in the air.
He looks to score every time he touches the ball.
As a senior at Baylor, he caught 108 passes and had 14 touchdowns.
Defensive line might have to wait. Adding Kendall Wright to Peyton Manning's weapons may just be too tempting to pass up.
Some experts consider Worthy to be one of the top defensive tackles in the draft. Worthy was not very impressive at the combine.
It's a tough group to figure.
Some have excelled on the playing field like Worthy. Others like Dontari Poe out of Memphis have had a great combine.
I would choose guys who have performed on the field over players who have excelled in the Underwear Olympics every single time.
Worthy can play. He has great anticipation off the line. At 308 pounds, he will demand attention.
I still think No. 25 may be a little high for Worthy, but he has to be considered.
Defensive tackle is a more pressing need, but if Ingram falls to No. 25, the Broncos will have no choice but to take him.
This is a big time edge rusher that would give the Broncos a potent quarterback threat opposite Elvis Dumervil.
Think Justin Tuck. Think Jason Pierre-Paul. Think the New York Giants' pass-rush.
Then cross your fingers and hope that Seattle and Philadelphia look elsewhere in the opening round.
There are numerous reports that the Broncos were in pursuit of the Eagles' Asante Samuel. The deal didn't happen, and the Broncos are left still coveting a top cornerback to play opposite Champ Bailey.
Kirkpatrick could fall into that spot.
His recent marijuana arrest was dropped, but Kirkpatrick had a very average combine.
Kirkpatrick didn't have many interceptions at Alabama. That was primarily because the man he defended was never open enough to attempt a throw.
At 6'2", he has great size. He also has very good instincts and is not afraid to press.
This may be a lockdown corner for years to come.
Brockers probably makes the most sense for the Broncos if he is still on the board.
Great against the run, he has shown the ability to collapse a pocket as well.
He didn't grade out all that well at the combine, which may be fortuitous for Denver.
If he ends up at No. 25, the Broncos will be hard-pressed not to snap him up.
Something to consider on Brockers: He is entering the NFL draft as just a red-shirt sophomore.
He is only 21 years old.
The potential for this guy is through the roof.
If not for Luke Kuechly looking like a can't-miss prospect, Hightower would easily be the top inside linebacker in the draft.
Hightower ran a 4.6 40-yard dash at the combine, yet at 6'2" and 265 pounds, he has a lineman's size.
Highly intelligent, Hightower would turn the Broncos' linebacking corps into a major strength.
He fights off offensive linemen and dominated the interior of the field.
While the defensive line is most likely the top priority for the Broncos, Hightower could be a great pro for a long time.
Peter Konz could really throw a wrench into the Broncos' plans to draft defensive help.
The Broncos tried to lure former Manning teammate Jeff Saturday to Denver, but he ended up signing a contract with Green Bay instead.
While the Broncos need considerable help on the defensive side of the ball, Konz may be viewed as too valuable to an offense with Peyton Manning at quarterback.
Konz is a dedicated player who makes all the right calls and rarely gets beat.
The 6'5" center is strong enough to generate a push in the running game, yet athletic enough to protect his passer, and is deemed by most to be the top center in the draft.
If you are really struggling with the idea that Denver may select Konz instead of some defensive help, I'm right there with you.
But we aren't the ones that have to tell Peyton Manning that the top center was on the board and we left him there.
That may not be a pleasant conversation.