John Elway and the Denver Broncos are facing a make-or-break draft on Thursday. If Denver misses on more picks than they score on, then it will be up to the checkbook of Pat Bowlen to assemble a team via free agency in the years to come.
However, if Elway and his draft team can find big scores in 2012, then the team will be poised for an immediate run, as well as continued success in the future.
The selections that follow are a blend of research, personal opinion, prediction and frustrating realizations that the team may not see things the way everyone else does.
Only time will tell if they are right or wrong.
Since the "mocking" of the 2012 draft began for the Denver Broncos, there have been a lot of names discussed at 25. I was (and still am) a big fan of Dont'a Hightower in this spot, but that was before the Broncos paid to extend Joe Mays.
Defensive tackle is still the odds-on favorite based on perceived need, which could include Michael Brockers. However, for a player that has dropped from top 10 consideration to 25th, the question about how much of a project he will be is a legitimate one.
Denver needs a player who can come in and make an immediate impact from this position (if they do not trade out of it), and that player is already an orange-and-blue-bred Bronco: Boise State's Doug Martin.
I have to give credit to fellow Broncos writer Brian Silberberg on being the first to make this claim. To go even further, Martin makes sense for Denver because it is almost a certainty that Knowshon Moreno will not be on the roster past this season.
Even if Moreno has a decent year, the Broncos are likely to not give him any kind of raise nor feel the need to keep him at a discounted rate if they have a player like Martin who could be under contract, at a great price, for the entirety of the Manning regime.
Denver has already admitted that they are not as worried about the defensive line position as people think they should be, which is why they will make the right choice and not invest heavily on a position that rarely pays dividends in the first round.
The big selling point on defensive tackles is always "upside," which is fine when your team has a proven track record of developing young defensive lineman. The Denver Broncos do not boast that claim.
Frank Cooney of The Sports XChange describes Thompson this way:
"Thompson may be NFL ready right now, but he is already maximizing his physical ability and may have marginal upside."
This is a perfect match for the Broncos, who need NFL-ready players to contribute immediately. It may seem short-sighted, but what good would Michael Brockers be to the Manning-led Broncos if he doesn't reach his potential until 2015?
Thompson is a weight-room animal, and even though he may not be a perennial Pro-Bowler, he could still spend 10 productive years in the middle of the Denver defense.
The fact that the Denver Broncos were interested in Asante Samuel could mean several different things.
One big theory would be, does Denver have information that Tracy Porter may not be available for disciplinary reasons?
That may be purely speculative at this point, but what is not speculation is that Denver is thinner than they would like to be at cornerback.
Trumaine Johnson is a one-of-a-kind athletic prospect out of the Big Sky Conference and possesses the kind of height that NFL defense are drooling over in their secondary.
It would be nice to think that Jayron Hosley (who has special teams value as well) would be available, but in the event that isn't the case, Johnson might have a bigger upside. Being a former wide receiver gives Johnson excellent route recognition and ball skills.
Not many one-on-one situations are going to be lost by the 6'2" Johnson.
It just seems like there is too much pointing to the Broncos taking Osweiler here to ignore.
He has already had the eyes of the Broncos brass on him. He played in the same conference as the man making the decisions on draft day, at the same position, and this pick was earned by trading away the former "future" quarterback of the Broncos in Tim Tebow.
The ironic fact is that, just like Tebow was before him, Osweiler is a project and possibly a dangerous one. However, with the situation likely that both Brandon Weeden and Kirk Cousins will be long gone, it seems fortuitous for Osweiler that the Broncos are picking here at No. 108.
It will be an interesting next few seasons watching the growth of a player like Osweiler if he ends up getting the call here.
Hardin would have been a more highly touted prospect had he not suffered a broken shoulder and missed the 2011 season.
That is exactly why players get the chance to play in All-Star games and perform at the combine or college pro days, and Hardin impressed in those opportunities.
With the retirement of Brian Dawkins, the safety position is still in need of depth, and Hardin could be a great steal at this point in the draft.
He has good size and above-average speed (4.36 40-yard dash) for the position, which is lacking in the Broncos secondary.
This is a pick that I am sticking by as a real steal for the Broncos. Again, continuing with the trend of selecting players at the same position of the player that was traded away for the pick (in this case Brandon Lloyd at WR), the Broncos should select McNutt out of Iowa here.
McNutt led the Big Ten in receiving and is bigger than most of the receivers Manning is used to throwing to. Putting together a package with McNutt and Demaryius Thomas on one side of the field makes for a lot of length and ball skills for the defense to deal with.
Denver was interested in Jeff Saturday coming to Denver mainly because of his history with Peyton Manning. Still, the fact that it was openly discussed tells you that Denver is not permanently sold on incumbent starter JD Walton.
Molk may not come in and usurp the young anchor of the Broncos' offensive line, but he adds depth at a position where the Broncos sorely need it, and he has great character to go along with his vital statistics.