Denver Broncos' Final 2014 NFL Mock Draft Roundup
Unfortunately for the Broncos, 30 other teams will have a pick before the they make their first selection at No. 31.
However, that doesn't mean there won't be elite talent available toward the end of the first round. Compared to draft classes in the past, the 2014 NFL draft class features loads of elite talent available at defensive end, guard and cornerback—all positions of need for the Broncos.
Because the Broncos have specific needs at particular positions on a talented roster, it is uncertain which position the Broncos will address with their first-round selection. Draft experts have projected the team to go in a number of directions with its first overall selection.
With less than a day remaining before the NFL commences its annual draft, which players are the draft experts projecting the Broncos to select with their first pick?
Peter King: DT Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota
Here is what King has to say about Hageman going to the Broncos:
'John Fox loves Hageman,' one GM told me Monday, and putting him in a three-man combo platter with Sylvester Williams and Terrance Knighton would be big trouble for the offensive coordinators of the AFC West...if Hageman can be the kind of consistent player he wasn't always at Minnesota.
While it is true Hageman is regarded as a top-five prospect at his position by NFLDraftScout.com, while possessing excellent size (6'6", 310 lbs) and the ability to play the 3-technique or at nose tackle, the Broncos don't have the need for a defensive tackle.
In a draft where there will be dynamic playmakers available at positions of need for Denver, why spend a first-round draft pick on a defensive tackle for the second year in a row?
The Broncos already have one of the better interior tackles in the NFL in Terrance Knighton, with 2013 first-round draft pick Sylvester Williams also in the starting lineup. Former starting defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson also remains on the roster as he returns from a season-ending injury last year.
With linebacker and guard more pressing needs for the franchise, it would be shocking to see Denver select Hageman with the No. 31 overall selection.
Matt Miller: LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
Matt Miller of Bleacher Report has the Broncos selecting linebacker Ryan Shazier out of Ohio State in his mock draft.
Miller states the following in regard to Shazier:
An edge-defender at Ohio State, Ryan Shazier has the tools to play inside linebacker in an aggressive 4-3 scheme like the one head coach John Fox employs. With his first-step quickness, instincts, blitzing experience and upside as a mover in space, Shazier could be a star here.
As we inch closer and closer toward the draft, Shazier to the Broncos has become a popular selection among people making mock drafts.
It's obvious the Broncos have a hole at middle linebacker, and though Shazier specialized playing off the edge at Ohio State, he has experience on the inside, too.
If the Broncos truly feel that middle linebacker has been such a weak spot in the lineup for the past two years and has been more of a detriment than a strength to the team's success, then it would come as no shock if Shazier were to be drafted by John Fox and company.
The Ohio State product has all of the tools to be a top linebacker in the NFL, and it is the very reason why he is regarded as a clear-cut first-round draft pick while being ranked third among all players at his position, per NFLDraftScout.com.
If the Broncos draft Shazier, they address their middle linebacker void immediately.
Pete Prisco: LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
Pete Prisco of CBS Sports also has Denver selecting a linebacker in the first round—except in this case, it's Alabama's C.J. Mosley.
Prisco is straight to the point in regard to the Broncos picking Mosley: "They have to get an inside linebacker and he would be a steal if he falls down here."
In regard to linebacker Ryan Shazier, Prisco predicts the Green Bay Packers select the Ohio State product with the No. 21 overall selection. In reference to the Packers selecting Shazier over Mosley: "They have to get faster and he plays faster than C.J. Mosley."
The Packers have a huge need at linebacker, and the Broncos' selection at No. 31 may ultimately come down to which linebacker is left after the Packers make their pick.
If Green Bay selects Shazier and Mosley is still available for the Broncos, Denver will probably select Mosley.
If the Packers select Mosley and Shazier is still available, the Broncos will likely select Shazier.
Similar to Shazier, Mosley has experience playing inside and outside, which makes him more than capable of doing so at the NFL level.
The Alabama product is considered a lock to be a first-round selection but has been slipping down draft boards due to issues with injuries. He is considered to be the top prospect at linebacker in this draft class, per NFLDraftScout.com.
Either way, if the Broncos have the luxury of having either of these two linebackers slipping to them at No. 31, they will have their starting middle linebacker for the 2014 season.
Dane Brugler: LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com also has the Broncos pegged to select Ryan Shazier in the first round.
Brugler states in regard to the selection of Shazier: "Shazier is simply a fun player to watch with his athleticism and ability to diagnose on the move and the Broncos could use his speed on defense."
To further demonstrate how the Packers' selection at No. 21 will likely have an effect on the Broncos' selection at No. 31 due to Green Bay's likewise need at linebacker, Brugler has the Packers pegged to select Mosley: "The Packers need help on defense and could benefit from Mosley slipping down draft boards due to injury issues."
As the draft inches closer and closer, it appears that draft experts have drifted toward the notion that the Broncos will select a linebacker with their first-round draft selection.
This ignores one of the Broncos' other major needs...
DJ Siddiqi: G Xavier Su'a Filo, UCLA
In a previous article, I made the case for why the Broncos should select guard Xavier Su'a-Filo of UCLA.
I stated the following in regard to why Denver should select the UCLA product:
The Broncos need a starting left guard. Although they have shifted the offensive line around for now to compensate for the lack of a suitable starting left guard to begin their offseason conditioning program, things will change a couple of weeks from now following the NFL draft.
By drafting Su'a-Filo, the Broncos would find a starting left guard immediately whom they can plug in without missing a beat when it pertains to chemistry on the offensive line.
It wouldn't shock anyone to expect Broncos fans to want a more glamorous selection with the Broncos' first pick. By selecting Ryan Shazier or C.J. Mosley, the Broncos accomplish the goal of drafting a player whom fans get can get excited about.
Picking Su'a-Filo won't make any Broncos fan excited. When has the selection of an offensive guard in the first round ever excited anyone?
But by selecting Su'a-Filo, the Broncos address their left guard situation. The fact of the matter is, the Broncos don't have a natural left guard on the roster to take over the position left vacant by Zane Beadles, who signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars in the offseason.
Because of this, the Broncos have actually toyed with the notion of switching Orlando Franklin from right tackle to left guard, while inserting Chris Clark at right tackle.
The Broncos could realistically make it work, considering Franklin has experience at the position at the collegiate level, and after all, Peyton Manning is the quarterback.
In a worst-case scenario, however, it could result in all kinds of chemistry issues, considering Franklin has not played the guard position in at least four years, Clark has never received significant playing time at right tackle and Ryan Clady is returning at left tackle while recovering from a Lisfranc injury in 2013.
By selecting the 6'4", 307-pound Su'a-Filo, the Broncos avoid having to mix up their starting offensive line by inserting two linemen at two different starting positions compared to their positions from 2013.
When it comes to the Broncos' actual selection on draft day, it will likely come down to what position the Broncos feel is a bigger priority, middle linebacker or offensive guard.