After the Denver Broncos fell short against the San Diego Chargers at home, their long and dreadful season finally came to a close. With the offense gaining some second half momentum they clearly demonstrated they are capable of putting up points with Tim Tebow under center.
We also learned that Tebow has a lot of work to do if he wants to be a successful NFL quarterback. Against a credible SD defense, Tebow looked rushed, unsure, and unpolished.
With that being said, the offense is clearly not the problem with this Denver team. The defense could not stop San Diego on the ground or in the air and will likely use their first-round pick strengthening up their front seven.
This loss to SD ensures the Broncos will be picking number two overall, so now we will examine exactly who the Denver Broncos should be drafting.
Robert Quinn is currently expected to be the greatest pass rusher to leave North Carolina since Julius Peppers. He is explosive off the line allowing him to wreck havoc in the opponents backfield, as evident in not only his sack numbers, but also his tackles for loss.
The only real downside to Quinn is the fact that he is relatively undersized for his position. If he were unable to put on any additional weight to improve his game, he may be able to play an OLB position if given the right scheme.
The Denver Broncos really need to sore up their front seven, and Quinn would get them on the right path. However, if they are looking to draft a defensive lineman there are better players available with the No. two overall pick.
Von Miller is an OLB out of Texas A&M who also makes his living in opponent's backfields, as his tackles for loss have gone up almost exponentially throughout his entire college career.
Miller uses his excellent speed not only to make sacks, but also to pressure quarterbacks into scrambling from the pocket or rushing them to make early throws.
Miller would give the Denver D an immediate upgrade on the outside as well as the much needed speed to catch up with the run, something that has burned the Denver defense throughout the entire year.
Miller is the best OLB available in this draft, and if Denver is looking to upgrade that position first, then he is the most likely candidate.
Although Janoris Jenkins tore his labrum several months ago, this is not an injury that should do too much to derail his football career. If major league pitchers can come back from this with minimal problems, so can NFL cornerbacks.
Jenkins played most of the season with this injury, showing everyone exactly how tough he is. Jenkins doesn't possess great size at 5'11", but he is durable enough to be productive at the next level.
Not only has Jenkins shown he can play well against top competition, but also in big games. Playing at Florida has allowed him to showcase this talent on a national stage, and the Broncos already have a pretty big time former Gator that probably wouldn't mind showing him the ropes.
Jenkins is by no means an interception machine, although he is a solid back with high pass breakup numbers. If the Broncos decided cornerback was the first position they are going to upgrade, Jenkins isn't a bad pick, but he isn't the best CB available.
Stephen Paea is a stout run stopping defensive lineman that would help the Broncos in the front seven, something they desperately need.
Paea's numbers haven't been as great as they have in the past, however, other teams are simply double-teaming him much more, not allowing him to get into the backfield and make as many plays.
Paea's bulk and determination would upgrade the Denver line immediately as he learns the defense and acclimates himself to the NFL. He likely wouldn't see double teams until he made a name for himself, and with Doom lined up alongside him, he may never see one.
Although Paea is a solid pick with a lot of upside, he is still not regarded as the greatest defensive lineman in this draft class.
Adrian Clayborn is another slightly undersized defensive lineman, though he possesses explosive speed off the line that allows him to create problems in the opponent's backfield. Clayborn has improved steadily over his college career, and has done a great job of accumulating sacks and tackles for loss.
The only complaint about Clayborn is that he often goes 110%, 100% of the time and often runs out of gas late in games. With the right coaching Clayborn could easily come in and make an immediate difference on the defensive side of the ball.
Clayborn may also need to add some weight to improve as a premiere pass rusher in the NFL, but despite his size he is still regarded as a possible top 10 pick.
Again, if the Broncos want to improve their front seven Clayborn is a solid pick, but not the best available at No. two overall.
This explosive defensive end out of Alabama fits in with just about any defensive scheme and would give Elvis Dumervil help right away, alleviating some of the pressure on him and doubling the pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Dareus is versatile enough to play both defensive end and defensive tackle, so taking him early in the first round would give us the maximum bang for our buck. The Denver Broncos have lacked any kind of pass rush for most of the season, and combining Dareus with Doom would be an instant force to be reckoned with.
Dareus is quick enough to rush the passer and powerful enough to stop the run, something the Broncos could not do in 2010.
If Prince Amukamara out of Nebraska is available to the Broncos, he would be an excellent pick, especially if CB Champ Bailey does not re-sign. Even if he does, Prince would benefit from the mentoring that Bailey would no doubt be expected to provide.
The Broncos' secondary is not getting any younger with Bailey, Goodman and Dawkins patrolling it, and Cox might be watching the games next season from a prison cell. This pick would surely be a much needed upgrade at the CB position, regardless of whether or not Bailey goes.
If Denver can't get to the quarterback in the same manner that they couldn't during the 2010 campaign, shutting down the wide receivers is our next best option.
Patrick Peterson is a shutdown corner out of LSU that has the ability to completely take a WR out of a game. His numbers on the year may not be eye-catching, but that's simply because opposing teams aren't throwing at him.
Peterson is large for a CB at 6'1" with great speed and terrific hands. He also shows great instincts for the game, often able to sniff out the opponent's play, placing himself at the right spot at the right time.
Peterson is regarded by many to be the best CB available in this draft, and if the Broncos aren't able to re-sign Bailey, picking Peterson may be the next best option.
Nick Fairley is highly regarded as the best DT in the 2011 draft class. At a beastly 6'5" and 300 pounds, Fairley presents an immediate force in the middle of Denver's defensive line.
Fairley shoots gaps well and plays well off the ball, often finding his way into the backfield and pressuring quarterbacks into rushing their throws. Fairley is an impact player that the Broncos wouldn't have to spend too much time developing, making this a reasonably safe pick with tremendous upside.
Depending on what the Broncos want to do with Jamal Williams and Champ Bailey, this pick is basically a coin flip between Peterson, Fairley, and...
Bowers is another tall (6'4") aggressive pass rusher that would help the Denver D-line instantly. He is the best DE available in this draft, and would compliment Doom nicely on the line, giving opposing quarterbacks one more thing to think about.
Bowers is also slightly underweight at 275 pounds, so bulking up might be something he may have to consider to be successful in the NFL, though switching to OLB might be something he and the coaching staff might consider.
With so much defensive talent available in the draft, you really get great value out of any of these picks, though many have Bowers at the top of their big boards on the defensive side of the ball. Look for Denver to use most if not all of their picks strengthening up the defense, as well as using the free agent market to fill the remaining holes.
One last thing the Broncos might want to consider with this much defensive talent is trading the pick for a later (10-15) first rounder, as well as an additional second rounder. If a team wanted Luck that badly, they might trade their first and second round pick to Denver for the second overall pick, giving us the 10-15 overall as well as three picks in the second round. If they could also move Kyle Orton for a second rounder, they would have five of the first 60 picks, allowing the Broncos to shore up the defense.