There is a general consensus out there that the Denver Broncos would like to either trade out of the No. 2 spot in the first round, or use that selection on Alabama DT Marcell Dareus.
That’s a good plan, but we all know that plans change. Or as Mike Tyson put it, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
So what backup plans do the Broncos have in place?
In an effort to save time and energy, and to help avoid unnecessary debates over Tim Tebow, let’s start with the assumption that that the Broncos are not serious about taking a quarterback in the first round.
I think that’s a pretty safe assumption. Now let’s make some more assumptions.
Scenario #1: Carolina Panthers draft Marcell Dareus and the Denver Broncos can’t trade down
This scenario is not as far-fetched as you may think. If the Panthers draft Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert that would mean back-to-back years of taking a project quarterback. Not exactly a great plan for a team that has hit rock-bottom.
It would also mean passing on a handful of blue-chip type players: Marcell Dareus, Von Miller, Patrick Peterson and A.J. Green. Any one of those names would be far less controversial than taking Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert with the top pick.
So, the Broncos cannot bank on having their full choice of defensive players as the Panthers can easily go with Dareus over Newton or Gabbert.
That would mean two options for the Broncos: best available (Patrick Peterson or Von Miller) or top need (Nick Fairley). And the Broncos would come out of the first round feeling pretty good about things if they nab either Peterson or Miller. It’s an easy "A" since both players are considered “blue-chip” prospects who could add star power to Denver’s deplorable defense.
If they go with Door No. 2, Nick Fairley, then John Elway and John Fox should prepare for a lot of scrutiny, which is the last thing this team needs. Instead of answering questions with the draft, the Broncos would be creating a glut of entirely new questions. Will Fairley live up to his potential? Is he a dirty player whotakes plays off, and if so, what does he do to the Broncos highly-regarded image? How can the Broncos afford to take that kind of risk when their defense is so awful?
My gut tells me that the Broncos will choose Door No. 1. Peterson is considered the top athlete in the draft, and Miller is drawing comparisons to Derrick Thomas. The Broncos can’t lose with either player.
Scenario #2: Carolina selects Cam Newton and the Broncos trade down
I love this scenario because it makes a lot of sense for the Broncos. The team has quite a few needs on defense and the offense is far from set. There are three good building blocks on defense: Champ Bailey, Elvis Dumervil, and DJ Williams. But the Broncos can use two defensive lineman, one or two linebackers, a safety or two, and maybe even another cornerback. In other words, the Broncos can’t do it all in one draft. But they can still get a lot accomplished starting this Thursday, on Day 1 of the Draft.
If the Broncos trade down then they can accumulate an extra two or three picks, which in turn means that the team will not have to focus exclusively on defense, especially early on. It means that they can go after a tight end or running back in the second or third rounds and not feel bad about it. It also means that they might be able to draft a combination of defensive lineman.
Maybe the team takes a risk and goes with Nick Fairley with their first pick, which would be a much easier pill to swallow for Broncos fans with the assumption that the Broncos can still get a lot of talent out of the additional picks. Fairley at No. 2 may be asking for trouble, but Fairley at No. 7 is tremendous value. Or, the Broncos may be fortunate enough to trade down and have Peterson fall to them.
The Broncos can then wait and see who falls out of the first round and into the top of the second. It’s possible that Adrian Clayborn (DE, Iowa), Stephen Paea (DT, Oregon State) and Marvin Austin (DT, North Carolina) could fall to the Broncos when they come up again in the second round. With the additional picks, the Broncos can afford to take more chances, and a guy like Marvin Austin could turn out to be an absolute steal, considering that he is a first-round talent with possible character concerns.
Trading down means addressing quite a few needs on both sides of the ball, but it also means gambling on the idea that one of the blue-chip prospects will fall out of the top five. It’s a gamble with a high probability of success.
Scenario #3: Broncos draft Peterson in the first round, and miss out on getting a defensive tackle in the second round
The Broncos most glaring need is defensive tackle. There is a plan in place at almost every other position on the team. Safety may also be another primary issue should the Broncos choose to not resign their starters from last season, but it’s much easier to find reliable safeties than it is to find reliable interior lineman for the defense.
If the Broncos miss out on a top DT in the first two rounds all hope is not lost.
Because there is a lot of depth this year at that position, the Broncos can still find one or two guys who can compete for starting positions in later rounds. Once owners and players settle on a new CBA, the Broncos can then supplement this with a free agent signing or two.
Names to consider are Drake Nevis (DT, LSU), Jurrell Casey (DT, USC), Terrell McClain (DT/DE, South Florida) and Jarvis Jenkins (DT, Clemson). If the Broncos are fortunate enough to have Nevis fall to them in the third round, then they would be landing a guy known for a lot of speed and ability to cause disruption up the middle. McClain would also be a nice fit for the Broncos if they can get him in the third round, but he seems to be rising up draft boards lately. McClain could help the Broncos establish a consistent pass rush, as well as stop the run.
This is just a small list of possible scenarios to consider. Starting Thursday, we can actually find out what scenarios really play out.
It should be interesting.