ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – As the Denver Broncos enter the first day of the NFL draft they sit in the event’s prime real estate and their top football executive, John Elway, would like to make the most of that location, location, location.
All eight of the Broncos' current picks are in the first five rounds of the seven-round affair, and they have five of those picks in the first 106. It puts them in position to reel in several players off the top half of their draft board with the potential to find immediate impact from the rookie class -- something that has been lacking in the team’s past two draft classes.
“We feel like we’re in a good spot,’’ Elway said. “ … We have options.’’
The team’s first-round pick – No. 5 overall – is the centerpiece, and Elway has said he would be willing to trade out of that spot – to either move up or move down – if it “made sense." But that pick sits where the draft's best players can be found, so it also could be the marquee name of what their perfect-world class would look like.
The Broncos enter with more needs on the roster than they’ve had for any draft since Elway’s first in his current job – 2011. And to that end, Elway has said he has tried to take the long view.
“That’s part of my job: to figure out what is best for the organization, not only now but also long-term wise," Elway said. “Going through all of those situations ... we’ll try to figure out what is the best one."
In the end, signing Case Keenum takes the pressure off the Broncos to have to use their opening pick on a quarterback. And while they probably would give long consideration to either Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield or USC’s Sam Darnold if an opportunity at either presented itself, their overall class probably will need a running back, wide receiver, an offensive lineman – or two – and a cornerback in it.
The Broncos released C.J. Anderson, their leading rusher in 2017, in recent weeks so they have just two running backs on the roster in Devontae Booker and De'Angelo Henderson. It’s a deep class of running backs, so the Broncos’ picks at both No. 40 (second round) and No. 71 (third round) can be in play at that position.
The class of offensive linemen, however, is not considered nearly as deep, especially at tackle. So, the Broncos may have to move more quickly there if they want to add some depth at guard or center. With Ron Leary's move back to left guard, Connor McGovern, a fifth-round pick in the 2016 draft, is expected to get a long look at right guard in the offseason workouts, but the Broncos also will give that plenty of consideration on the draft’s second day. That’s especially true if players such as Ohio State’s Billy Price, Texas El Paso’s Will Hernandez or Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey are not selected in the first round.
With wide receivers Cody Latimer and Bennie Fowler having departed in free agency, the Broncos also have a thin depth chart there, especially if neither Isaiah McKenzie nor Carlos Henderson is ready to produce far more than they did in their rookie seasons in 2017. Henderson missed the season on injured reserve (thumb).
McKenzie, especially, learned rookie receivers often have a difficult transition to the NFL where they face far more press coverage than they did in college. Looking at receivers down the draft board, into the second or third day, is often an exercise in picking a player who a team believes can line up at a particular spot in the formation at the start of his career and then grow from there.
And while the Broncos fully expect cornerback Bradley Roby to be ready for a far larger role in the defense after they traded Aqib Talib to the Los Angeles Rams and have signed Tramaine Brock in free agency, there are defensive backs to be mined in the draft’s second and third day as well. Cornerbacks such as Tulane’s Parry Nickerson, Alabama’s Tony Brown and Florida’s Duke Dawson are potential second-day picks or early third day, as are safeties such as West Virginia’s Kyzir White, Penn State’s Marcus Allen or Virginia Tech’s Terrell Edmunds.
“We think we’re going to find guys who come in and love football and want to be a part of this," Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. “ ... It’s simple. We want as many good players as we can find, no matter what round they’re in."