Need Or Best Player Available: Examining The Denver Broncos Options On Draft Day

John Elway's Draft war chest figures to be stacked this year. What approach makes the most sense for a Broncos roster already replete with talent?

With the NFL Draft around the corner, the Denver Broncos will be looking to fill holes along both offensive and defensive lines, in addition to bolstering the depth at other spots. Despite having some gaps on the roster, Denver has six original selections, and are expected to get three or four compensatory picks.

Five will be in the first three rounds, assuming they're awarded the two third round compensatory picks for Brock Osweiler and Malik Jackson. .

The Broncos are far from needing major overhauls to the roster and don’t figure to take any huge gambles in terms of taking a player with character concerns or sketchy medical history. With that in mind come the inevitable questions.

Does the team take the best player available at its current draft spot? Or does it take a player at a position of need? There are arguments to be made for either point of view.

Best Player Available

Every team in the NFL carefully grades out each player in the upcoming draft class and assigns a corresponding value — not a revelation to most who follow football. Additionally, each team will go through several mock drafts trying to map out it’s best strategy in selecting the right player for their team.

Because of its unpredictability, all it takes is one franchise to throw a wrench in the gears and disrupt even the most carefully laid plans. It is in those situations where the best player available method comes in handy.

With a weaker draft class along the offensive line, Denver may miss out on one of the higher rated tackles in this year’s draft class. But, what if a receiver like John Ross III from Washington falls into the Broncos lap? The same goes for a talented pass rusher like Taco Charlton, should he fall all the way to number 20? It’s a difficult question to answer. Teams are always looking to shore up a weakness and while those two prospects are just a couple of the great players available in this class, sometimes it doesn’t make sense to draft a player that can’t help you in the short term.

But there is merit to that way of thinking, Green Bay was still enjoying the prime of Brett Favre’s career when they selected Aaron Rodgers. Wide receiver wasn’t a glaring hole when the Atlanta Falcons moved up in the draft to select Julio Jones.

For as much as it will cause some eyes to roll, New England rigidly sticks by its draft board and doesn’t try to pigeon hole itself into drafting a player that might not be a good fit, just because he plays a position of need on the field.

It also wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for Denver to follow the same path they did when they moved up to select pass rusher Shane Ray in 2015, despite having DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller on the roster. The selection of safeties Justin Simmons and Will Parks last year — with Pro Bowlers in T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart under contract — fits that same mold.

You can’t have too many good football player, no matter what spot they play.

Need Comes First

As delicately as possible, the Broncos offensive line wasn’t very good this past year. When the Draft rolls around, even if the team did have the luxury of choosing between a top-flight lineman like a Ryan Ramczyk or Garett Bolles, or another player who may be rated higher on the draft board, it isn’t prudent to come away with player who can’t you help you win now.

Denver went the path of need last year when they moved up again in the draft to select quarterback Paxton Lynch. Even if Lynch wasn’t the highest rated player on their board (unlikely since they moved up to snag him), his drafting made sense due to the hole they had on their roster.

While the Draft doesn’t always shake out the way teams would like, you only have so many picks and wasting them on guys who have high upside but don’t figure to play a whole lot is a huge gamble. It’s a “what have you done for me lately” league and draft choices, especially first-rounders, that don’t pan out get front office executives fired.

It’s different if a team doesn’t have glaring holes, much like the year that Shane Ray was drafted. Denver still maintains a talented roster from a season ago but the needs along the trenches were obvious to anyone watching last season.

Denver couldn’t run the ball and had trouble stopping teams on the ground. Any improvement this upcoming season would go a long way toward improving on their 9-7 record.

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The good news is that there should be a lineman at the 20th spot that would be an instant upgrade for the Broncos. It’s fun to imagine what a Corey Davis or Dalvin Cook would do in a Denver uniform — if they were to fall that far — but with improvements needed elsewhere, it’s a safer assumption that Denver won’t go in that direction.


The Draft is always fun because so many scenarios could play out and its exiting to project who the future stars and cornerstones will be on this team. In all honesty, it’s not one formula over the other but what works best for that given year.

Brian Billick, former Super Bowl-winning coach of the Baltimore Ravens, said it best. You want to draft the best player available who happens to be a position of need. With Denver already laying out plans to bolster its trenches on both sides of the ball through free agency, they'll know what they'll be looking for come draft time.

Look for Denver to employ both methods this year. The Broncos figure to come away with at least one lineman, who fills a position of need, early on in the draft, then turn their focus to the best player available come rounds 4-7.

Adam Uribes is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @auribes37.

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