Draft strategy shapes up for Broncos

The Denver Broncos spent the first part of their off-season making a flurry of moves to improve their offense. The defense will probably get the bulk of the help in the draft.

Denver won't pass up a phenomenal player on offense if he falls, but at No. 21 overall, that's unlikely. The Broncos could use some later picks on offensive players, but the four first-day picks can be used to fix some issues on defense.

There's a chance Denver could move up. They were reluctant to do so for many years, but moved up to get linebacker D.J. Williams in 2004 and quarterback Jay Cutler in 2006. Those two are the only of Denver's own first-round picks that are still on the roster.

The Broncos could use their two third-round picks as ammunition to move up. If they do so, it would probably be to draft one of the elite defensive linemen on the board.

Defensive line is Denver's biggest need going into the draft. Tackle Michael Myers, a starter for two seasons, was let go in free agency. The team tried to trade for Dan Wilkinson and sign end Patrick Kerney. Wilkinson didn't report and the trade was nixed, and Kerney signed with Seattle.

The Broncos' only signee this off-season on the defensive line was Alvin McKinley, who can play tackle or end. Denver needs to bolster the depth along the line and find players who fit Jim Bates' scheme. Bates will run the defense as the assistant head coach/defense.

Bates prefers big tackles that can take up blockers, and fast ends that line up wide and get to the quarterback, so expect the Broncos to look for that type of lineman in the draft. A pass rusher off the edge at pick No. 21, such as Florida end Jarvis Moss, might be the best fit.

Denver has other needs, however. Linebacker became a priority after the team released middle linebacker Al Wilson. Even if Nate Webster is inserted into the starting lineup, the Broncos have little depth. They could look at a linebacker with any of their four first-day picks.

Cornerback is set, with Champ Bailey, Dre Bly and Domonique Foxworth holding down the top three spots. Safety is more of a concern. John Lynch and Nick Ferguson are both past 30 years old. Sam Brandon was being groomed as an eventual replacement, but he is coming off an ACL surgery.

Don't be surprised if Denver's first pick is spent on a safety. There are some top safeties that are worthy of going in the first round, and one could slip to the Broncos. Despite their immediate need at end or linebacker, Denver would have to consider finding someone that could be a starting safety in a year or two.

Offensively, the Broncos don't have the same type of needs they have on defense. Depth at receiver could be addressed. Denver has Rod Smith and Brandon Stokley, two veterans who are coming off major surgery. The Broncos did draft two receivers last season.

Running back depth might also be addressed. The Broncos are set with Travis Henry as the starter, and they like Mike Bell as a backup. But Denver likes having many backs in camp, and there isn't much experience on the roster after the top two.

In 11 of Mike Shanahan's 12 drafts with the Broncos, the team has selected an offensive lineman. Denver has two sixth-round picks and a seventh-round pick, and might use one on a versatile lineman. The Broncos lost guard Cooper Carlisle in free agency to Oakland this off-season. The Denver Broncos spent the first part of their off-season making a flurry of moves to improve their offense. The defense will probably get the bulk of the help in the draft.

Denver won't pass up a phenomenal player on offense if he falls, but at No. 21 overall, that's unlikely. The Broncos could use some later picks on offensive players, but the four first-day picks can be used to fix some issues on defense.

There's a chance Denver could move up. They were reluctant to do so for many years, but moved up to get linebacker D.J. Williams in 2004 and quarterback Jay Cutler in 2006. Those two are the only of Denver's own first-round picks that are still on the roster.

The Broncos could use their two third-round picks as ammunition to move up. If they do so, it would probably be to draft one of the elite defensive linemen on the board.

Defensive line is Denver's biggest need going into the draft. Tackle Michael Myers, a starter for two seasons, was let go in free agency. The team tried to trade for Dan Wilkinson and sign end Patrick Kerney. Wilkinson didn't report and the trade was nixed, and Kerney signed with Seattle.

The Broncos' only signee this off-season on the defensive line was Alvin McKinley, who can play tackle or end. Denver needs to bolster the depth along the line and find players who fit Jim Bates' scheme. Bates will run the defense as the assistant head coach/defense.

Bates prefers big tackles that can take up blockers, and fast ends that line up wide and get to the quarterback, so expect the Broncos to look for that type of lineman in the draft. A pass rusher off the edge at pick No. 21, such as Florida end Jarvis Moss, might be the best fit.

Denver has other needs, however. Linebacker became a priority after the team released middle linebacker Al Wilson. Even if Nate Webster is inserted into the starting lineup, the Broncos have little depth. They could look at a linebacker with any of their four first-day picks.

Cornerback is set, with Champ Bailey, Dre Bly and Domonique Foxworth holding down the top three spots. Safety is more of a concern. John Lynch and Nick Ferguson are both past 30 years old. Sam Brandon was being groomed as an eventual replacement, but he is coming off an ACL surgery.

Don't be surprised if Denver's first pick is spent on a safety. There are some top safeties that are worthy of going in the first round, and one could slip to the Broncos. Despite their immediate need at end or linebacker, Denver would have to consider finding someone that could be a starting safety in a year or two.

Offensively, the Broncos don't have the same type of needs they have on defense. Depth at receiver could be addressed. Denver has Rod Smith and Brandon Stokley, two veterans who are coming off major surgery. The Broncos did draft two receivers last season.

Running back depth might also be addressed. The Broncos are set with Travis Henry as the starter, and they like Mike Bell as a backup. But Denver likes having many backs in camp, and there isn't much experience on the roster after the top two.

In 11 of Mike Shanahan's 12 drafts with the Broncos, the team has selected an offensive lineman. Denver has two sixth-round picks and a seventh-round pick, and might use one on a versatile lineman. The Broncos lost guard Cooper Carlisle in free agency to Oakland this off-season.



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