The extra picks make the Broncos a prime candidate to move up into the top 10, perhaps to take an anchor at nose tackle like Boston College's B.J. Raji or Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo. The Broncos certainly have the ammunition to move up and get a top-flight defensive player.
Denver has to weigh whether it would be better off with two mid-round picks or one top-10 pick. The team has a lot of needs. The Broncos need to rebuild their line, could add to the linebackers and need some young talent in the secondary.
The offense also could use some help, and the biggest question will be what Denver does at quarterback. After trading Cutler, it would certainly be enticing to draft someone like USC's Mark Sanchez in the first round, if Sanchez slips. Denver could also use a late-round pick on a quarterback it likes -- following the Patriots' approach, which new coach Josh McDaniels presumably will follow. McDaniels was New England's offensive coordinator before being hired by Denver.
One pressing need for the Broncos is the defensive line. They have little depth on the line, especially for a 3-4 alignment, which Denver will use this season. The Broncos need a nose tackle and an end. LSU's Tyson Jackson appears to be a natural fit if he is available at the 12th overall pick -- assuming the Broncos don't trade it.
Last year the Broncos had what they felt was a good draft, picking up plenty of potential starters in the late rounds. They will need to do that again as they restock the roster. Denver has five picks in the top 84, including two in the third round, single picks in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds, and two picks in the seventh.
Although the Broncos' needs are apparent, they are a wild card in this year's draft. McDaniels and general manager Brian Xanders have never run a draft before, which makes Denver an unpredictable commodity.
TEAM NEEDS: Defensive tackle, defensive end, inside linebacker, cornerback.
DT -- The Broncos don't have a proven, natural nose tackle on the roster, someone that can clog up the middle in a 3-4. Denver's run defense has been porous the past few years, and it won't get better until the front line improves. The need is so great at nose tackle, a trade up to get Boston College's B.J. Raji can't be ruled out.
DE -- With the Broncos' switching to a 3-4 defense, they no longer define defensive linemen as they had under Mike Shanahan. Ends in the old defense like Elvis Dumervil and Jarvis Moss don't fit as ends in a 3-4, so there is a strong need to stock up in the draft. The Broncos could use a couple of their picks at this position.
ILB -- Although the Broncos have some young talent at linebacker, a star in D.J. Williams and added Andra Davis via free agency, a stout inside linebacker would help. That could allow others to fall into their more natural positions. The Broncos will also need depth at inside linebacker.
CB -- The starting spots are filled by Champ Bailey and Andre Goodman, but there are some questions further down the depth chart. Last year's rookies, Jack Williams and Josh Bell, could prove to be worthy successors, but the Broncos could also decide to draft a young cornerback to fill the nickel cornerback role with an eye to the future.
QB -- Without Jay Cutler, the Broncos have Kyle Orton and Chris Simms. Neither is a sure-fire franchise quarterback, especially since Orton is only signed through this season. The Broncos could pick a quarterback early, or could try to hit a home run late. That worked for the Patriots and Josh McDaniels, who worked with Tom Brady and Matt Cassel the past few years.
--The Broncos open their season on the road for the fifth straight season. They will go to Cincinnati for Josh McDaniels' debut as a NFL head coach. The last time Denver opened the season at Cincinnati was 2003, and the Broncos won 30-10.
--Denver better get off to a good start this season, because the middle of the Broncos' schedule looks brutal.
They start with games against Cincinnati, Cleveland and Oakland, all of which had losing records in 2008. They then face a stretch against eight teams that didn't have a losing record last season. Five of those teams made the playoffs last year. If the Broncos survive that stretch, they will have a chance to move up in the division race. Four of their final seven games are against AFC West foes.
--The Broncos' minicamp from April 17-19 will give the new coaching staff a chance to implement some of its new system changes on the field. More importantly, perhaps, the coaching staff can get a better feel of what it has before it makes its final draft preparations. The Broncos have 10 draft picks.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "As far as it being a defensive or offensive draft, it's going to be the best players at a position that we need players at that can help our team win." -- Broncos coach Josh McDaniels
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--RB Tatum Bell finished the season with a good game against San Diego, but with a lot of tailbacks on the roster he is no sure bet to return.
--DE Ebenezer Ekuban played well in 2008 but it remains to be seen how he fits into the new staff's plans.
--WR Darrell Jackson didn't contribute much in 2008 and appears unlikely to return.
--S Marlon McCree didn't play in the final eight games of the season, remaining inactive even after recovering from a high ankle sprain. He doesn't appear to be in Denver's plans.
--C Tom Nalen is likely on his way to retirement after sitting out 2008 with a knee injury.
--RB Michael Pittman played pretty well before a neck injury sidelined him, but he said he feels good and wants to play in Denver again. The new coaching staff will make a decision whether to bring him back.
--WR Edell Shepherd was out all last year with a knee injury.
--LB Nate Webster started last year and played well at times. The new staff will have to decide how he fits in their defense.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered)
--RB Andre Hall (not tendered as ERFA) has played well at times and should get a shot to make the team in training camp.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
--DL Kenny Peterson: UFA; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--TE Jeb Putzier: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--RB J.J. Arrington: UFA Cardinals; $10M/4 yrs, guarantees unknown.
--RB Correll Buckhalter: UFA Eagles; 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB Andra Davis: UFA Browns; $5M/2 yrs, guarantees unknown.
--S Brian Dawkins: UFA Eagles; $17M/5 yrs, $7.5M guaranteed; can void to $9.5M/2 yrs.
--DT Ronald Fields: UFA 49ers; $5M/2 yrs, SB unknown.
--WR Jabar Gaffney: UFA Patriots; $10M/4 yrs, $3M guaranteed.
--CB Andre' Goodman: UFA Dolphins; $25M/5 yrs, $10M guaranteed.
--S Renaldo Hill: UFA Dolphins; $10M/4 yrs, $3M guaranteed.
--RB LaMont Jordan: UFA Patriots; $2.5M/2 yrs, guarantees unknown.
--OG Matt McChesney: FA Dolphins; terms unknown.
--QB Kyle Orton (trade Bears).
--DT J'Vonne Parker: Not tendered as ERFA by Panthers; terms unknown.
--LS Lonie Paxton: UFA Patriots; $5.38M/5 yrs, $1M SB.
--DT Darrell Reid: UFA Colts; $6.8M/3 yrs, SB unknown.
--QB Chris Simms: UFA Titans; $6M/2 yrs, $1.5M SB; 2009 cap: $2.71M.
--OG Scott Young: UFA Browns; terms unknown (subsequently retired).
--RB Anthony Alridge (released).
--CB Dre' Bly (released).
--QB Jay Cutler (traded Bears).
--DE John Engelberger (released).
--QB Darrell Hackney (released).
--RB Alex Haynes (released).
--TE Nate Jackson (released).
--LB Niko Koutouvides (released).
--LS Mike Leach (released).
--S Marquand Manuel (released).
--TE Chad Mustard (released).
--CB Karl Paymah: UFA Vikings; $1.55M/1 yr.
--OT Erik Pears: Not tendered as RFA/Raiders; terms unknown.
--RB P.J. Pope (released).
--QB Patrick Ramsey: UFA Titans; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DT Dewayne Robertson (released).
--WR Cliff Russell (released/failed physical).
--DT Josh Shaw (released).
--LB Jamie Winborn (released).
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