The Broncos have the second pick on Thursday night, and it seems to be a foregone conclusion that they’ll select Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus. I hooked up with John Bena, Sayre Bedinger and Kirk Davis from the Mile High Report to discuss the situation.
1. At this point, it seems like there’s about a 90 percent chance the Broncos are taking Marcell Dareus. Is that the way you guys see things going down?
John Bena: It is no doubt the safest pick for the Broncos at this point and addresses an obvious need. While there may be more upside to Nick Fairley, Dareus gives the Broncos what they desperately need on the defensive line: a solid, run-stuffing mountain of a man that will start Day 1 and likely be around for a decade. The Broncos need a bit of that right now as they begin the complete defensive rebuild they have needed for some time.
Sayre Bedinger: I definitely see the Broncos taking Dareus as it stands now, provided he’s available. I think he’s the top candidate for the second overall pick, but if anyone else is still in the running, I would say it’s Patrick Peterson. John Fox recently put him in the same category as Rod Woodson and Gil Byrd, and said he’s never seen anything like him before. The Broncos would like to trade down ideally and get one of the two, or possibly move down and still get Fairley or Von Miller, but right now Dareus is the guy and Broncos fans are excited about it.
Kirk Davis: I definitely see Dareus or Fairley at No. 2 overall. The Broncos re-signed Champ Bailey and released Justin Bannan and Jamal Williams. To me, that leaves Peterson out of the equation.
2. Sayre makes a good point. Is there a chance they trade the pick?
Bedinger: Yes, great chance of it as long as there is another willing participant in the top 10. The Broncos have been open publicly to the idea of trading down, and I think they would definitely like to.
Davis: They seem to be open to the idea, but the odds of it happening are slim. Buffalo appears to be standing pat with Ryan Fitzpatrick and need defensive help. So unless a team has a crush on Von Miller, I don’t see one jumping to No. 2 for a quarterback.
Bena: I think there is a better chance than many because I think the Broncos are highly motivated to do it. In reality there are four or five players the Broncos would be excited about taking high in the first round, and with so many teams needing quarterbacks the environment is just right for something to happen. Denver could afford to move down to, say, five (Arizona) or seven (San Francisco) and still be able to take a top-flight defensive player. Will it happen? Hard to say. If Carolina takes a quarterback, that could start a bidding war with teams afraid they won’t get the QB they want. If Cam Newton falls, the bidding war could begin by teams that love Newton. Can Arizona, or San Francisco, or Tennesee, or Washington take the chance that the guy they want will be there at the top of the second Round? While a trade isn’t the most likely option, there is a significant possibility.
3. What should their two-man draft board look like?
Bedinger: At No. 2 overall, it has to be Dareus and Peterson. Those are the two best players in the draft with the highest ceiling and long-term upside. Dareus is a 21-year-old defensive tackle who has outstanding strength and athleticism, and can not only anchor but make a ton of plays in the backfield. He’s not as flashy as Ndamukong Suh, but both make their presence felt in different ways. Dareus will be a starter from Day 1, and an impact player at that. Peterson is dubbed the “surest” thing in this entire draft. His raw ability is unquestioned, and playing under John Fox (defensive backs coach), Dennis Allen (defensive backs coach) and with Champ Bailey, a Hall of Famer, would be very beneficial for his career. He has huge upside.
Bena: Dareus and Von Miller. This may surprise some people. It is true that Patrick Peterson is likely the best player on the board, but I personally feel the term “shutdown corner” was invented by an agent looking to increase the value of his client. It worked, of course. Deion Sanders didn’t win anything until he went to a team like Dallas or San Francisco. The Broncos have had Champ Bailey throughout his prime yet have struggled mightily, especially on defense. In other words, a good offense can make a ‘shutdown corner’ irrelevant. Dareus is obvious since he will likely be the selection if the Broncos stand pat and make their selection at No. 2. Miller, however, intrigues me, especially if the Broncos are sitting at No. 5 should they trade down. Miller would give the Broncos the type of pass rusher they need on the other side of Elvis Dumervil. He would also instill some leadership into a team and locker room that desperately needs it. While there are questions about Miller’s ability to cover in space and defend the run, he possesses tools you cannot coach.
Davis: Fairley and Dareus. Fairley had a higher combined total of hurries, knockdowns and sacks than any player in the SEC. He had 27.5. Dareus, by comparison, had 12.5. Justin Houston had 18. No SEC player came within seven of Fairley. Dareus may be the slightly safer pick because of his age and the fact that he plays the run better, but Fairley has a higher ceiling and is a playmaker/disrupter. If a defensive line is in the backfield nearly every play, the opposing running game will suffer. The NFL is a pass-heavy league, so an effective pass rush is required for success.
4. What should they look to do with that 36th pick?
Bena: Best player available, regardless of position. For too long the Broncos have used the mid-rounds of the draft to reach for need or to take a chance on a player. It has led to a team void of depth and home-grown talent. This draft is as deep as we have seen on the defensive side. The Broncos will likely be looking at several attractive options, and could also be a target for a team looking to trade up for a quarterback. Another defensive lineman is a possibility here, as is a safety.
Bedinger: They should look to trade it or take the best player available. The Broncos have multiple top priority needs, so if they take Dareus in the first round, they could look to a pass rush specialist at defensive tackle in the second round, or possibly a defensive end. The Broncos also could look to a running back or linebacker with this pick, provided someone is available. But a clear first-round talent should be available at that pick, and the Broncos will look to take advantage. As far as whom, I would target Stephen Paea, who has no business falling that far but easily could.
Davis: Personally, I like Paea or Marvin Austin. Combined with Dareus or Fairley, either one would bring some stability to an anorexic defense.
5. Any specific positions of need they should focus on?
Bena: A better question would be, “Which positions should the Broncos not focus on?” Denver needs help all over the field. When a team finishes as poorly as the Broncos did, there aren’t many bright spots. If there is a really good player on the board, the Broncos should take that player, regardless of who or what they have now.
Bedinger: Defensive tackle (two starters needed), defensive end, running back, tight end, linebacker, safety, right tackle (Ryan Harris situation). The Broncos have the worst group of tight ends in the NFL, they need a starting-caliber back, they need two starting linebackers possibly, and potentially a new starting right tackle. Quite a bummer there has not been free agency. I expect the Broncos to place the most emphasis on adding talent to the defensive front and running back, but we will see on draft day.
Davis: The Defensive middle. Defensive tackle, middle linebacker and strong safety. After that, a swingman at offensive tackle, a tight end and a running back, then cornerback, in that order.