ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- A week from Thursday, as the defending Super Bowl champs, the Denver Broncos will close out the first round of the NFL draft with the 31st pick overall.
And after they've made their 10 selections -- their current number of picks -- they hope to look at the newest group of Broncos and see some potential future starters in a collection of players they hope will offer some help to a team which had limited participation in free agency.
As coach Gary Kubiak has put it, “It’s all part of how we put together this team ... we’re a good team, a very good team, and we’re looking to add people who are going to make our roster as good as it can possibly be with players who can help us."
To that end, the perfect-world draft class for the Broncos would feature help where they need it ... and a little good fortune as well. Last season, they saw the 10th-ranked player on their draft board -- Shane Ray -- slide down the first round, so they made a move to select him No. 22 overall despite the fact that outside linebacker was not all that high on their wish list.
In 2014, the pick at No. 31 was cornerback Bradley Roby, a player Denver had rated more highly and whom the Broncos selected despite already having two Pro Bowl-caliber cornerbacks. That is best-available-player living, and the Broncos certainly hope it happens again as they sit at the bottom of the opening round.
But when all is said and done, the Broncos would be happy with a draft class that included a safety, an offensive lineman or two, a quarterback with starter potential, an inside linebacker and a running back.
Say a safety such as West Virginia’s Karl Joseph takes an unlikely slide to the bottom of the first round; that’s a player the Broncos would gladly scoop up. Florida safety Keanu Neal and Duke safety Jeremy Cash are players, meanwhile, who project to be available on the second day of the draft.
During the draft’s first two days, athletic, versatile linemen such as Indiana’s Jason Spriggs, Missouri’s Connor McGovern, Kansas State’s Cody Whitehair and Texas A&M’s Germain Ifedi are players to keep an eye on.
The Broncos have had quarterbacks Paxton Lynch, Jeff Driskel and Dak Prescott among their pre-draft visitors. The likelihood that Carson Wentz and Jared Goff will be the first two picks could see Lynch selected before the Broncos have a chance at him, Driskel and Prescott are players the Broncos could take on the second day or beyond.
At linebacker, the Broncos should have a choice between players with elite physical measurables and those like Arizona’s Scooby Wright III, who was highly productive in college but did not time as well in drills.
And while most talent evaluators believe the gap between Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott and the other running backs on the board is a large one, the Broncos could take a look at UCLA’s Paul Perkins, Louisiana Tech’s Kenneth Dixon or Notre Dame’s C.J. Prosise.
But the fact that the Broncos did bring back Ronnie Hillman, on a one-year deal, in recent days, shows they might not be all that thrilled with their options on the draft board. They likely will still look to add another back as well as a fullback before the draft weekend is out.