Easily the biggest day of NFL offseason begins Thursday and whether people admit it or not, franchises’ success or failure in the years to come highly depends on their choices in the NFL draft.

The Denver Broncos have the luxury of already being an elite team. They are not in “rebuilding mode” and are just a few pieces away from completing the puzzle. In order to come away with the difference makers needed for the next few seasons they will have to do three vital things.

Pick the best lineman available at No. 28

The common opinion around the NFL is that Denver is going to pick an offensive tackle and it is true, they need one but that position is particularly deep this year. With other needs at guard, center, interior defensive line the team can simply wait for their turn late in the first round and draft anyone from a number of potential NFL-ready players.

“We are wide open to everything. We never really lock into anything. I think that as much as we go in with a plan, that plan always changes because of the different things that go on during the draft. What we try to do is cover all situations. We are really trying to find football players that are going to make our football team and make us better regardless of what the position is,” Elway said.

Cedric Ogbuehi (tackle), Cameron Erving (center), T.J. Clemmings (tackle), Ereck Flowers (tackle) and Malcom Brown (defensive tackle) all are going to have immediate impacts in the NFL and will likely start several games come September. The Broncos have had their eye on all of these prospects and will certainly have the opportunity to select one of them with their first pick in the draft.

At Elway’s press conference last week he also emphasized the need to go into the draft without a huge area of need. Due to the recent signings on both sides of the line the team has created depth that will prevent them from “chasing” prospects at a certain position. Their spot at No. 28 is a more than an adequate position to get an impact player.

Move up in the second round to select a ILB

The Broncos are in a great position entering the draft, holding onto 10 total picks. With an already stacked roster and small salary cap space they cannot and do not need to sign 10 more players. Additionally, after the hectic days of free agency the Broncos remain thin at the inside linebacker. They have two great, proven players in Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan but their health is a question. Also in the Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense there will be many times that the team needs a third true-linebacker in obvious pass situations to drop back in coverage. Bernardrick McKinney is that player.

McKinney, a 6’5”, 249-pound junior linebacker from Mississippi State University played exceptionally well this past year. According to MSU’s site he led the team in tackles, compiling 71 and was named first-team All American. He started all of the team’s 13 games and was a force in the middle. His size and strength makes him a great fit for the Broncos shift to a 3-4 base defense. He can take on offensive lineman and shed lead blockers to contain the run. He also has great attention to detail and plays within his assignments as well.

The Broncos will need to move up 14-20 spots in order to steal McKinney from other likely suitors. Trades are hard to come by and finding a team willing to negotiate and compromise can be difficult.

“It’s not as easy to move picks and to move around,” Elway said last Thursday. “What is the price of moving up? I think that hopefully we can help our football team. We do have a lot of picks and we do have a good football team.”

As Elway mentioned last week the difficulty will be finding a trade partner that will ask a fair price for moving up. The price tag for a move of 14-20 spots in the second round of the draft would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of the Broncos’ 2015 second-round pick and this year’s or next year’s third-round pick. Several teams will be trying to gain picks in the draft including the Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins. UCLA’s Eric Kendricks would also warrant a trade up in the second round and is projected to go right before or after McKinney.

Draft a quarterback

Peyton Manning is back and that is old, but fabulous news. The Broncos can make one more realistic run with No. 18 but the future under center is far from certain. Manning will be under contract in 2016 but few think he will return to the NFL or at least with the Broncos and his understudy, Brock Osweiler is unproven after three years in the NFL. He could be the future but having Zac Dysert behind him to push him is a ridiculous plan of action.

There are several viable candidates to replace Dysert and motivate and compete with Osweiler. The Broncos wouldn’t have to look far either. Garrett Grayson, the Colorado State alum fits the profile of a Gary Kubiak led offense, not to mention he has already caught the eye of Elway.

“I think he’s probably more ready. I think there is an adjustment to go in, but any time you spend time underneath the center as well as back in shotgun [you have an advantage]. When I look at that transition, the biggest thing is probably being able to see because one thing shotgun does do is allow you to see better. If you haven’t been under center, there is an adjustment to being able to come out and you’re more limited to what you can see because the big guys are right in front of you.”

Grayson is mobile enough to escape the pocket, has a decent arm and is ready to run a play-action, run heavy offense. He is also projected to go in the late second to fourth round of the draft where the Broncos will pick 59th, 92nd and 133rd overall. If they believe in Grayson’s ability and it appears that he will not be on the board at 92 another trade is possible due to the number of picks the Broncos possess.

Other options would be UCLA’s quick, athletic Brett Hundley or the big framed, strong armed Bryce Petty out of Baylor but both of them have spent very little time under center in their collegiate careers. Both quarterbacks have risen and fallen in mock drafts but should be around in the third and fourth round of the draft.

As Elway expressed several times last week each draft is different and that is what makes the event both exciting and erratic. Scenarios are endless and predictions are often futile but the needs and opportunities for the Broncos to improve in specific areas are plentiful. The Broncos have no need for “raw” talent or to take on “project” players. They have the picks and the talented roster to go after the best in the draft and need to make the appropriate deals to do so.

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