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Mock draft roundup, Combine edition

Posted Feb 29, 2016

Two months before the NFL Draft begins, take a look at the early picks analysts are looking at for the Broncos.

Publication Name Pick Pos. College Date
ESPN Insider Todd McShay Jason Spriggs OT Indiana Feb. 3
ESPN Insider Mel Kiper Jr. Taylor Decker OT Ohio St. Feb. 18
NFL.com Bucky Brooks Vernon Butler DT Louisiana Tech Feb. 22
NFL.com Charles Davis Hunter Henry TE Arkansas Feb. 22
NFL.com Daniel Jeremiah Andrew Billings NT Baylor Feb. 16
NFL.com Lance Zierlein Darron Lee OLB Ohio State Feb. 18
NFL.com Chad Reuter Chris Jones DT Miss. St. Feb. 17
SB Nation Dan Kadar Jason Spriggs OT Indiana Feb. 22
Sports Illustrated Chris Burke Hunter Henry TE Arkansas Feb. 17
CBS Sports Rob Rang Vernon Butler DT Louisiana Tech April 27
CBS Sports Dane Brugler Robert Nkemdiche DT Ole Miss April 27
DenverBroncos.com Andrew Mason Ezekiel Elliott RB Ohio St. April 22

Position breakdown:
DT/NT: 5
OT: 3
TE: 2
OLB: 1
RB: 1

What they're saying

Much like last year, professional prognosticators foresee the Broncos focusing on the trenches in the draft. However, the Broncos held off on the offensive line because they had a shot at OLB Shane Ray, a player they ranked highly. There's also Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager's run of taking defensive players with the team's top pick in each of the last five drafts. So, nothing is given when considering the Broncos' philosophy in the draft.

Offensive line

"The Broncos should be better along the offensive line in Year 2 of Gary Kubiak's tenure, and Decker is the kind of athlete and run-blocker who can thrive in Kubiak's system. The Broncos aren't going to be able to shop for starting tackles in free agency, given the type of talent they'll be attempting to retain, and Decker offers good value here." - Mel Kiper, ESPN.com

"A team like Denver, which needs to upgrade its O-line, could get enamored with a LT prospect like Spriggs, who showed off ideal measurables and good athleticism at the Senior Bowl." - Todd McShay, ESPN.com

Denver ranked 19th in sacks per pass attempt allowed and 13th in rushing yards per play in 2015. Adding to the offensive line would help them in both regards in continuing to build on Kubiak's balanced offense.

"Obviously that's an area where we need to get better," Elway said. "That's going to be a focal point for us this year as we go into free agency as well as the draft."

Elway also noted that he sees the offensive line as the deepest part of the draft that he had seen so far.

Defensive line

"After watching Malik Jackson and Derek Wolfe play key roles on the the Broncos' Super Bowl 50 run, GM John Elway could elect to invest in another athletic defender to provide the team with enough options to deal with a potential Jackson defection. Butler is a dancing bear with the balance, body control and agility to create problems for blockers at the line of scrimmage." - Bucky Brooks, NFL.com

"With Malik Jackson set to hit free agency, the Broncos will be looking for new beef at the grocery store. Nkemdiche has his red flags, but he is one of the best talents in this draft class." - Dane Brugler, CBSsports.com

With Malik Jackson's free-agency future up in the air, multiple analysts could see the Broncos looking to replace him. However, if Jackson returns to the Broncos—which will unfold almost two months before the draft—then it's more likely the Broncos look elsewhere.

Tight end

"They bypass the line here for the draft’s best tight end, a 6'5" mismatch-creator. He is nowhere near the blocker Vernon Davis once was, but Henry could provide the type of passing-game target Denver thought it was getting from the veteran TE." - Chris Burke, Sports Illustrated

Arkansas TE Hunter Henry is the consensus pick among those who thought the Broncos would go with a tight end. But the Broncos still have 10-year veteran Owen Daniels, five-year veteran Virgil Green and a first-year player in Jeff Heuerman, whom the Broncos selected in the third round of the 2015 draft before he tore his ACL during rookie minicamp.

Running back

"This will be subject to change based on how free agency goes, but based on needs at this point, a run on offensive linemen dropped Elliott into the Broncos' laps. With Ronnie Hillman set to hit the unrestricted market, it would be hard to resist Elliott as part of a 1-2 punch with C.J. Anderson." - Andrew Mason, DenverBroncos.com

Outside linebacker

"If the Broncos end up letting Danny Trevathan walk as a free agent, Lee would add the speed and playmaking ability to step right into Trevathan's spot." - Lance Zierlein, NFL.com