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A second-round difference-maker: Evaluating some of the Broncos' options for the 40th pick

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When the NFL Draft kicks off in two weeks, the lion's share of Broncos fans' attention will be on who Denver selects with its first-round pick.

That selection will garner the headlines and the instant draft grades — but it's not the team's only opportunity to acquire a potential star.

The following night, Denver will have another chance to add an impact player when the Broncos go on the clock with the 40th-overall selection.

In 2018, the Broncos also held the 40th pick, and they made the most of the opportunity as they selected wide receiver Courtland Sutton. The SMU product was considered a fringe first-round pick, but he slid to the second round and was available for Denver. In just his second season in the league, Sutton broke out with 72 catches, 1,112 yards and six touchdowns as he earned a Pro Bowl nod.

Sutton is far from the only successful player the Broncos have drafted in that region. Denver acquired a solid starter in Dalton Risner with the 41st-overall pick in 2019, secured Eddie Royal with the 42nd pick in 2008 and found All-Pro Glyn Milburn in 1993 with the 43rd-overall pick.

The list goes on when you expand to the rest of the league. Future Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski was selected with the 42nd pick in 2010, Hall of Fame defensive end Michael Strahan was chosen with the 40th pick in 1993 and Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas went to Buffalo as the 40th selection in 1988.

It's clear, then, that the Broncos' choice at that draft spot could be a difference-maker — both in the near and long term.

Here's a look at just a few of the players who have been suggested as possibilities for the Broncos with the 40th-overall selection:

CB Kelvin Joseph, Kentucky

Many draft experts have cautioned that a run on cornerbacks could come early, and Joseph is part of the second tier of corners that could be picked after Patrick Surtain II, Jaycee Horn, Caleb Farley and Greg Newsome II. Joseph has started just nine games in his career, as he played for Kentucky in 2020 after sitting out in 2019 due to transfer regulations. He posted five passes defensed and four interceptions last season — both of which led the team — before opting out of the final two games. Florida State's Asante Samuel Jr., Georgia's Eric Stokes and Washington's Elijah Molden could be among the other options available at cornerback with the 40th-overall pick.

S Trevon Moehrig, TCU

Widely projected as a first-round pick, it could be somewhat of a coup for the Broncos to have Moehrig fall to them at No. 40. The Athletic's Dane Brugler rated him as the second-best safety in the class, and he earned the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back in 2020. He also earned first-team All-Big 12 honors in each of the last two seasons and was a second-team All-American in 2020. With Kareem Jackson returning to the Broncos on a one-year deal, Moehrig could provide depth at the position for the future.

DL Christian Barmore, Alabama

Another potential first-round pick, Barmore is perhaps the best defensive lineman in a somewhat weak class. In 24 games over the past two seasons, he posted 63 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, three forced fumbles and five passes defensed. He earned first-team All-SEC honors and second-team All-American honors in 2020, and he was named the national championship's defensive MVP. The Broncos' defensive line isn't its biggest area of need, but they could get a steal with Barmore in the second round.

RB Travis Etienne, Clemson

Most mock drafts have projected that Denver will use its first two picks on defensive players, but Etienne could be an intriguing option if the Broncos want to boost their offense. Melvin Gordon III is entering the final year of his contract, and Etienne could be a future feature back for Denver. He's widely considered to be the second best back behind Najee Harris, and he was a first-team All-American in each of the last three seasons. Etienne was also a two-time ACC Player of the Year, and he set the ACC record for touchdowns in 2018. During his four years with the Tigers, he posted 70 rushing touchdowns and nearly 5,000 rushing yards and also added 102 catches for more than 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns. Etienne also averaged more than 7.2 yards per carry in his career. North Carolina's Javonte Williams could be an option in the second round, as well, and Ohio State's Trey Sermon and Oklahoma State's Chuba Hubbard could be among the possibilities for Denver on Day 3.

LB Jabril Cox, LSU

If Denver chooses not to select Micah Parsons or Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in the first round, Cox could be an option as an off-ball linebacker in Round 2. Cox spent the 2020 season as a graduate transfer with LSU, and he previously spent four years at North Dakota State where he was a two-time FCS first-team All-American. He also was the Missouri Valley Football Conference's Defensive Player of the Year in 2018. A potential three-down defender, Cox could help shore up the middle of Denver's defense. Ohio State's Baron Browning could be another option — either with the 40th pick or in Round 3. Perhaps the Broncos could even get quick lucky and see Kentucky's Jamin Davis slip to the 40th-overall pick.

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