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In the initial weeks of pre-draft analysis, thoughts on the Broncos spanned multiple positions, including defensive tackle, inside linebacker, tight end and offensive line. However, nearly all the analysts in our pool have come to the conclusion that the Broncos will focus on the offensive line in the first round of the draft.
Draft analysts on the Broncos
About two weeks ago, the roundup broke down by position with seven of the 14 analysts saying the Broncos would draft a nose or defensive tackle, followed by five offensive linemen.
This time around, all but one writer—who hasn't update his mock draft since Feb. 24, before free agency got underway—had the Broncos picking an offensive lineman.
Offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings is the favorite, with seven seeing him heading to the Broncos. Cameron Erving of Florida State and D.J. Humphries of Florida each were picked by two analysts, and Cedric Ogbuehi and Andrus Peat received one pick apiece. Nose tackle Jordan Phillips was the only pick who wasn't an offensive lineman.
This should come as little surprise. In a conference call with ESPN's Mel Kiper late in March, he saw the Broncos' objective zeroing in on addressing the offensive line.
"For Denver at right tackle, I would think where they're picking late-one, you're looking at that particular point, maybe for a guy if he drops—I don't think La'el Collins from LSU would still be there, I don't think Ereck Flowers will be there from Miami of Florida; they would be two ideal fits at that particular point in the draft, I just don't think they'll be there."
Kiper particularly thought Clemmings could be the Broncos' man with their No. 28 overall pick.
"If you look at T.J. Clemmings from Pitt, played right tackle, [a] late-developing football player — former D-lineman didn't play football until late in his high school career," Kiper said. "He was a right tackle at Pitt, struggled at left tackle at the Senior Bowl practices. He's the kind of guy at that point, he would make sense. He's a developmental tackle prospect who, as I said, played very well at that spot."
Charles Davis of NFL.com said Clemmings could come in and start as a rookie at right tackle, and his colleague Daniel Jeremiah viewed him as a good fit, too: "Denver replaces Orlando Franklin with a very similar player in Clemmings. Both guys are capable of playing RT and OG."
Brian Baldinger, also of NFL.com, foresees Clemmings making strides as a rookie and becoming an impact player: "I see steady improvement from Clemmings. Rookie offensive linemen have a good chance to play immediately in Gary Kubiak's zone-blocking scheme."
His athleticism and ability to block on the edges of the line and Kubiak's emphasis on zone-blocking schemes in the running game have draft experts thinking Clemmings fits well with the coaching staff's strategy.
"Coach Gary Kubiak's beloved West Coast Offense calls for athletic offensive linemen. They don't come much more athletic than Clemmings, a former defensive end who has steadily grown into a star the past two years at right tackle," CBS's Rob Rang says. "Clemmings' broad shoulders, trim middle and light feet give him the traits teams look for in a traditional blind-side tackle but he remains, understandably, a bit raw."
Even among the other analysts, the thinking is similar to why Clemmings might be the Broncos' first-round selection.
"...he's a great fit in new head coach Gary Kubiak's zone-blocking scheme because of his athleticism and movement skills," ESPN's Todd McShay said of D.J. Humphries.
NFL.com's Bucky Brooks, who picked Cameron Erving to the Broncos, sees Erving's strong point in helping the Broncos is his versatility to play multiple spots on the offensive line.
With the draft just a few weeks away, we'll have to wait and see how the Broncos' top draft pick will unfold.