ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --With the 2012 NFL Draft less than a week away, DenverBroncos.com checked in with CBS Sports' Charley Casserly. You can follow the 16-year veteran National Football League General Manager and 29-year NFL executive for the Washington Redskins and Houston Texans on Twitter (@CharleyCasserly).
Casserly, who serves as the "General Manager" for CBS Sports' The NFL Today pregame show, touched on a variety of topics, including the positions he believes the Broncos will address early in the draft, his unique perspective on Peyton Manning and Denver's 2012 schedule.
What are your impressions of this draft as a whole?
"I think every draft has positions that are strong. Every draft has positions that aren't as strong. I'd say in this one defensive tackle is perhaps the strongest position. I think wide receiver is another position that's got pretty good depth in it. I think on the other side safety is thin, tight end is thin, I think running back is thin -- so those are some of the thinner positions."
Who are some of the top defensive tackle prospects, and can they contribute to an NFL team immediately?
"I think all these players need some development coming out of the college into the pros because of the pass-rushing. Pass-rushing is much more advanced in the pros than in college. College has so little time with players compared to the NFL, especially if a guy comes out as a junior. The practice restrictions they have, really they limit the amount of technique work that they can get. All of them are going to need technique work especially in the pass-rush area.
"I think at the defensive tackle position, there are three guys that everyone likes, and it might vary from team to team, but you've got Fletcher Cox of Mississippi State, who, to me, is No. 1 on my list. You've got Dontari Poe of Memphis, then you've got Michael Brockers of LSU. Those are the second and third guys, and you could have a discussion about who is two or three. But all three of these guys are worthy of being taken in the first half of the first round."
What positions do you feel the Broncos need to address in the draft?
"Let's take offense. I think running back is an area they need to solidify. I think that in the interior offensive line, they need some depth. Over on defense, the defensive tackle positions I think is important. I think cornerback, because they've got age there. I know they signed (Tracy) Porter from New Orleans, but you have age with both corners there. Safety is a position that they have some age, and I think they need to upgrade that with quality youth there. Middle linebacker, I know they re-signed Joe Mays, but if there's a real talented guy there high in the draft, I think that would make some sense. Now, there's not much depth at the middle linebacker position, there's not much depth at the corner position, safety is not a strong position -- you've got to do a good job scouting for those safeties in the middle rounds or late rounds, which can happen."
Where do you see Denver going in the first few rounds?
"I think you've got to take the best player when you pick, because it's so long before you get another pick, you don't know what's going to be there. I say there's depth at the defensive tackle position, it may be all gone by the time you pick at the end of the second round. I think they'll probably take a first-round defensive tackle and maybe a second-round running back with their first pick. My second-best running back on my list is Doug Martin from Boise State. I think he's a top-of-the-second-round guy. Defensive tackle, where they're taking, Jerel Worthy of Michigan State is a possibility. He's a physical football player, more of a run-stopper than a pass-rusher. If he was a complete prospect at this time then he'd be going much higher."
You mentioned the addition of Tracy Porter -- do you like what the Broncos have done in free agency?
"(Jacob) Tamme is the guy that hit me right away, because two years ago with (Peyton) Manning throwing the ball, he was very productive. I was told Peyton really likes this guy. That works for both sides there. Manning's got a guy that he's familiar with and Tamme has a guy that he's familiar with. (Andre) Caldwell is more of a possession route-runner, so he gives them depth there. I think they've helped themselves at tight end, added depth at wide receiver, so that's a start."
How will Brandon Stokley, who is also familiar with Manning, being on the team help the rest of the receivers?
"Let's assume there's going to be a lot of similarity to the system in Denver as it was in Indianapolis. So you've got Tamme, who can handle the tight ends, teaching them, and now you've got Stokley, who can teach the receivers. I think that's really critical when you're implementing a system that you've got somebody in the locker room, in the meeting room -- besides the coaches -- that can work with the players and understand the system. I think it's important to have a couple people in that locker room that understand Peyton Manning's personality. Manning has been described to me as the most driven player people have ever been around. I think he'll be even more driven, if that's possible, this year. Especially now when you look at the first six games of that schedule, which are pretty tough. I think people are going to have to understand the personality they're dealing with, and I think Stokley and Tamme will help on that."
Having been General Manager for the Houston Texans within Manning's division, what is your perspective on Manning?
"The thing that he is so good at is his ability to get the right call made at the line of scrimmage, to get the right play call, and then as he goes back he reads the secondary. So as complex as you're going to be, he eventually figures it out. If you're not changing things right before the snap, it's over. He'll find the receiver and get him the ball. The key will be the receivers being disciplined to be in the right spot. That's why this offseason is absolutely critical.
"I remember him telling me a story before Pierre Garcon got a chance to play. I think Marvin Harrison had left, and they had to find some players. (Manning) spent a week or two in the offseason just one-on-one with Garcon because he wanted him ready for the April camp. When he went on the field in April, he wanted that guy to know what he was doing. That's the kind of guy you've got with Peyton. That's one of the things that makes him so great."
Any games on Denver's schedule stand out to you?
"How about opening with Pittsburgh? They've got Houston at home -- (Manning) had a pretty good record against Houston. They're going to New England, obviously the (Tom) Brady factor, that's huge, and the fact that the Patriots beat Denver twice last year. Those are the ones that kind of stick out here. They've got a tough schedule. If Denver gets out of that first six games and gets to that bye, look out, they're going to be on a roll."
When the draft rolls around next year, will Denver be picking earlier or later than No. 25?
"I think they'll be picking in the 20s again. This division, this is a tough division. This thing is wide-open now. San Diego's going to be better, I think, Kansas City's going to be better. Oakland, it's hard to say if they're going to be better because they're not going to get as much help out of the draft and they're tight against the salary cap. But if they get healthy, that's a great offense they've got. (Darren) McFadden running the ball, Carson Palmer has another year under his belt, they've got great speed at wide receiver -- that's an explosive crew they've got over there. So this division is going to be a dog-eat-dog thing that's going to go right down to the end of December."