ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Analysts' predictions for the Broncos' first-round pick in the upcoming 2014 NFL Draft are all over the board.
Some mock drafts have already accounted for free agency, while some haven't. But the vast majority seem to think Denver will stick to defense with the pick.
Without further ado, here are the latest projections for Denver's No. 31 selection, followed by each analyst's comments on the prediction.
DenverBroncos.com independent analyst Andrew Mason: Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks
There are plenty of directions in which the Broncos could go, but if Derek Carr drops in the draft -- and he is still on the board in this mock -- then the Broncos' phone will be buzzing with trade-down offers. Nevertheless, if Cooks is on the board, he's tempting. The 5-foot-10, 189-pounder can help immediately on returns, and brings a different element -- a darting, breakaway threat -- to the offense.
ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.: Wisconsin LB Chris Borland
Free agency rears its head. I actually had the Broncos taking a pass-rusher here initially, but the addition of DeMarcus Ware -- and I hope he stays healthy -- makes change an option. If you look at only the physical profile, you wouldn't consider Borland a first-round pick, but the tape tells another story. Borland isn't just a clean-up tackler, he's an instinctive attacker of the backfield, and a relentlessly instinctive player who can get on the field right away and make plays. I know for a fact there are teams that have him with a Round 1 grade. We'll see.
ESPN's Todd McShay: Missouri DE Kony Ealy
Ealy is a versatile defensive lineman who would be a good value pick here. He is a better pass-rusher than a run-stopper. Like most teams right now, the Broncos have some uncertainty along their defensive front entering free agency, with a couple of unrestricted free agents and Von Miller recovering from a torn ACL. Ealy would help fill that need.
Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke: Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan
Just on how the board happened to fall, the Broncos land a top-20 talent at No. 31 overall. Jernigan stands only 6-2 and a little south of 300 pounds, leaving him shy of an ideal nose tackle build. He still could play there, if needed, or kick out a little wider into the three-technique hole.
"When you've got a guy that can play multiple positions and understand how to play multiple positions and has the ability to learn different schemes," Jernigan said, "I feel like it can make any team better no matter what scheme it is."
Burke's Round 2 prediction: Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley
A swing-for-the-fences type of selection for Denver, which could use more depth up front and might score the draft's best DT should Easley get all the way back from a knee injury.
Burke also wrote his thoughts on how the Broncos' moves in free agency could affect their draft plans:
Denver can hone in sharply on the best player available. By signing CB Aqib Talib, S T.J. Ward and DE DeMarcus Ware, the Broncos upgraded their defense to a ridiculous degree. (They'll also have a healthy Von Miller back for 2014.) Talib replaced one of their expected free-agent losses: CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. What Denver has yet to do is find a fill-in for WR Eric Decker, who signed with the Jets on Wednesday. Solving that problem could be the plan at No. 31.
Sports Illustrated's Doug Farrar: Jernigan
The addition of Terrance "Pot Roast" Knighton was huge for the Broncos in 2013 — literally and figuratively. And it was impressive that Denver made the Super Bowl with several defensive starters affected by various injuries. Of course, that has a lot to do with Peyton Manning, but if Manning can't repeat his historic season in 2014, more will be expected of the defense. Jernigan would be a great addition, providing pressure ability inside and strength against the run.
Sports Illustrated's Don Banks: Ohio State CB Bradley Roby
The Broncos could use a boost in their edge rush capability, with Auburn defensive end Dee Ford looking like a late-round fit. But the secondary in Denver is even more of a pressing need, and there's still plenty of talent to choose from at cornerback. Roby's game had some holes last season, but he's got the speed and fluid stride that teams are always willing to take a chance on, and he's big and physical enough to handle press coverage.
NFL.com's Chase Goodbread: Minnesota DT Ra'Shede Hageman
Hageman was impressive at the Senior Bowl, and fills needs up front for Denver.
NFL.com's Matt Smith: Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews
I know they have needs on both lines, but there's too big a drop in the position groups by the time they pick. Eric Decker is gone, and Matthews looks "plug and play."
NFL.com's Bucky Brooks: Alabama LB C.J. Mosley
John Fox would like to field a faster, more athletic defense in 2014. Mosley is an instinctive defender with the speed and quickness to roam as a sideline-to-sideline playmaker.
NFL.com's Charles Davis: TCU CB Jason Verrett
Ran 4.38 in the 40-yard dash, had a vertical jump of 39 inches and had the best footwork of the cornerbacks in Indy. I am not worried about his size.
Ealy ran slower than expected but he plays much faster on tape and his versatility is very appealing.
CBS Sports' Rob Rang: Notre Dame DT Stephon Tuitt
Since John Fox took over with the Broncos, Denver has built their defensive line with the selections of Von Miller, Derek Wolfe and Sylvester Williams as well as the addition of defensive tackle Terrance Knighton in free agency but don't expect that to keep the team from gambling on a player with Tuitt's length and upside should the gifted defender fall into their lap at this point.
CBS Sports' Pete Prisco: Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier
He would bring much-needed speed to the linebacker group.
CBS Sports' Dan Brugler: Ealy
Injuries put a hurting on the Broncos' pass rush last season and Denver must develop depth in the front seven. Ealy has first-round tools and with some pro coaching, he should continue to blossom.
CBS Sports' Pat Kirwan: Tuitt
The Broncos could use a big man who can play anywhere across the defensive front. These types of players are hard to find in later rounds.
CBS Sports' Will Brinson: Ealy
Despite being incredibly close to a Super Bowl championship, the Broncos have plenty of holes to fill, particularly on defense. Ealy might be a steal at this point and can immediately improve their pass rush.
Fox Sports' Peter Schrager: Alabama S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
The Broncos are likely still licking their wounds from the beating they took in Super Bowl XLVIII. Clinton-Dix is fluid in his footwork and can level the boom in the open field. Denver's defensive backfield got by last season, but it's by no means the deepest part of the roster. Nice addition at No. 31 overall.