Playing the role of middle man, the Broncos jumped up 14 spots in the first round, opening up a wide array of options on draft day with the 15th and 22nd overall picks. And all they had to do was send third and fourth-round choices to Atlanta, and the 29th pick to the New York Jets, in exchange for the No. 15 overall (the Jets sent Abraham to Atlanta to complete the three-way deal).
That gives the Broncos two picks in the draft's "second-tier" talent shelf – the first shelf being selections one through seven, and the second shelf being picks eight through 22. In turn, that could provide plenty of ammunition if Denver wants to move up into the top 10 to snag a player it covets. That seems unlikely, since the Broncos should be able to grab two very good players and pad their depth simply by staying put.
Certainly, the trade will shake up the way the picks fall, especially if Denver targets a wide receiver or running back (the Broncos could land the No. 1 player at either position) with the 15th pick.
With the biggest draft-related trade thus far, here is the latest outlook …
1. Houston Texans – Reggie Bush, RB, USC. The Texans had virtually their entire staff and owner Bob McNair on hand to see Vince Young work out, but there are few people around the league who are convinced Houston is serious about him. The closer the Texans get to the draft, the more they look married to Bush. However, it's worth noting the Texans still haven't upgraded the tackle spot in free agency, making it a certainty that it will be a draft priority. Said coach Gary Kubiak about Bush this week: "The good thing about him is that the kid can get touches a lot of ways."
2. New Orleans Saints – D'Brickashaw Ferguson, OT, Virginia. As one league source appropriately pointed out, New Orleans has to trade out of this pick to get full value for it. General manager Mickey Loomis said he hasn't gotten calls about the selection, but interest will heat up the week before the draft. This is a quarterback spot, and if the Saints aren't taking Matt Leinart or trading down for additional picks, they're missing the full draft potential of this slot. That said, if they get stuck at No. 2, Ferguson makes more sense than defensive end Mario Williams, giving New Orleans two young anchor tackles.
3. Tennessee Titans – Matt Leinart, QB, USC. The Titans were out in force to watch Vince Young, and it was interesting to see offensive coordinator Norm Chow chatting him up quite a bit at the workout. But Young's pro day was only good, and not great. That leaves the door open for Leinart when he has his workout Sunday. Like the Alex Smith/Aaron Rodgers debate last year, the Titans' No. 1 choice is going to be hashed in all of the private workouts. Chow's familiarity with Leinart trumps Young – along with the fact that Chow knows Leinart can succeed in his offense.
4. New York Jets – Mario Williams, DE, North Carolina State. The Jets signed Patrick Ramsey and have even talked to Detroit about Joey Harrington, so they don't seem all that thrilled with the quarterbacks likely to be on the board at their pick. Don't rule out the Jets trading down. If they stay put, Williams is the sensible choice after the departure of John Abraham. The Jets were at Williams' pro day and have also scheduled a personal visit with him on April 11.
5. Green Bay Packers – A.J. Hawk, OLB, Ohio State. There continues to be some sentiment that the Packers could take a flier and grab one of the quarterbacks at this pick. But if Brett Favre is coming back next season, it seems very unlikely they would carry Favre and two first-round quarterbacks. And if Favre is returning for a Packers team built to win, then it isn't likely the team would spend such a high pick on a quarterback that will sit on the bench. Moving back a few spots is not out of the question, but if Green Bay stays put, Hawk becomes the latest plug in a defense that is looking better by the week.
6. San Francisco 49ers – Michael Huff, CB/S, Texas. This spot could be a trade back, or the 49ers could take a look at Maryland tight end Vernon Davis. If Davis is the choice, the 49ers will target USC safety Darnell Bing in the second round. But with Eric Johnson returning to action and the secondary in dire need of playmakers, Huff looks like the best fit in the first round. One red flag, though: He showed great explosion at his pro day workout but had a lot of trouble catching the football during interception drills.
7. Oakland Raiders – Vernon Davis, TE, Maryland. Vince Young would be tempting. But Aaron Brooks has been signed to a short-term deal and that should give the Raiders plenty of time to groom Andrew Walter – a player the franchise really likes. Davis gives the offense yet another explosive option and provides Oakland quite possibly the most difficult matchups in the league with Randy Moss and Jerry Porter. Davis' teammates at Maryland nicknamed him "Oh My God" for his jaw-dropping skills.
8. Buffalo Bills – Winston Justice, OT, USC. This looked like the right spot for Oregon defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, but he doesn't fit the scheme. With options like Michael Huff off the board, this spot could be prime for a trade down, perhaps to a team that is targeting a sliding quarterback. If the Bills have to stay put, Justice becomes the next best option. This is about five or six spots higher than many have Justice rated, but if he has a good pro day Sunday, Justice might prove to be worth the reach for a Bills team that needs a good young offensive tackle.
9. Detroit Lions – Jimmy Williams, CB, Virginia Tech. The Lions could get stuck in a tough spot with all of their best options off the board. After the failed Joey Harrington project, Matt Millen doesn't have an urge to start grooming another rookie first-round quarterback. Ideally, Texas' Michael Huff would be sitting here and give a shot of juice to a secondary that has been injury-prone and seen its depth depleted in free agency. If Huff isn't available, that leaves the Lions left with the next best cornerback on the board for coach Rod Marinelli's Cover 2 defense. One problem: Williams has some red flags for attitude and an up-and-down final season with Virginia Tech.
10. Arizona Cardinals – Vince Young, QB, Texas. It's hard to imagine Young falling this far, but there seems to be only a lukewarm buzz around him since his pro day and personal workouts began. The theory – once again revived since his pro day – is that Young is going to be a guy who needs to sit a year (or maybe two) before taking over a starting job. Some things to consider about Arizona: Dennis Green has worked with guys who have similar styles to Young in Randall Cunningham and Daunte Culpepper, and Cardinals quarterback coach (Mike Kruczek) was the guy who helped develop Culpepper when he was the head coach at Central Florida.
11. St. Louis Rams – Jay Cutler, QB, Vanderbilt. Cutler landing in St. Louis is a long shot, especially with Gus Frerotte being tabbed as the No. 2 quarterback behind Marc Bulger. But sometimes there are guys sitting on the board that are simply too good to pass up, and that'll be the situation here if Cutler falls out of the top 10. Having two quality QBs is always a good problem to have, and with Bulger's health issues over his career – and the fact that he turns 30 next year – it's not too early to starting thinking for the future.
12. Cleveland Browns – Brodrick Bunkley, DT, Florida State. The buzz in some scouting circles is that the Browns have locked onto Bunkley as their defensive end in the 3-4 scheme. It's a little alarming how easily the information seems to be floating out there and smells a bit like a smokescreen. Still, Bunkley does make a lot of sense for Cleveland. There is going to be talk of possibly taking a running back at this pick, but getting some playmakers on defense seems to be a more pressing priority. The Browns could even pull a shocker and tab Florida State's Kamerion Wimbley here, but it seems far too high. Then again, Cleveland clearly likes his potential as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
13. Baltimore Ravens – Haloti Ngata, DT, Oregon. Ngata would give the Ravens the massive defensive tackle they need to replace Maake Kemoeatu. Justin Bannan isn't going to fill that void by himself. Ngata would give the Ravens the plug they need to keep Ray Lewis free to fill the running lanes.
14. Philadelphia Eagles – Ernie Sims, OLB, Florida State. The signing of Jabar Gaffney patches up the wide receiver spot for one more year and frees the Eagles up to do what they love to do with their first-round pick – devote it to defense. Shawn Barber was signed to a one-year deal and last season's second-round pick Matt McCoy is waiting in the wings, but the linebacker corps still needs a fast playmaker. Sims gives the Eagles just that, and he'll be an insurance policy in case Dhani Jones can't get himself straight and return to top form.
15. Denver Broncos (from Atlanta) – Chad Jackson, WR, Florida. The Broncos have been looking into plenty of receivers in recent weeks – Keyshawn Johnson and Javon Walker, to name a few. Moving to this spot in the draft allows the Broncos to leap over at least a few teams that will have interest in wideouts between this pick and the Broncos' 22nd selection. That will give Denver a shot at the draft's best wideout, which is considered a tossup between Jackson and Ohio State's Santonio Holmes. Jackson gets the edge for having both size and speed and showcasing good hands in his workouts.
16. Miami Dolphins – Johnathan Joseph, CB, South Carolina. Renaldo Hill will be playing safety, so that still leaves a need for one more corner to add to the depth of Travis Daniels, Will Allen and Andre Goodman. Joseph has good speed and a big upside and should eventually develop into a starting cornerback. He was really only able to showcase himself his last season at South Carolina, but he was exceptional when healthy.
17. Minnesota Vikings – Donte Whitner, S, Ohio State. Tank Williams was signed, but that's only a short-term option. Whitner would fill the long-term need at safety, and there are even a few scouts who think he has the goods to play cornerback on the next level. The Vikings could experiment with both positions and then decide where they like Whitner best down the road. Tennessee's Jason Allen is another possibility here, but his medical red flag keeps him a cut below Whitner.
18. Dallas Cowboys – Jason Allen, FS, Tennessee. Allen has been fantastic from the measurables standpoint, and he was a top-notch player at Tennessee when healthy. The big concern right now is the hip injury he sustained in college. A league source indicated that Allen's hip is causing some strength differential between his two legs. The leg on the injured side is at about 85-percent the strength of the healthy leg. That could develop into a long-term problem, or it might never be an issue at all. If the Cowboys feel he's relatively risk-free, he could be an immediate starter at free safety.
19. San Diego Chargers – Santonio Holmes, WR, Ohio State. The Chargers could go with another cornerback to shake up the secondary, but Holmes would be an enticing pick at this point. Outside of the aging Keenan McCardell, there is no consistent go-to receiver on the roster. Holmes would give the Chargers another wideout with speed and precise route-running. You can bet general manager A.J. Smith is going to try and give maturing quarterback Philip Rivers every possible weapon to succeed.
20. Kansas City Chiefs – Tye Hill, CB, Clemson. The Chiefs know there is going to be either a cornerback or wide receiver left at their pick. An impact receiver might be a bigger preference, but it's more likely that Hill will be there. He gives the Chiefs a player they can immediately plug into their nickel spot and eventually push for starting time opposite Patrick Surtain. Defensive end Tamba Hali could be a candidate for this pick, too.
21. New England Patriots – Manny Lawson, DE/OLB, N.C. State. The Patriots are losing players left and right, and it's a certainty they are going to do something at this pick that nobody expects. Barring some kind of unforeseen find in free agency, they need to find a young outside linebacker to replenish the depth at that position after losing Willie McGinest. Mike Vrabel can't play inside and outside, and Monty Beisel doesn't seem to be a real option. So Lawson – who has looked like he could be polished into a big playmaker at outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense – looks like the best fit.
22. Denver Broncos (from Washington) – LenDale White, RB, USC. Yes, Ron Dayne has re-signed, but Mike Shanahan hasn't backed off his assertion that he'd like to add another running back on the draft's first day. The Broncos might trade out of this pick – maybe to the Browns, who might be looking to trade back and take Kamerion Wimbley. If the Broncos stay put, they can afford to make a luxury selection in White, who could thrive in the zone-blocking scheme.
23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Tamba Hali, DE, Penn State. Working from the "best available athlete" standpoint, Hali is the guy here, hands down. And he would also enrich a position that needs a shot of youth and talent for the Buccaneers. An outside linebacker is also a possibility, but there are too many concerns with the guys still on the board this late in the first round.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Leonard Pope, TE, Georgia. With Sam Adams expected to come into the fold in the coming days, the Bengals will have the opportunity to go pluck whichever tight end they like best. Pope's size and speed will make him a tough matchup, and he's shown decent hands in workouts. There are a handful of tight ends with similar grades, so it's basically going to boil down to who fits in what scheme the best, or impresses the most in interviews.
25. New York Giants – Chad Greenway, OLB, Iowa. The Giants still haven't addressed their issues at outside linebacker, and it's looking less and less likely that LaVar Arrington is going to drop his price enough for him to be an option. That makes it almost a certainty that the Giants are going to try and fill the need with this pick, and there should be a handful of guys available. Greenway has had a poor showing since the season ended, and some think he could slip out of the first round. But his college production is just too much to ignore.
26. Chicago Bears – Sinorice Moss, WR, Miami. Chicago's wide receiver situation is definitely one of the weaker parts of the team when you hash out all the factors. Muhsin Muhammad is aging, Mark Bradley is coming off knee surgery and there aren't any other consistent playmakers. Moss adds that big-play dimension. He gives the Bears more speed and has shown that he can factor into the return game. That – and the fact that general manager Jerry Angelo likes what Moss offers – should be more than enough to justify him going in this spot.
27. Carolina Panthers – DeAngelo Williams, RB, Memphis. Moving Thomas Davis to linebacker shored up that spot. Another safety would seem to be the pressing choice here, but Williams would be too tempting to pass up. A safety and tight end can be chosen in later rounds. There are no guarantees with DeShaun Foster's health, and the team doesn't seem to be sold on Eric Shelton. Circumstance – not talent – is going to push Williams down the draft board. To get him this late would be a steal.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars – Kamerion Wimbley, OLB/DE, Florida State. Wimbley gives the Jaguars some immediate flexibility in that he can jump in right away on passing downs and play at both defensive end or outside linebacker. He will have to polish his skills at outside linebacker, but he has the speed and athleticism to get it done. Don't be surprised if Cleveland offers up a package of picks to move into a spot late in the first round to try and get Wimbley. Jacksonville could be a possible trade partner – and still get an outside linebacker if the Browns' second-round pick were part of a deal.
29. New York Jets (from Denver) – Nick Mangold, C, Ohio State. Drafting Mangold would allow Pete Kendall to shift back to guard – strengthening two positions with one move. The Jets could also take a stab at several other players here, including Minnesota running back Laurence Maroney and Auburn tackle Marcus McNeill. But Mangold has the highest grade at his position and would have a more immediate impact on the Jets' offensive line issues.
30. Indianapolis Colts – Laurence Maroney, RB, Minnesota. Maroney is still having hamstring issues, but his college tapes show what he can do. The best-case scenario for the Colts is having one of the top running backs slip to their pick. Maroney has the toughness to carry the load and plays very well on turf. If Maroney isn't here, an outside linebacker such as Alabama's DeMeco Ryans or Ohio State's Bobby Carpenter would be the selection.
31. Seattle Seahawks – Antonio Cromartie, CB, Florida State. The signing of Tom Ashworth allows for some shuffling on the offensive line and minimizes the need for a guard at this slot. Safety is still a pressing need, but this may end up being a "best available" spot. After his series of outstanding workouts, and the fact that he likely would have been one of the top two or three cornerbacks in the country next season, Cromartie is worth the gamble, even with his recent knee injury.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers – Bobby Carpenter, LB, Ohio State. Contrary to popular belief, the Steelers' outside linebacker corps isn't as stellar as everyone makes it out to be, especially the depth which is average at best. Carpenter would shore that up, and eventually push to be an upgrade over one of the starters. If Nick Mangold is still on the board, he's a more likely choice than Carpenter.
- Vince Young
- Ohio State
- Matt Leinart
- Jimmy Williams