My final-final prediction for the Broncos draft Thursday:
But, first ...
The Broncos don’t even know who, when and where they pick in the first round and the what and the why of the 49ers at No. 3.
The NFL draft will begin at 6 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time. Beginning with the Jaguars, each team will have a maximum of 10 minutes to make a selection. Jacksonville and the New York Jets could announce their choices — Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson — within seconds, but the two franchises, the league and the networks will drag out the drama.
The Broncos’ pick actually could be anywhere from fourth to ninth (the current spot) to 32nd, (the last first-round position) and might be declared publicly at any time from 6:15 to 9:30 by commissioner Roger Goodell with Lake Erie as the backdrop in Cleveland.
It’s only Rock ‘n Roll, but I like it.
I began covering NFL drafts as a sportswriter exactly 50 years ago, and this is the 45th as a witness to the Broncos' greatest hits and worst misses — from 1975’s surprise No. 1 pick, Louis Wright, who is in the Broncos’ Ring of Fame, to 2016’s most miserable No. 1 pick Paxton Lynch, who deserves a place on the Broncos’ Wall of Shame, and from No. 1 pick in 1988 Ted Gregory, who didn’t reach the opening regular-season game, to 1990 last-round pick Shannon Sharpe, who is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Broncos drafted 48 players before their first season in 1960 and only three players in 1997, the season of the franchise’s first Super Bowl victory.
The quarterback chosen highest by the Broncos was Jay Cutler, at 11 overall after a trade in 2006, and obtuse QB Chad Kelly was the last player picked at 253 in 2017. The Broncos’ 10 picks from 2020 are on the roster, but just three are left from the 2010-2017 drafts — Von Miller, Justin Simmons and Garett Bolles.
Now, what — and who, when, where, why and how?
George Paton, in his inaugural draft as a GM, said he will draft the highest-ranked player on the Broncos’ Big Board, but he also has acknowledged that the Broncos could move up or down or stay at No. 9.
Depends, really, on the player, his position, the pick placement and Paton’s preference.
Could he be a QB?
A majority of Coloradans not named Lock — and at least 123 Locks live here, according to one website — favor a quarterback.
If not a quarterback, the opinions of the Broncos’ faithful followers vary from linebacker to cornerback to (right) offensive tackle to running back to definitely someone who can become a Pro Bowler soon and a Hall of Famer someday.
The Broncos’ first-round choices in the past five seasons have turned out to be starters and stars, if not at the start. Bolles has improved from goat to maybe eventually goatt (greatest of all-time tackle for the Broncos). Bradley Chubb is an All-Pro-in-waiting after returning from a serious injury; Noah Fant already is an exceptional tight end; and Jerry Jeudy, despite brain burps as a rookie, will be a remarkable wide receiver.
Who’s got next?
In recent years I’ve predicted in this space the Broncos would draft Bolles, Fant, Drew Lock, Dalton Risner and Jeudy. I was wrong thinking the Broncos would pick Josh Allen, but John Elway was wrong not to pick him.
This year is tougher to deduce — for me, you, the Broncos and Sherlock Holmes. But the game is afoot.
The Broncos’ options are to trade into the fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh slot to have a chance, based on the 49ers’ decision, at Justin Fields, Trey Lance or Mac Jones; feel fine at nine and hope one of the quarterbacks lasts until then or select the best defensive player agreed to in their “board’’ room, or trade back and wish for the best.
I believe Paton trades with the Vikings (14) or the Washington Football Team (19) and selects, with the two picks, Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah first and, later, Irish offensive tackle Liam Eichenberg.
And the Broncos trade for 28-year-old Teddy Bridgewater, who Paton, Vic Fangio and Pat Shurmur highly respect and covet.