INDIANAPOLIS—The Denver Broncos with the No. 51 overall draft pick in the second round are scheduled to visit with Christian McCaffrey here Wednesday night
McCaffrey, the star running back from … wait, what?
Kidding! The hope, maybe even the expectation, is for McCaffrey is to get drafted well before the Broncos’ second-round pick.
The Broncos also have the No. 20 overall selection in the first round. While McCaffrey, a former star running back at Valor Christian High School and Stanford, would be considered worthy of No. 20, the Broncos have far more pressing needs along their fronts on both sides of the ball.
Still, the Broncos want to do their due diligence on their local hero. Each NFL team gets a maximum of 60 interviews, at 15-minutes each, with rookie prospects during the NFL Scouting Combine this week. The Broncos have 57 interviews scheduled and will use one on McCaffrey.
“He’s a good football player,’’ said Broncos head coach Vance Joseph. “He’s obviously been productive at a major conference (Pac-12) in college football. So I’m looking forward to getting to know him. I obviously watched him on tape. He’s a Valor Christian kid. A Denver kid. That’s exciting. I’m happy for him. He’s had a great career and he’s going to be a great pro.’’
The son of former Broncos receiver great Ed McCaffrey, Christian McCaffrey nearly won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore in 2015 when he rushed for 2,019 yards, caught 45 passes for another 645 yards and scored touchdowns off both a punt and kickoff return.
He rushed for another 1,603 yards this past season as a junior.
The 2017 draft is deep at the running back position. Will the Broncos get one, even if his last name is not McCaffrey?
“Very possible,’’ Joseph said. “We’ve got how many picks. Ten? With 10 picks you can take whatever you want.’’
Other notes from Joseph’s media gatherings here Tuesday:
*The Broncos’ first-year coach was candid about one position of need.
“We want a left tackle,’’ he said.
After releasing left tackle Russell Okung from his contract, the Broncos will first shop in free agency to find his replacement. Cincinnati’s Andre Whitworth is expected to be on the Broncos’ short list.
If the Broncos don’t get their left tackle next week when free agency opens, they may consider trading up from their No. 20 draft pick to get one.
*It appears the Broncos are trying to negotiate a pay cut with veteran pass rusher DeMarcus Ware. But it also appears questionable as to whether an agreement can be reached.
Ware accepted a pay cut last season from the $10 million he was scheduled to make in the final year of his contract to $6.5 million. This time, he can first test the free-agent market that opens next Wednesday.
“I’ve talked to DeMarcus four or five different times,’’ Joseph said. “He’s obviously a free agent. That being said lots of things go into that as far as where he wants to be, how much he wants to play his role. That’s a work in progress.’’
*Joseph chose his words carefully when asked if right tackle Donald Stephenson would return. The Broncos view Stephenson as a quality swing tackle, not a starter, but his contract includes an option that if exercised by March 13 would guarantee his $4 million salary for the 2017 season. That’s starter money.
It appears the Broncos will first see if they can sign a quality left tackle in free agency before making a final decision on Stephenson. The Broncos also have Michael Schofield and Ty Sambrailo as right tackle candidates.
*Joseph confirmed his new offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and line coach Jeff Davidson would vary the Broncos’ running scheme.
“It was more zone last year,’’ Joseph said. “We’re hoping to do both (zone and gap scheme) under Mike and Jeff. When you’re doing both it helps you on game day. If you’re doing only one thing, teams can wire in and scheme against what you’re doing.’’
*The Broncos lost out to San Francisco in the bidding for free agent defensive tackle Earl Mitchell last week. That still leaves the Broncos with a gaping need along their defensive line. Arizona’s Calais Campbell, who grew up in Denver, may be one possibility through free agency.
“We want to try to acquire interior player who can rush the passer,’’ Joseph said.
The Broncos’ current starting defensive tackle, Sylvester Williams, is expected to sign elsewhere through free agency.
*With Broncos general manager John Elway on his third head coach in four years, there’s a perception he can be difficult to work for. It’s early, yet, but Joseph is pleased with his working relationship with Elway.
“John’s been so supportive,’’ Joseph said. “Obviously, for a first-time coach, coaching a football team, it’s a huge job. So letting John handle the personnel with free agency and the draft, along with Matt Russell, that’s a perfect match.
“With his track record of drafting well and having success with free agents in the past, it’s easy to follow John’s lead.’’