ENGLEWOOD – Just about every sports fan in the Rocky Mountain region will watch with interest as the Denver Broncos make their No. 5 overall draft pick Thursday night.
A few Broncos players may watch in fear.
If the Broncos do stay at No. 5 – a trade back with Buffalo, which has two picks in each of the first three rounds, is possible – the team’s new instant star will arrive at the expense of a player currently playing at his position.
Current Broncos players who have the most to lose, and win, from the draft Thursday night:
Paxton Lynch, Quarterback (if Broncos draft Sam Darnold)
Case Keenum is getting $25 million guaranteed and he will be the Broncos’ starting quarterback in 2018, even if the team winds up taking Sam Darnold or Josh Allen or Baker Mayfield with the No. 5 pick.
Take a young quarterback at No. 5, though, and the message will be clear the Broncos have given up on Lynch.
I think the opposite will happen. Elway still believes there is something there with Lynch, his first-round draft pick in 2016. Lynch may never read defenses like he should. But he did turn in an encouraging performance in the final game of the 2017 season, displaying athleticism, a strong arm and an ability to make a big play.
(Scratch that if the Broncos do somehow wind up with Darnold at No. 5). Chad Kelly wouldn’t be all that happy with a first-round quarterback, either.
Devontae Booker, Running Back (if Broncos take Saquon Barkley)
Booker is in line to replace C.J. Anderson as the lead ball carrier. That line would change its order if the Penn State running back falls to No. 5.
Then again, if the Broncos don’t take Barkley, then general manager John Elway will have sent a vote of confidence to Booker and his backup, De’Angelo Henderson. (At least until the second or third rounds).
Max Garcia/Connor McGovern, Right Guard (if Broncos take Quenton Nelson)
The Notre Dame guard is a possibility with the No. 5 pick.
Garcia, a 2 ½-year starter at guard, and McGovern, who started the final five games of last season, are expected to battle for the right guard spot while Ron Leary moves back to his natural left guard position.
Shane Ray, Linebacker (if Broncos take Bradley Chubb)
Elway has yet to decide whether to pick up Ray’s $9.232 million option for the 2019 season, even though 15 first-round picks from the 2015 draft have already been told their option will be exercised. Ray was taken No. 23 overall in 2015.
If Ray puts it all together and has a great 2018, the Broncos will save millions by picking up his option.
But to date, Ray’s production hasn’t matched $9.232 million, even at an injury-only guarantee.
Just a guess, but if the Broncos take Chubb, an edge rusher from North Carolina State, exercising Ray’s option will become less likely. If they don’t take Chubb, the chances increase Ray will need to review his financial planner.
Tramaine Brock/Brendan Langley, No. 3 Cornerback (if the Broncos take Denzel Ward or Minkah Fitzpatrick)
Trading back a few spots and taking Ohio State’s Ward or Alabama’s Fitzpatrick is a possibility.
Cornerback is a need after the Broncos traded away Aqib Talib.
Chris Harris Jr. goes from No. 2 to No. 1 corner and Bradley Roby jumps from No. 3 to No. 2. But Langley developed slowly as a third-round rookie last year and Brock, who turns 30 in August, was signed to a stopgap-like, one-year, $3 million contract.
Brandon Marshall, Linebacker (if the Broncos take Roquan Smith)
A trade back for the Georgia linebacker Smith would make it interesting. One Broncos starting inside linebacker, Todd Davis, just signed a three-year, $15 million extension that pays him $6 million this year and a non-guaranteed $4 million next year.
Marshall, the three-down starting linebacker, has a guaranteed $5 million coming this year, but then a non-guaranteed $7 million next year.