CENTENNIAL, Colo. — If the Broncos have any aspirations for drafting one of the most popular prospects in 2017, Denver had better root for quarterbacks. Cross your fingers that Kevin Costner takes over as the Cleveland Browns' general manager. Believe in the New York Jets to draft the next Joe Namath for the 30th consecutive year.
A run at the sport's most high-profile position creates a potential path to Christian McCaffrey for the Broncos. As it stands, the Broncos are unlikely to land the former Valor Christian and Stanford star running back. Denver owns the 20th overall selection. They could use a dynamic weapon like McCaffrey, especially if you ask the players.
Everyone from Chris Harris Jr. to Aqib Talib want a versatile player like McCaffrey, someone who can run the ball, catch passes out of the backfield, line up the slot and return punts and kicks.
That remains the appeal of McCaffrey, who will be holding a family draft party 20 minutes from the Broncos' facility: He is a four-down player.
"He's a great kid. We like Christian a lot and we wanted to bring him in," said Elway of McCaffrey's official visit earlier this month. "My concern (is not about the hometown attention). It's if he can play football. That's our concern. And that he can do."
If the Broncos remain at No. 20 overall, I continue to believe they will select a left tackle with Utah's Garett Bolles the favorite. He possess the nasty style of play the Broncos are seeking, has arguably the best upside of any tackle in the draft and, according to multiple scouts, represents an upgrade of the team's current starting candidates Donald Stephenson and Ty Sambrailo. Other tackles who visited the Broncos were Alabama's Cam Robinson and Wisconsin's Ryan Ramczyk. There's long been debate whether the Broncos would go with Ramczyk or Bolles. So it would not be a surprise if it's Ramczyk, who might not available to practice until June because of offseason hip surgery.
Left tackle is safe, fits a need and, who knows, might be best player available on the Broncos' board if they stay put.
McCaffrey moves the needle because of his electricity. He is a playmaker, something any Broncos' fan knows the sputtering offense needs. How do the Broncos get McCaffrey?
Glad you asked. Here are the steps:
1) Run on QBs: The best thing that can happen is teams "Jonesing" for quarterbacks. It could start early with Cleveland taking Mitchell Trubisky first overall. It can't be dismissed. If Trubisky does not go to the Browns, Cleveland could attempt to move up from No. 12 to Tennessee's No. 5 pick to take the former North Carolina star. There is growing buzz that Jacksonville might take Clemson Deshaun Watson. This would be ideal for Denver, particularly if it forces the Bills' hand, even if unlikely, to go with Patrick Mahomes or DeShone Kizer.
2) Fournette goes to Carolina: The first obvious spot for a running back remains No. 8 overall. Carolina has been linked to Leonard Fournette, an old school bellcow, for months. They also like McCaffrey, though I am not sure he fits their offense as well as others. Carolina needs defensive help, too, so if Fournette is off the board it could mean a pass on McCaffrey.
3) Browns, Cardinals want to dance: This is not Madden. It's not fantasy football. Trading up into the teens is a challenge. It requires help and, in some cases, a perfect storm. If the Broncos identify McCaffrey as a must-have, they need to move up to Cleveland's No. 12 or Arizona's No. 13. It would require a first-round swap of picks and likely a second-rounder this season and a future third. Getting to this sweet spot keeps McCaffrey away from Philadelphia at No. 14, Indianapolis at No. 15 and Washington at No. 17. The Broncos have multiple needs. It's hard to reconcile losing picks in this draft. However, McCaffrey could address multiple concerns. McCaffrey led the NCAA in all-purpose yards the past two seasons.
The Broncos possess the picks to move up. It becomes a balancing act for a team that needs impact players at multiple spots. The Broncos are almost on the clock. They like McCaffrey. If you want it to happen, root for a run on quarterbacks.
How to watch the draft, where to look for coverage:
The 2017 NFL draft begins at 6 p.m. (8 p.m. ET) and can be watched on ESPN and the NFL Network.
Each pick could take as long as 10 minutes, although teams can choose to forego some of their time on the clock.