2012 NFL Mock Draft: A Look Forward to the Denver Broncos Possible Draft Targets

Erick SpaltiCorrespondent IJanuary 12, 2012

Broncos GM John Elway and 2011 First Round Draft Pick LB Von Miller
Broncos GM John Elway and 2011 First Round Draft Pick LB Von MillerJustin Edmonds/Getty Images

When the Denver Broncos defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, they guaranteed themselves the 24th-or-lower pick in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft.

After experiencing success with last year's first-round pick, LB Von Miller, look for Broncos GM John Elway to look toward the best available player. That approach seemed to work well for the Broncos in the 2011 draft, but defensive tackle obviously appears to be their biggest need.

Tim Tebow may have managed to silence those thinking the Denver Broncos would take a QB high in the draft when the Broncos earned their first playoff victory since 2005.

Tebow's 316 yards throwing (which is now being turned into a religious parade) were a career-high for the second-year QB out of Florida. You clearly can see he is the leader of the offense.

John Fox also has always had a preference for veteran QBs, so a free-agent pickup is much more likely than drafting a rookie.

The Broncos seem to have a good offensive core in place for the game plans John Fox and Mike McCoy envision. Tebow, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno give the Broncos a good offensive core to build upon.

Though McGahee is 30 years old (that dreaded doomsday for a running back's career), he still seems to have fresh legs and moves the pile well. If Knowshon Moreno could stay healthy and step it up, the Broncos would have a consistent one-two punch at RB.

Moreno's inability to stay healthy and McGahee's age could cause the Broncos to look for an RB early in the draft. The Broncos led the NFL in rushing this season, so obviously the ground game has high priority.

I'd look for the Broncos to draft either a running back or a tight end. John Fox drafted DeAngelo William and Jonathan Stewart, so he's obviously not afraid to draft running backs high.

Few people seem to recall that John Elway had a safety valve in Shannon Sharpe, something Tebow doesn't have the benefit of.

If the Broncos have a chance to draft TE Dwayne Allen out of Clemson, don't be shocked if that's the pick in the first round. Allen, from Fayetteville, NC, stands 6'4", weighs 255 and runs the 40 in the 4.6 range.

Allen's combination of hands, speed, route-running ability and blocking easily make him the top TE in the draft. He was the winner of the John Mackey Award as the nation's top TE and holds Clemson's record for most catches, yards and TDs by a TE in a season.  

On defense the Broncos have managed to generate a consistent pass-rush even though the defensive line lacks talent inside.

With D.J Williams, Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller, the Broncos have a solid defense to build on. If Champ Bailey continues to play at a high level, this unit easily could be among the league's best next season.

The Broncos will most likely target a cornerback or defensive tackle if they choose to draft defense in the top three rounds.

Players that fit the Broncos' defensive needs and could be available at the bottom of the first round include: Nebraska DT/DE Jared Crick, Michigan State DT Jerel Worthy, Mississippi State DT Fletcher Cox and possibly North Alabama CB Janoris Jenkis.


Mock Picks for First through Third Rounds:

First Round:

Offense - TE Dwayne Allen, Clemson

Defense - DT/DE Jared Crick, Nebraska

Second Round:

Offense - RB Chris Polk, Washington

Defense - CB Stephen Gilmore, South Carolina


Third Round: (Toss-ups)

Offense - WR Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech or QB Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State

Defense - ILB Audie Cole, N.C. State or CB Shaun Prater, Iowa