- Todd McShay, Scouts Inc.
USC QB Mark Sanchez stands to benefit most from the Jay Cutler-to-Chicago deal. The Broncos just traded away their franchise quarterback and Sanchez has the quick release, accuracy and gym-rat mentality that Josh McDaniels looks for in his signal caller. If Denver is targeting the former Trojan as Cutler's eventual replacement, it is in no position to sit back and hope Sanchez falls to pick No. 12. The team would need to take advantage of its newfound ammunition and move up to secure Cutler's long-term successor.
I believe Kyle Orton should be nothing more than a bridge-the-gap solution. But McDaniels may completely disagree. Remember, he's been a part of the development process of Tom Brady and Matt Cassel. Right or wrong, McDaniels has to believe he can turn Orton into a similar marvel. So it shouldn't be a surprise if Denver opts to use its two first round picks (12 and 18) on its defensive front-seven and possibly even a stud running back.
Regardless of McDaniels' actual intentions, teams in the market for Sanchez -- or any of the top-three quarterbacks for that matter -- must now consider the Broncos a legitimate competitor.
The threat of Seattle pulling the trigger on Sanchez is fascinating. Of course, St. Louis (pick No. 2) and Kansas City (No. 3) will look to exploit the situation by putting their all-of-a-sudden attractive top-five draft picks up for public auction. The same goes for Cleveland (No. 5), Cincinnati (No. 6) and Oakland (No. 7) should Sanchez last through the first four picks, but Jacksonville at pick No. 8 becomes the next threat.
With that in mind; here's one opinion on how the first round could unfold:
1. Detroit Lions (Record: 0-16): Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia
2. St. Louis Rams (2-14): Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
3. Kansas City Chiefs (2-14): Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest
4. Seattle Seahawks (4-12): Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia
5. Cleveland Browns (4-12): Brian Orakpo, DE/OLB, Texas
6. Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1): Andre Smith, OT, Alabama
7. Oakland Raiders (5-11): Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri
8. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11): Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
9. Green Bay Packers (6-10): B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College
10. San Francisco 49ers (7-9): Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State
11. Buffalo Bills (7-9): Everette Brown, DE, Florida State
12. Denver Broncos (8-8): Mark Sanchez, QB, USC
13. Washington Redskins (8-8): Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee
14. New Orleans Saints (8-8): Chris "Beanie" Wells, RB, Ohio State
15. Houston Texans (8-8): Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State
16. San Diego Chargers (8-8): Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi
For complete first-round projection, including what the Broncos do with the first-round pick they received from the Bears, become an Insider today.
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1dEric D. Williams