To trade or not to trade: Broncos will face draft decision

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- You can just book it. At some point next Thursday evening, the Denver Broncos, sitting at No. 5 overall in the NFL draft, will be faced with a decision -- to stay or not to stay.

The perfect trade storm is brewing, as multiple quarterbacks sit at the top of draft boards around the league with quarterback-starved teams chasing them. There is also a team -- the Cleveland Browns -- with two picks in the draft’s top four.

There are also blue-chip players who aren't quarterbacks -- such as Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, NC State defensive end Bradley Chubb. Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson and Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward -- who could entice teams to move up because they might just be the four best players in the draft.

And that is the rub for Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway. He signed Case Keenum to a two-year deal last month and has announced, rather emphatically, that Keenum is the team’s starting quarterback for 2018 and is exactly the kind of player he wants.

So, to select a quarterback at No. 5 would really be selecting a player for 2019 and beyond. And that fact could entice a team picking later in the draft that wants a quarterback to see where Elway stands and try to move into Denver's spot.

But to move out would mean Elway is also likely passing on a chance at one of the draft’s best players. Consider if the Broncos had moved down the last time they picked in the top five -- at No. 2 in 2011 -- Von Miller would have 83.5 sacks for somebody else.

For his part, Elway has said: “We look at everything. ... We go through all of the scenarios, who we think might be there and who we like. It’s all part of the preparation, to get in position to know the guys we want to come away with in the draft. Because it could fall a lot of different ways."

In his previous seven drafts in his current job, Elway has decided to make trades in the first round in three, including 2012, when he traded twice in the opening round. The Broncos have gotten somewhat mixed results for those deals.

In 2016, the Broncos were coming off a Super Bowl win and traded the last pick of the first round (No. 31) and a third-round pick to Seattle to move up to No. 26 and select quarterback Paxton Lynch. When the Broncos made the deal, the Dallas Cowboys were trying to get in position to select Lynch, according to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

The Broncos also believed at least one other team had interest in selecting Lynch. However, Lynch has lost back-to-back training-camp battles to Trevor Siemian, has started four games and is Keenum’s backup if the Broncos don’t add another quarterback.

In 2015, the Broncos traded guard Manny Ramirez, swapped first-round picks and sent two other picks to the Detroit Lions (a fifth-round pick in 2015 and a fifth-round pick in 2016) to move up from No. 28 to No. 23 and select outside linebacker Shane Ray.

Ray certainly fit the profile as "best player available" at the time -- he was coming off a season as the SEC's Defensive Player of the Year for Missouri. But he had seen his stock dip just days before the draft. Ray had been cited for marijuana possession after a traffic stop.

Ray wasn’t detained by police, and they determined he was not impaired, but the incident influenced some teams. Ray is now a starter at outside linebacker and had eight sacks in 2016 to go with one sack least season, when he finished the season on injured reserve after three surgeries on his wrist.

In 2012, the year the Broncos signed Peyton Manning in free agency, Elway traded down twice and eventually out of the first round entirely. The Broncos moved from No. 28 to No. 31 and added an extra pick (a fourth-rounder), then traded the No. 31 pick to Tampa Bay.

In that second round they selected defensive end Derek Wolfe at No. 36. Wolfe, who is coming off neck surgery, has been a mainstay in the defensive line in his six seasons. Injuries have had an impact on his playing time -- he hasn’t started 16 games since 2014 -- but he has been a front-line player in the team’s defense.

“You always listen [during the draft], you always get calls, you always make calls, you’re trying to make the best moves for the Denver Broncos," Elway has said. “The bottom line is you want to get those players you really want."