By virtue of a Carolina Panthers loss and their own victory on Sunday, the Denver Broncos were eliminated from receiving the No. 1 draft choice at the end of the season. The Panthers (2-13) had a loss on Thursday night to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Broncos and the Cincinnati Bengals both won to improve to 4-11, making it impossible for the Panthers to escape the top pick in the draft.
The Broncos, the Bengals and the Buffalo Bills are all tied with a 4-11 record, but the Broncos hold the strength of schedule tiebreaker with the lowest score (.507). A home victory over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday would open a sea change in the team's draft position.
Over the last couple of weeks Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck has been considered the No. 1 overall pick, especially with the Panthers having that pick. The Broncos aren't beholden to Tim Tebow, but yesterday's performance should count a long way toward keeping him as the team's long-term quarterback (even if John Elway, future Broncos executive, is a huge fan).
But what if Luck decides not to enter the NFL Draft?
Sports Illustrated's Peter King reports that Luck may be leaning toward returning to Stanford for more college football. This is based on comments Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh made to King recently. King believes that should Luck return, Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers might be the best player to go No. 1 overall. This would be a blow to the Broncos, who could use help on the defensive line.
However, Auburn's Nick Fairley would also be an excellent pick up since he can play both DE and DT, depending on the team's defensive scheme. And as it has already been brought up here, the Broncos could use help in the secondary.
Four months out and there's so much that can change. Stay tuned.