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A safe selection at No. 2...


This is going to be tough. Very, very tough.

It's not as if that wasn't obvious on Day 1 of the 2011 reader mock draft, but determining the No. 2 selection to the Denver Broncos was even more difficult – and showed how difficult the process is going to be for teams with Top 5-to-7 selections this year.

Not that it's ever easy, but this seems to be a year with a lot of pros and cons near the top.

And on a quick side note before we dig deep into today's selection:

I'm not so sure CBA uncertainty is going to have the impact on the draft a lot of people believe. Not for the good teams, anyway.

The theory is free agency – assuming there is free agency -- coming after the draft for the first time in recent memory will change teams' draft approach. The thought is that with teams not being able to fill holes in free agency they will focus on filling them in the draft.

That almost certainly will happen to some extent.

But the smart teams – the ones who draft for best available player and who use the draft as it should be used – as a long-term, talent-procuring tool – will still draft best available player with the aim of a deep roster over a long period. The teams that play March Fantasy Football – filling needs with high-dollar free agents -- will find a way to make their usual mistakes. It just won't be in March.

As for our mock draft, the No. 2 overall selection received pretty much the same level of debate as No. 1 did Tuesday, which seemed to illuminate the same trends:

There's balance at the top of this draft.

And there is talent.

It's just that a lot of the players at the positions that traditionally go at the top have a lot of questions. When there's confusion at the top of the draft, that's usually the case, and it's absolutely the case this season.

The reader mock went with quarterback Blaine Gabbert of Missouri at No. 1 overall to Carolina Tuesday. That certainly wasn't a consensus and there wasn't anything close to general agreement with what the Broncos should do at No. 2, either.

The senior writer, as he had on Monday, threw out cornerback Patrick Peterson of LSU as the possible selection. As expected, the debate centered over whether the Broncos would indeed select Peterson considering the presence of All-Pro cornerback Champ Bailey.

"The re-signing of Champ Bailey will push Peterson down the board to No. 3," Paul F. Condit wrote, adding, "The Broncos have to move forward with a pick that can solidify a weak interior defensive line. (Defensive tackle Marcell) Dareus from Alabama will be the No. 2 pick of the 2011 NFL Draft."

Dareus was a popular choice for Denver, but not as popular as Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers.

"Da'Quan Bowers is the pick," Kevin Grab wrote, adding, "It&39;s a tough call at this point as to who the best available player is between Bowers, Dareus, and Peterson, so we&39;ll give the nod to the most premium position of the three: the every-down 4-3 defensive end. With Bowers it seems you will get the best of both worlds, which is to say that rare combination of pass-rushing and run-stuffing ability that is so coveted in a right end."

Reader Jason Love wrote that he considered Bowers over-hyped, and while the support for Bowers and Dareus was strong – Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley received far less support – it became apparent late Wednesday the reader consensus was Peterson.

"No way Peterson slips past the Broncos," Rareed83 wrote, adding, "Bailey is in his 30s and they&39;re going to have to replace him a lot sooner rather than later. I don&39;t see any corners coming in the next couple of years that are as sure a thing as Peterson is."

If that's the way the Broncos go, it's a solid pick – and a clear best-available-player pick. Bailey is obviously a big-time player, but you draft for the foreseeable future, not one year. Peterson also could be the safest selection here, with few observers seeing him having many of the risk factors that lead to misses.

The same isn't true of most of the other players being mentioned in the Top 5.

For a time, the editor thought about stepping in and pushing one of the defensive linemen – Dareus or Bowers – into the spot, but reader support was strong for Peterson. So, he's the No. 2 overall selection in the 2011 reader mock draft, which makes the board look like this:

No. 1 | Carolina | Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
No. 2 | Denver | Patrick Peterson, CB, Louisiana State

Up next is Buffalo at No. 3 overall, and we'll offer up Cam Newton of Auburn because a lot of people have the Bills interested in a quarterback. This is where it starts to get real interesting, because the Bills' need at quarterback could push Newton up and start pushing some pretty deserving, elite-level players down.  You see Fairley mentioned here, as well as linebacker Von Miller of Texas A&M.

Then again, I could be wrong. Wouldn't be the first time.

The reader response through two days has been impressive and is appreciated. As was the case with the No. 1 overall selection, the insight was . . . well, insightful.

We'll see if we can keep it up.

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