Auburn's Nick Fairley, Alabama's Marcell Dareus and Texas A&M's Von Miller all are legitimate top-five prospects. All were expected to meet with Denver's traveling group in one-on-one interview settings.
Executive vice president of player personnel John Elway, head coach John Fox and general manager Brian Xanders all were on hand for the Southern swing, underscoring the importance of the college talent on hand and Denver's potential interest.
"It's a chance to get around them and meet them a little bit," Elway said of the trip logistics without mentioning specific players.
"It's not so much the workouts. We saw them work out at the combine. But it's really getting to spend the time with them. I think we've got a couple hours with each guy."
Right now, the top pick may emerge from between Fairley and Dareus.
Denver has three pending free-agent defensive linemen and also cut veterans Justin Bannan and Jamal Williams last week. The position was one of need even before all those moves. The signing of DT Kevin Vickerson before the CBA expiration froze roster moves league-wide and was the only addition.
"We'll just have to see how everything falls, but we really would have been worried if we hadn't got Vickerson signed," Elway said. "We'll see how this whole thing unravels. We're still in limbo. But we'll continue to move forward."
--The release of Bannan came as a bigger surprise than the departure of Williams, who is more experienced as a nose tackle in a 3-4.
The moves came down to financial considerations, with both players owed roster bonuses. But that was only one key factor.
"When you look at the defense and the age on that side, we have to get younger," Elway said. "Kevin was the youngest of those guys."
The Broncos at various points last season started seven players on defense that were 30-plus years of age.
That said, Vickerson was solid last season with 42 tackles and two sacks. But he was hardly dominant. He seems better suited to a reserve role on a championship-caliber line than a starter.
"I think he probably had his most productive year a year ago," Fox said. "He's a guy who's bounced around a little bit. I don't know if he's turned the corner but he's definitely on the curve. He can definitely help us. He has a lot of the tools you look for."
--Fox is known as a hands-on coach when it comes to Pro Days. He couldn't put a specific number on how many college campuses he'll visit in the coming weeks, but the number should be significant.
"That's the coach in me," he explained. "Early on, it was probably one of the reasons I didn't want to be a head coach because I didn't think you got to do it as much. But after being a head coach for nine years, you can still do all these things. And being close and understanding the players is what it's all about in any successful organization."
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