Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Kevin Roberts of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow Fantasy Football Overdose on twitter at @NBAandNFLInfo, and for more information on Denver Broncos stats, news and rumors – please visit Fantasy Football Overdose today.
The Denver Broncos just finished a very strong 13-3 season with a Super Bowl appearance. However, they got blasted in the Super Bowl – a 43-8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Just when you thought the Broncos had no worries, they got crushed on the biggest stage – exploiting most of them.
At full health, Denver is probably a lot better and may have given Seattle more of a fight. After all, they were without Von Miller (ACL), Derek Wolfe (seizure-like symptoms) and others.
Missing players wasn’t their biggest issue in the Super Bowl, though. Their ineffectiveness was more about the Seahawks reading their signals and playing tougher and faster. So, how does Denver combat that?
The Broncos aren’t going to change their style just because of one loss – nor should they. However, adding more physical and athletic players surely can’t hurt. Veteran cornerback Champ Bailey got routinely burned down the stretch this year, while Denver’s offense got completely stifled in the biggest game of the year.
Let’s break down their top concerns on both sides of the ball and see how the Broncos could improve this offseason, especially via the draft:
Offensive Needs: WR, OL, RB
Normally wide receiver wouldn’t be an issue with Denver’s stack job at the position, but Eric Decker is hitting free agency and is unlikely to come back. It’d be awesome if he stayed in Denver, but it sounds like he views himself as a number one wide receiver. The Broncos don’t, however, so if someone else is prepared to give him the role and cash, consider him as good as gone.
With that, Denver will suddenly badly need a replacement. They still have one of the best young wideouts in the game in Demaryius Thomas and an excellent slot receiver in Wes Welker, but Welker will be 33 and they’re losing a lot of size and red-zone production with Decker leaving. I doubt the need forces them to take the plunge in the first round, but if Denver did aim high, they could luck out and have the raw Kelvin Benjamin drop to them late in the first. It’s much more likely for them to get someone like Hakeem Nicks or Jeremy Maclin at a discount price in free agency, though. Either way, tacking on some talent at wideout later in the draft should be in order.
Peyton Manning was attacked in the Super Bowl with defensive pressure, so the Broncos need to at least add depth to make sure they’re deeper and more talented going forward. It should start at left guard, as Zane Beadles is a free agent and wasn’t great, anyways. Look for Denver to simply patch this up in free agency. However, they should look at depth across the o-line in the draft, where it’d be wise to grab at least one tackle and guard. Zack Martin’s stock is dancing between end of round one or middle of round two. If he somehow slid down, Denver could really use his versatility.
Running back is the only other major need, as Knowshon Moreno is as good as gone in free agency and Montee Ball is the only true candidate to take over as the team’s lead back. Ball definitely has upside and was productive in a secondary rushing role, but what if Denver isn’t completely sold? Beyond their comfort level with Ball, you also have to consider their depth in the backfield – Ronnie Hillman is a pure scat-back and C.J. Anderson is a replacement level talent.
In other words, none of their running backs are proven and have some flaws. I still think Ball ends up being the main man, but drafting another back makes some sense. Head coach John Fox is a believer in a two-back ground attack, too, and he usually prefers veterans, so bringing in a free agent could be a good move. They’d need a tough runner with some versatility and former Giants back Andre Brown could work if he doesn’t return to New York.
Defensive Needs: CB, ILB, S
Bailey wants to return in 2014 and Denver isn’t going to turn him away, but at this point in his career he should turn to safety. He won’t do that, however, so his best bet is staying outside and using the sideline to help him in coverage. Getting abused in the slot keeps him from simply being a nickel back, which only adds to Denver’s question marks in the secondary. It clearly starts with the aging Bailey, but stud corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a free agent and the Broncos need to shore up their depth, anyways.
Their first order of business needs to be bringing back DRC. Then they have to figure out the other corner spot. If they can’t bring DRC back, obviously they’ll have to put their work in to get two starting-caliber corners. I fully expect them to address this in the first round, where guys like Jason Verrett, Bradley Roby, Marcus Roberson and others should be readily available. Should they wait until round two, the Broncos could take a look at someone like Kyle Fuller, as well.
Sticking with the secondary, the Broncos need to really repair the back of their defense at safety. Rahim Moore was solid in 2013, but even he could be upgraded upon potentially. For now, Denver can stick with him, but they absolutely need to get a quality safety to pair with him. If someone like HaHa Clinton-Dix or Calvin Pryor slid to them in round one, they’ll be hard-pressed not to snatch either up. They both have great instincts and play-making ability, while Pryor is an imposing hitter. Corner is arguably the bigger need, though, so the Broncos may want to look at safety in round two, where Craig Loston or Lamarcus Joyner might make some sense.
The Broncos also need to improve at inside linebacker. Paris Lenon is too old and Wesley Woodyard is better suited to sit outside and is also a free agent. Needless to say, Denver is in the market for someone to rule the middle of the field. Wisconsin’s Chris Borland is probably the guy to target in round two or three, while Yawin Smallwood is underrated and could be available even later.
Overall, let’s not avoid the obvious: this is a very good football team. Denver clearly needs to address some defensive concerns and replace potential departures on offense, but they’re still a 13-3 team with a real chance at getting back to the Super Bowl. Whether or not they get more physical and deeper could be the difference between finishing what they started in 2013, however.