Feb 20, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Denver Broncos coach John Fox speaks during a press conference during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Justin Becker of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+ Page, and for more Denver Broncos Analysis visit Fantasy Football Overdose – a fantasy football blog.
The Denver Broncos are in an excellent position. Fresh off of a trip to the Super Bowl, they’ll enter 2014 with veteran signal caller still running what was the most prolific offense of all time in 2013, while only getting younger and hopefully more productive.
While the Broncos did lose some quality talent in free agency with the likes of Eric Decker and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie signing elsewhere, they also landed some huge names to plug some key holes in DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward.
Denver still has to prepare for a potential drop-off from the likely departing Knowshon Moreno to Montee Ball at the running back position, while there are still some minor depth concerns on both sides of the ball. Even with former Pittsburgh Steelers burner Emmanuel Sanders replacing the departed Decker, do the Denver Broncos still need to look for receiving help in the draft? Despite protecting themselves from losing Rodgers-Cromartie and Champ Bailey, is drafting a cornerback of the future imperative?
For a team coming off of a tough Super Bowl loss, the glass is naturally half full. On one side, they still boast probably the best offense in the game, while their defense will need to prove the on paper improvements are enough. So, with the 31st pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, what do the Denver Broncos do? Let’s take a look at a few ideas as we countdown to the draft on May 8th:
Get Champ Bailey’s Replacement
Denver replaced star corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie with an arguable upgrade in Aqib Talib, but they still may not be completely set in the secondary for the long term. With Champ Bailey also gone, the depth in the secondary could be somewhat questionable, which could prompt the Broncos to take a stab at a cornerback when they pick with the 31st selection in the first round of the draft.
Talib keeps corner from being a severely pressing need right away, but an extra talented corner would increase their depth in their pass defense and also give them a defensive back to groom for the future. With this year boasting a deep cornerback class, guys like Bradley Roby and Jason Verrett could easily be available and would be stellar picks to get the draft rolling for Denver.
Grab Another Pass Rusher
DeMarcus Ware was an awesome addition, but he’s 32 and Von Miller is coming off of a bad knee injury. That means Denver is probably in the market for some pass rushing help more than their fans would like to believe. Landing an impact player that can go out and get 10 sacks as a rookie isn’t really necessary, but getting a guy who can both be a part of the rotation and also a building block for the future would be ideal. Near the bottom of the first, there should be several solid pass rushing prospects, with Auburn’s Dee Ford and Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt two that would be excellent fits in Denver’s scheme.
Reach For an Inside Linebacker
There is one truly elite inside linebacker in this draft, and that’s Alabama’s C.J. Mosley. With Mosley likely gone within the first 15 picks, the Broncos will have to make a decision: reach to improve their linebacking corps in the first round, or wait until round two or three and hope the guys they like are still hanging around. If they covet Wisconsin ‘backer Chris Borland like they should, they may want to seriously contemplate pulling the trigger here at the 31st overall pick. Borland isn’t an elite athlete, but he’s not a bad one and brings excellent instincts and balance to the table.
Beef Up the Offensive Line
Denver lost offensive guard Zane Beadles, and while he is certainly replaceable, his loss should in general remind everyone that the talent in the trenches needs to be watched over intently. Denver needs to replace him and should probably consider investing in some tackle talent, as well. One of the worst things that could happen in 2014 is a tackle going down and the Broncos not having any solid talent in place to step up and protect Peyton Manning. More than just keeping Manning alive, though, a new stud offensive lineman would also be a sound building block for Denver’s continued success beyond the Manning era, as well. Guys like Zack Martin and David Yankey are the ideal selections late in the first round, as both have the elite versatility needed to play both the guard and tackle spots.
Add More Offensive Help
Denver added speedy wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to replace the departed Eric Decker and expects second-year running back Montee Ball to replace Knowshon Moreno, but should they add more help on offense? Normally you wouldn’t think so when you’re talking to the league’s highest scoring offense, but Ball is unproven in a starting role and Sanders has always struggled to stay healthy. More importantly, Denver will soon have to worry about locking guys like Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas to long term deals, while also watching aging slot man Wes Welker go elsewhere after 2014. That should prompt them to add some offensive pieces at some point in this year’s draft, specifically at running back and wide receiver.
That may not mean Denver feels the need to pull the trigger on either position in the first round, but thanks to good balance on both sides of the ball, they arguably can afford to spend their first rounder on pretty much any position they want. Wide receiver would probably trump running back in the first round, where Denver could find it hard to pass on a guy like Kelvin Benjamin if he slides.
The big thing for the Broncos is that they already have their key pieces in place. They’re coming off of a Super Bowl appearance, and even if they hadn’t made some massive splashes in free agency, they’d probably be the favorites in the AFC to get back to the big game. With those moves and a solid showing in the draft, though, they might be virtual locks.