When you have a future Hall of Fame quarterback still playing at a high level, your flaws all look like blemishes easily covered. So yes, the Denver Broncos have some roster spots to bolster — but they also have Peyton Manning. Here’s our take on the biggest needs for Manning and Co. entering the draft:
Defensive end: The departure of Elvis Dumervil leaves the Broncos short a pass rusher. Short-term veteran options Dwight Freeney and John Abraham remain free agents, but even if Denver signs an experienced Dumervil replacement, bringing in a young, cost-effective pass rusher would also be sensible. In recent years, the Broncos have done well adding starter-caliber ends beyond Round One, drafting Derek Wolfe in Round Two in 2012 and Dumervil in Round Four in 2006.
Defensive tackle: The Broncos have Terrance Knighton and Kevin Vickerson under contract until 2014, but Vickerson turned 30 in January, and Knighton, while talented, has not been consistent. Another defensive tackle capable of pushing the pocket would be a nice fit.
Running back: Willis McGahee will be 32 in October, and Knowshon Moreno comes off knee surgery. In short, a younger back with limited wear-and-tear would be a solid depth-chart addition. That said, the Broncos can probably craft a workable solution at this position without drafting a back in Round One. Multiple veteran starters remain unsigned in free agency, and the Broncos have several viable starting tailbacks already on the roster if McGahee and Moreno hold up physically. Also, second-year back Ronnie Hillman carried 311 times in his final season at San Diego State.
Cornerback: In the short term, the Broncos are set here with Champ Bailey, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Chris Harris, Tony Carter and Omar Bolden. However, Bailey will be 35 in June. Also, Rodgers-Cromartie is on just a one-year deal — and he’s now with his third NFL team since entering the league in 2008. Some might say safety rates as a bigger need than cornerback for Denver, but Broncos starting safeties Mike Adams and Rahim Moore both got positive regular-season grades from Pro Football Focus in 2012. Overall, there is no shortage of data suggesting cornerback is simply a more highly valued position than safety among NFL teams.
Wide receiver: Yes, the position isn’t a need in 2013. But consider this: Eric Decker can test free agency after the season. Wes Welker is 32 in May. Also, Demaryius Thomas — signed through 2014 — seems likely to earn a big second contact. Any receiver the Broncos add in this draft is no better than the fourth option entering the campaign — and he can learn from an outstanding group of experienced players ahead of him. What’s not to like?
The Broncos have six draft picks, with one selection every round but the sixth. The defensive line appears the biggest need, but Denver has time and multiple channels to address it. And did we mention Peyton Manning?