As to be expected from a defending conference champion, the Broncos have a strong roster and a lack of starting spots available. Nevertheless, the Broncos aren’t without some positions in need of improvement entering the 2014 NFL Draft.
In the long term, this Denver draft class could have its greatest impact down the road, when the Broncos could be a much different-looking team. With 38-year-old quarterback Peyton Manning still playing masterfully and a depth chart loaded with veteran talent, the Broncos are among the foremost Super Bowl XLIX contenders. Nevertheless, there’s room for a young difference-maker to contribute for the Broncos right from the start. In fact, some young energy could fuel Denver as it tries to gather the momentum to make another Super Bowl run.
Here is a look at the Broncos’ draft needs:
Linebacker: Middle and strong-side linebacker are positions that could be bolstered, with middle linebacker a bigger priority. The depth in the middle took a hit when Wesley Woodyard departed in free agency, and a rookie could come in and compete to start right off the bat at that spot. At the very least, a swift rookie like Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier could compete for playing time on passing downs. A young strong-side linebacker with some pass rush ability would also be a nice addition to the depth chart behind star Von Miller, who suffered an ACL tear last season.
Cornerback: The Broncos are stronger at this position than numerous other clubs, especially after signing Aqib Talib to a six-year deal. However, the Broncos’ other starting cornerback, Chris Harris, suffered an ACL tear in January. It would not be unreasonable for Denver to draft a cornerback to compete with second-year pro Kayvon Webster and fourth-year pro Tony Carter. Also, Talib has missed at least three games in each of the last four seasons.
Offensive tackle / offensive guard: Giving Manning the clean pocket he needs means offensive line improvement must always be on Denver’s mind. With three-year starting right tackle Orlando Franklin potentially moving to left guard to replace the departed Zane Beadles, and with left tackle Ryan Clady coming off a Lisfranc injury, the tackle position might need a little more depth. On the other hand, were Franklin were to stay at right tackle, guard could become a position of need.
Wide receiver / tight end: The Broncos are set at both positions for 2014, with top-line starters at both positions. However, wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker are in the final year of their contracts, as is tight end Julius Thomas. Demaryius Thomas looks likely to garner a monster second contract, with Julius Thomas also on his way to a big raise after making the Pro Bowl in 2013. The Broncos should consider adding at least one young pass catcher in the draft as insurance.
Defensive end: The Broncos already have solid defensive end depth, but bringing in one more pass rusher capable of picking up some reps behind DeMarcus Ware, Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson would be sensible.