In the final stretch to the 2014 NFL Draft, we continue to churn out all the info you need to be ready for the draft and impress your friends with enough knowledge to rival Kiper Jr. and Mayock. We'll start with an overall assessment of the Broncos draft needs followed by a round-by-round breakdown of who I think they should take.
Broncos Draft Needs
The Denver Broncos made huge splash in free agency through the first 24 hours of free agency. They made a couple of other under the radar moves in free agency in the last few weeks as well. Now that many of their own free agents have signed elsewhere there is a clear picture as to the core roster make-up. John Elway has made it clear that the Broncos look to fill their needs through free agency and then draft the best player available through the draft.
Tier 1 Needs (Possible Starters)
1. Middle Linebacker – This is easily the Broncos greatest position of need after free agency. They certainly tried to address this hole, but were left empty-handed as D'Qwell Jackson, Jon Beason and Daryl Smith chose to sign elsewhere. As of now, the Broncos starter would be Nate Irving. He was supposed to be their starting MLB going into training camp last year; however, Irving struggles in coverage. While he excels against the run at Strongside linebacker, he did not show the instincts and play recognition that is needed to play in the middle. The Broncos moved Wesley Woodyard and eventually brought in Paris Lenon to play MLB. Obviously their confidence in Irving at MLB was never high to begin with.
2. Cornerback – The Broncos signed Aqib Talib out of nowhere in free agency and there is no doubt he brings physicality to the secondary with the ability to cover any teams top target one-on-one, including Jimmy Graham. At the other side, Chris Harris will be returning from a partially torn ACL. Harris is as proven as any defender on this Denver Broncos squad, improving every season. This Kansas Jayhawk duo have proven they can play at an elite level. The concern with both of these players is durability. Magnifying that concern is the Broncos lack of depth at the position. They will be counting on Kayvon Webster to step up in a big way. He flashed well at the beginning of the year before being exposed as the season went on. I love how physical he plays, but he needs to take as game to the next level as the Nickel Cornerback was on the field two-thirds of the defensive plays on this Broncos team. That third CB is a starter. If one of these three guys gets hurt than suddenly we are counting on Tony Carter a lot more than I would like to at any point next season.
3. Free Safety – The Broncos filled a huge need at SS with the signing of 2nd team All-Pro T.J. Ward. He brings toughness and leadership and can come up in the box and make plays. His compliment needs to be a centerfielder type free safety. Rahim Moore would actually fit this role quite well. His freak compartment syndrome is can injury that has no precedent as far as an NFL player making a comeback. If he can return to full health this will not be an issue, but that is a huge IF for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. Quincy Carter hasn't been able to stay on the field in the three years since the Broncos drafted him. Duke Ihenacho's biggest weakness is coverage he is not a free safety.
Tier 2 Needs (Depth)
4. Guard – The biggest loss the Broncos felt was Zane Beadles. He was a quality starter but they were not willing to overpay to keep him in Denver; Jacksonville was. The signing of center Will Montgomery significantly lowers the need here. It allows the Broncos to shift Manny Ramirez back to guard and fill the hole at LG. The Broncos have also mentioned trying Orlando Franklin at LG and letting Chris Clark start at right tackle. Either way the Broncos look capable of filling this position, this need is now purely for depth.
5. Running Back – Montee Ball will be given every opportunity to be the Broncos lead back and they believe that he can be. I will admit he showed a lot of improvement the 2nd half of last season. Behind him C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman have not proven much to give any kind of comfort of the depth at RB. Anderson had one good preseason game before getting hurt and Hillman is a proven fumbler. They will use a mid-round pick on this position to add competition.
6. Wide Receiver – The Broncos let Eric Decker walk in free agency and then upgraded his position for less money with Emmanuel Sanders. Sanders has explosive speed and excels after the catch. Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker fill out a trio that will not miss a beat from last season. They also re-signed Bubba Caldwell as their 4th WR. So why even list wide receiver as a need? Wes Welker. This is likely his last season in Denver. His contract will be expiring and he showed signs of his body starting to break last season. The greatest part of the Emmanuel Sanders signing is his versatility to play either inside or outside. If Welker ever goes down he can fill that role in the slot. But also after this season it gives us the flexibility to add an outside receiver or slot receiver in the draft to be groomed as a starter after this year. With the ridiculous depth at WR in this draft it is fairly likely that the best player on the board will indeed be a WR with one of the Broncos first three draft picks.Now to touch on the players I think the Broncos will pick in this years draft.
2014 Broncos Picks
If you took a look at my most recent first round mock , you'll have known that I predicted the Broncos traded up to #23 with Kansas City. Kansas City is a prime candidate to move down. They're without a 2nd round pick in this deep draft. After losing both starting guards, that is clearly their greatest area of need. They can move back and pick up a top guard while gaining an extra 3rd round pick back. The Broncos are looking to move up grab an immediate impact player at LB (Mosley, Shazier) and CB (Gilbert, Fuller, Dennard).
- Broncos trade picks #31 and #95
- Chiefs trade pick #23
23. Justin Gilbert CB, Oklahoma State
The Broncos move up for one of the top corners in the draft. He has elite speed (4.37) and good size at 6'0" 202. Gilbert has the talent to come in and immediate start on the outside. He breaks to the ball and knows how to make game-breaking plays. This will allow Chris Harris to move back inside and play a majority of his snaps where he excels the most. Aqib Talib has yet to play a full 16 game season and Harris is coming off a partially torn MCL. If one of them goes down at any point in the season the Broncos will still be able to rely on 2nd year man Kayvon Webster. Gilbert provides bonus value in that he is a special talent at kick returner with ability to go the distance every time he touches the ball.
56. Donte Moncrief WR, Ole Miss
At 6'2" 220 Donte Moncrief has very good size and answered questions about his speed by running a 4.34 40 yard dash. Unlike Eric Decker he has excels at creating separation coming out of his breaks and very good route running. He also fits the mold as a Broncos WR with very nice blocking down the field. This pick was made looking ahead towards next season when Wes Welker will likely be gone. This will allow Emmanuel Sanders to move inside to slot next year and allows more money for re-signing top weapons Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas.
131. Jordan Tripp LB, Montana
This could become one of the biggest steals of the draft. Tripp has very good athleticism for a linebacker, testing better than C.J. Mosley in nearly every category at the combine. He has the production to match with enough instincts to play in the middle. There are questions about his level of competition and short arms but he will immediately compete for the starting MLB position. He may end up as a weakside linebacker but with his speed he will at least be an immediate value as a nickel linebacker and special teams ace.
171. Brandon Linder, OG, University of Miami
Linder has good size and plays nasty. Leader of the offensive line with 42 career starts and high character. He provides depth at guard with measurables and the work ethic to eventually become a starter.
207. Jonathan Dowling FS, Western Kentucky
Dowling plays aggressive hits hard and has good height at 6'3". He punishes receivers and has very good range to play centerfield. His character is a concern after being kicked off the team at Florida. The Broncos have shown interest in Dowling and the 5th round is late enough for them to take a gamble.
246. Kapri Bibbs RB, Colorado St
Bibbs has nice vision and cutback ability. The Broncos have certainly shown interest and he has a chance to come in and compete in their young backfield.