2012 NFL Draft: Denver Broncos' Biggest Needs

Nick HouserCorrespondent IIJanuary 28, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: Denver Broncos' Biggest Needs

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    The Denver Broncos made it to the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs, but there's still work to be done. Denver must use the 2012 draft to get better.

    They have six picks to do so.

    With their current roster, the Broncos won just eight games, which is the lowest total wins of any playoff team this year.

    A quarterback is not necessary at this point. John Elway has already committed to Tim Tebow as the starter for 2012. Additionally, the offensive line did a fantastic job this season. At an average age of 26, another year developing together as a unit will be huge. 

    Here is a look at the key positions the Broncos must upgrade to re-visit the playoffs next year.

Defensive Tackle

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    Denver's 22nd-ranked run defense allowed 126 yards per game.

    Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil are effective coming off the edges, but the team needs help in the middle. Current defensive tackles Brodrick Bunkley and Marcus Thomas each netted 43 tackles.

    That's it.

    Zero sacks. Zero forced fumbles. That's a problem.

    Top-tier defenses around the league all have big, strong defensive tackles. Casey Hampton of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Haloti Ngata of the Baltimore Ravens. Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions.

    The Broncos need a big body in the middle of the line to prevent running backs from gaining easy yardage up the gut.

Wide Receiver

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    Demaryius Thomas has shown a positive connection with quarterback Tim Tebow. In the last five games of the regular season, Thomas caught 25 passes for 448 yards and three touchdowns. The connection should continue to bloom and the Broncos should make Thomas the guy to further that development.

    Currently, however, Thomas is behind Eric Decker and Eddie Royal on the depth chart. Decker had a decent year with 44 receptions, 612 yards, and eight touchdowns. Not horrible, considering he's on a run-first offense. Royal contributed next to nothing on offense, with just over 100 yards and one touchdown.

    Look at a few of the great wide receiving tandems in the league: Roddy White and Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons; Dez Bryant and Miles Austin of the Dallas Cowboys; Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz of the New York Giants. Each duo brings a combination of speed and power.

    The Broncos need another high-quality receiver to take pressure off of Thomas. Decker and Royal are not those options. Decker makes for a great slot-receiver, but that's it, while Royal produces well on special teams, where he should remain.

Running Back

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    Willis McGahee ran for 1,199 yards and four touchdowns. His backup, Lance Ball added another 402 yards. Even Tim Tebow tacked on 660 yards.

    If the Broncos are going to commit to Tebow as a passing quarterback and thereby reduce his tendency to run, then they should draft a running back to help fill the void.

    Though McGahee had a good season, he turns 31 in 2012. On top of that, he's rushed for 1,000 yards or more only four times in his nine-year career.

    Knowshon Moreno thus far hasn't produced as expected. He's rushed for 1,905 yards and 12 touchdowns in three years. He will also be returning in 2012 from a torn ACL injury.

    The Denver Broncos need to draft a running back. They should look for a late-round steal. 

Defensive End

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    After Elvis Dumervil, there's not much depth at the defensive end position. Robert Ayers contributed 39 tackles, three sacks, and one fumble forced. The two backups added a combined 25 more tackles.

    With so much attention on Dumervil and Von Miller, someone else has to step up.

    The Broncos require a pass-rusher who can get to the ball in a hurry and make a play. Take the San Francisco 49ers for instance. Any time Aldon Smith lined up on the line, he was free to sneak into the backfield while Justin Smith was double-teamed.

    Imagine one more guy on the end to sneak in while Dumervil and Miller both require double-teaming.


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    Each year there is talk of drafting a cornerback to replace Champ Bailey.

    In 2010 the Denver Broncos drafted Perrish Cox and Syd'Quan Thompson. They also signed Cassius Vaughn. Thompson missed the entire 2011 season with an injury and Cox has since been cut. Vaughn has played in only 22 games in two seasons due to injury.

    Last year, there were no cornerbacks drafted.

    Chris Harris filled in nicely for Vaughn this year, but whoever replaces Bailey will need to play exceptionally to cover No. 1 receivers in the near future.

    Better to draft the next Champ Bailey this year and let him learn under Bailey while there's still time.

    Drafting another corner would provide added depth as injuries stacked up on the back four in 2011.