2012 NFL Draft: Ranking the Denver Broncos' Greatest Needs in the Draft
The Denver Broncos are eying a trip to the Super Bowl in 2012. However, in order to get there, the Broncos have to have an amazing draft. If they can get three or four top immediate impact players, the several holes all over the field could shore up, giving them a shot at the Lombardi Trophy in 2012.
Now, as the 2012 NFL draft is just hours away, let's break down the Broncos' greatest needs in the 2012 draft.
After Peyton Manning, the Broncos are hurting at quarterback. Manning has been out of the game for a season while undergoing four neck surgeries. He has been slowly regaining strength and should be ready to go for this season.
Beyond September 9, 2012 versus the Pittsburgh Steelers is anyone’s guess. He could start every game for the next five seasons without any trouble or could go down in his first game back. That’s the dilemma at any position in football.
Quarterback, though, is the most important position in football, and drafting quarterbacks is the only way to remain at the top of the league. The last above average quarterback the Broncos drafted was Jay Cutler in the Mike Shanahan era. He was a top pick at No. 11 overall in the 2006 draft.
Cutler has continued to perform well despite moving on to the Chicago Bears in 2009 before the draft. Cutler is 18-8 in his two seasons in Chicago as the starter and won the NFC North division in 2010.
The Broncos need to pick up a quarterback in this draft.
6. Offensive Line
In order to keep their prized possession, Peyton Manning, on his feet, the offensive line needs to improve. Ryan Clady at left tackle is a star. He has been to two Pro Bowls in his four seasons in Denver.
Right tackle Orlando Franklin thrived last season in the run game as a rookie. The interior of the defense, though, is a bit more questionable. Chris Kuper was having a great season last year before he went down with an injury. But it is the two McDaniels’ era linemen, J.D. Walton and Zane Beadles, who have been questionable.
Another top prospect on the offensive line would give the Broncos more competition for starting spots and could at minimum bolster the depth in case they lose a linemen for the season, like we did last year.
5. Running Back
Willis McGahee defied father time last season when he had a breakout year in the conservative, run-first offense orchestrated by head coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Mike McKoy.
With a frequent running quarterback like Tim Tebow, the threat to run, pass or pitch made the defense react instead of act. It gave the offense the advantage of surprise.
Next season, the Broncos will likely run a lot of no-huddle offense and try to pass on defenses all day. Manning will get 30-plus passes every game while only occasionally employing an audible to run.
The Broncos, though, need a faster, home-run-hitting running back with the ability to score every time he touches the ball. The Broncos need someone who is hard to catch in space. Adding Manning increases this need all the more.
4. Wide Receiver
Just like they could use a speedy, shifty running back to dice up defenses, the Broncos also need a deep threat wide receiver.
They have the beast Demaryius Thomas, who can muscle through guys and fight for the football. Manning has been developing good chemistry with Eric Decker during the offseason, but in reality, the Broncos don’t have a threat that can track down deep bombs from Manning.
Adding a guy like that would continue to improve the offense. I think with a quarterback like Manning, a deep-threat receiver is much more necessary to utilize Manning’s awesome skills.
If you haven’t noticed yet, offense has been the focus so far. Despite the lesser needs on offense, the needs on defense are very evident. The middle of the defense, especially at linebacker, needs some help. While it may not be the “top need," linebackers could come in and make an immediate impact in 2012.
Just like Von Miller did for the Broncos' defense in 2011, an elite talent at middle linebacker would transform the Broncos’ defense. While it isn’t the greatest need, adding a first-rounder here could prove to be the greatest impact.
The truth is that Champ Bailey is getting old. This might be the year that Denver finally switches Champ to free safety. They have picked up a top free agent cornerback in Tracy Porter this offseason and were reportedly interested in trading for Asante Samuel.
After talks for Samuel fizzled out, look for the Broncos to use an early draft pick on a cornerback to help out Champ, Porter and second-year emerging star Chris Harris. Harris shined at times last season and got burnt a few times.
As the Broncos rotate Harris and possibly a new rookie cornerback into the lineup, the Broncos have the makings of a top defensive secondary.
Need is high at cornerback still, despite the offseason moves. So high that rumors surfaced that the Broncos were considering trading all the way up to No. 7 with the Jacksonville Jaguars to get Stephon Gilmore out of South Carolina.
1. Defensive Tackle
Now, when it comes to need, everyone around the league will say that the Broncos' greatest need is at defensive tackle. I would agree. However, defensive tackle is one of the riskiest positions to draft in the NFL. The number of busts at DT are countless.
Year after year, the next best DT coming into the NFL seems to play less than a handful of downs and retires completely forgotten. I don’t like the very high risk for the Broncos to draft a DT in Round 1.
Instead, I see the Broncos trading down to get extra picks in the third or fourth and taking a shotgun approach at DT. I see the Broncos getting two (maybe three with extra picks) defensive tackles to compete for a roster spot this offseason.
Because it is in fact the greatest need for the Broncos.
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