Denver Broncos: Biggest 2013 NFL Draft Needs Through Week 14
In many ways, much of the team's success this season can be attributed to that addition because it gave John Fox and his coaching staff the greatest chance of winning games without having the most talented and well-rounded team to work with.
Although the Broncos are exceedingly skilled at some positions, there are multiple spots where they'll need to improve if they plan on making a run at a Super Bowl in the next couple of years.
A successful 2013 NFL Draft can move the Broncos one step closer to becoming champions if talented players are selected at positions where the most substantial upgrades are needed.
In this article, I'll break down which positions Denver needs to improve, possible draft picks and why I think the chosen player would make a positive impact for the Broncos.
Defensive tackle is a spot where the Broncos can upgrade.
Although DT Justin Bannan hasn't been a weak spot this season by any means (he's been great stopping the run this season), I predict that with his contract expiring, the Broncos will look to use their first-round pick on one of the many talented defensive tackles in this year's draft class.
Which player Denver ends up picking will most likely depend on where they end up drafting. If the season goes as planned and the Broncos reach the AFC Conference Championships as I think they're capable of doing, they'll end up picking in the 26-32 range.
In that range, I can see North Carolina DT Sylvester Williams, Georgia DT Jonathan Jenkins and Missouri DT Sheldon Richardson all on the board.
ESPN has Sylvester Williams ranked the highest of the three (94 rating, 13 overall player rank), but I don't think that will necessarily be enough to persuade the Broncos to use their pick on him—the player the Broncos pick will need to fit their defensive scheme.
By drafting Derek Wolfe last season, the Broncos made it a priority to stop the opponent's run game. If they follow this same mindset, it's likely that the Broncos will use their pick on the big (6'4", 363 lbs) Georgia defensive tackle who has been a force all season for the Bulldogs.
Jenkins has proven to be an impact player in the SEC as he uses his his initial quickness and huge body size to stuff the run. Jenkins also has huge arms that allow him to shed blocks when in pursuit of opposing ball-carriers.
In a division with Darren McFadden, Jamaal Charles and Ryan Mathews, clogging up running lanes and stopping the run is imperative.
For this reason, Jenkins would be a huge addition for the Broncos as a potential run-stuffer in the middle.
With the recent suspension and overall unpredictability of D.J. Williams, I expect the Broncos to use their second-round pick on a middle linebacker.
Current MLB Keith Brooking hasn't made a real impact for the Broncos since being signed last offseason. While he does bring veteran leadership to the table, he's not the long-term solution at MLB the Broncos will need moving forward.
For this reason, Denver will either look for an LB ready to play immediately, or one that can be mentored by Brooking for some time before taking the reins after Brooking eventually retires.
By the time the Broncos pick in the second round, the two best MLB prospects, Manti Te'o and Alec Ogletree, will undoubtedly have already been picked.
This leaves North Carolina LB Kevin Reddick, Kansas State LB Arthur Brown, Penn State LB Michael Mauti and Stanford LB Shayne Skov as possible picks for the Broncos at this spot.
Reddick has been exceptionally productive with the Tar Heels after having put up big numbers the past three years, but there are some concerns about his overall versatility defending the pass. He's a proven run-stopper with potentially elite instincts, but in coverage he has relatively stiff hips, which can be exposed easily in the NFL.
If the Broncos feel they can work with him and develop him into the player they need moving forward, they'll take Reddick. If not, they'll look to some of the other options.
Arthur Brown, at 6'1", 224 pounds, is a tad bit undersized for an NFL linebacker, but has proven he has formidable NFL potential during his tenure with the Kansas State Wildcats. Brown's two biggest assets are undoubtedly his speed and tackling ability.
While he can get engulfed in opposing blockers from time to time and be rendered ineffective, Brown has sufficient instincts in the run game and is always a threat to pin opposing runners in the backfield for losses.
Michael Mauti is a toss-up. On one hand, he has potentially elite instincts and play-recognition, but he has major durability concerns after tearing his right and left ACLs, sustaining a head injury, spraining his ankle and injuring his shoulder during his career at Penn State. Because of these injury concerns, expect the Broncos to pass on Mauti.
I think when all is said and done, if Reddick is on the board, they'll take him. If not, I don't think they'll be at all dissatisfied with taking Arthur Brown instead.
Drafting an MLB will be essential in shaping Denver's linebacking corps in the future. If they pick the right guy, Denver's defense can get scary good, scary fast.
Current safety Mike Adams has been a solid player so far for the Broncos this year. He's shown the ability to close gaps and defend the pass successfully. Because of his production, I don't expect a drafted safety to necessarily replace Adams. Instead, I'd expect the draftee to learn under Adams and provide depth should anything happen during the course of next year's season.
By the third round, top safety prospects Kenny Vaccaro, Shawn WIlliams, Matt Elam and Eric Reid will probably be off the board.
However, with their third-round pick, the Broncos will have a chance to draft one of this year's biggest sleepers in South Carolina safety DeVonte Holloman. Holloman has ideal size for a safety at 6'2", 235 pounds and has been very productive with the Gamecocks.
He provides exceptional run support with his aggression and nose for the ball and also has the ability to cover oppositions with his impressive athleticism.
Holloman would be a steal for the Broncos in the third round and would provide depth in a position where it's needed.
Offensive line depth is always key in making a run to the Super Bowl.
The Broncos have suffered some injuries on the offensive line this year, so it'll be imperative to draft someone who A) can fill in if someone were to get injured, or B) be mentored and formed into a starter/trade bait at some point.
Here are some players I expect the Broncos to take a close look at:
Braden Hansen, a 6'5", 310-pound OG from BYU, has some sleeper-pick potential in this year's class. He's been exceptionally productive at BYU, having started every game of the past three years—durability is not a concern.
Hansen has a wide base that allows him to anchor and counterbalance opposing bull-rush attempts. Although he doesn't display the greatest lateral quickness and can be caught out of position from time to time, he can sometimes make up for it with adequate leverage and strength. He'll need to be groomed, but if all the pieces fall into place, he has the potential to turn into a Broncos starter down the road.
Chris McDonald, a 6'5", 300-pound guard out of Michigan State, is another player I expect the Broncos to take a look at. Although he's on the lighter side for an offensive guard prospect, McDonald is a relentless blocker with above-average footwork. He's not the most athletic guy, and his overall technique is average at times, but he has good intangibles and awareness.
A team can never have too much depth on the offensive line. If Denver picks a gem this late in the draft, it'll be moving forward.