Still feeling the sting of their double-overtime loss in the divisional round of the playoffs to the Baltimore Ravens, a few Denver Broncos players are preparing to play in the Pro Bowl while scouts watched the 2013 Senior Bowl closely.
The Broncos have a few needs heading into April's draft and currently hold the No. 28 pick in the first round. Defensive tackle and middle linebacker seem to be pressing needs, but choosing solid backups at the cornerback, running back and wide receiver positions has to be on the agenda as well.
Whether the team decides to address some of these needs in free agency remains to be seen, but the Broncos have several key free agents of their own.
So who should the team draft to position themselves for a Super Bowl run? Click forward to find out.
If Kevin Minter, the middle linebacker from LSU, is still available when Denver goes on the clock, it will strongly consider selecting him, but Kawann Short is the right pick. He was very impressive in the Senior Bowl, so much so that he may jump up on the board and be selected before Denver gets the chance to.
Short is both quick and strong. He plays the run very well and would need to be double-teamed from time to time.
But what makes him a perfect fit in Denver is the fact that he would add to the pass rush because he is so quick off the ball. If opponents were presented with the challenge of blocking Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller off the edge, Short would be able to come through the gap and get several sacks himself.
If Short is there at No. 28, Denver must select him. Even if the Broncos are able to re-sign Kevin Vickerson and Justin Bannan this offseason, Short is still the right pick.
Middle linebacker is arguably the Broncos' weakest position. The aging Keith Brooking will be a free agent this offseason, and behind him they have Joe Mays and Steven Johnson. Mays lost his job to Brooking last season and will be coming off a knee injury as well.
Denver could address this position in free agency by reaching out to a guy like Rey Maualuga of the Cincinnati Bengals or Tim Dobbins of the Houston Texans. Both would be a big upgrade over what the Broncos have.
Jon Bostic may be a bit of a reach in the second round, but he comes out of one of the nation's best defenses at Florida. He plays the run very well and is athletic enough to force turnovers, returning one of his two interceptions for a touchdown in his senior season.
If the Broncos were to draft Bostic, some would probably call it a reach, but the same thing was said last year about Derek Wolfe, and that turned out pretty good.
After watching the Ravens pick apart the Denver secondary in the playoffs, the need for depth the cornerback position went up on the list of importance.
The Broncos were victimized by deep balls in the Houston game as well, and that is something they will have to fix this offseason.
Champ Bailey is still one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, despite his poor game against Torrey Smith in the playoffs. Chris Harris is slowly turning into a star, but it wouldn't hurt to have a quality backup, especially with the disappointment that was Tracy Porter this season.
Porter and Tony Carter will be free agents, and Porter likely won't be back. Desmond Trufant would make a lot of sense in the third round.
He is good in man-to-man coverage and has been one of the best defensive backs in the Pac-12 since he broke into the lineup his sophomore season. He is also not afraid to stick his head in and make a tackle on a running back, something Bailey and Harris would only help to make him better at.
Trufant would be able to sit on the bench behind Harris and Bailey and get in on some nickel packages. Once Bailey decides to call it a career, or moves to safety, Trufant would be an excellent replacement.
After going defense in the first three rounds, the Broncos turn their focus to the offensive side of the ball. The Broncos would be thrilled to get Stepfan Taylor.
It can be argued that injuries to the running back position derailed the Broncos' title hopes last season with Willis McGahee going down and Knowshon Moreno, despite filling in well for McGahee, getting knocked out of the playoff game against the Ravens. Ronnie Hillman still needs more polishing before he can help the Broncos win games.
Taylor is about as versatile a running back as there is in this year's draft.
He can be quick and elusive out of the backfield, and he can be physical and very good in the short-yardage game. Taylor also has great hands, and maybe most importantly, he is a very good pass-blocker who is able to stay on the field every play in a no-huddle system.
Drafting Taylor would give the Broncos a wealth of options at the running back position to go along with McGahee, Moreno and Hillman.
Conner Vernon may not be a sexy pick, but he'd be a good fit in the Denver offense.
The Broncos will have Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker for years to come, but it never hurts to give Peyton Manning more options in the passing game. One of the things that made the offense go this year was having a third option to throw to, whether it be Brandon Stokley or one of the tight ends.
Stokley is due to be a free agent, and even if he stays in Denver, he'll be 37 years old when the season starts. Matthew Willis and Andre Caldwell combined for 11 receptions in 2012.
Vernon caught at least one pass in every game he played in at Duke and will be a good slot receiver in the NFL. His college coach was David Cutcliffe, someone Manning knows very well.
Another defensive tackle? Yes. Instead of drafting a safety? Yes.
The Broncos will need even more depth along the defensive line, and Josh Boyd, a 6'3", 312-pound player out of the SEC conference would give them just that.
Boyd is a very athletic player that is more than capable of getting into the backfield to make plays. He also eats up double-teams, freeing up pass-rushers off the edge—the same way Short would.
Chris Kuper missed multiple games for the Broncos in 2012, forcing them to turn to Manny Ramirez several times.
Kuper is still one of the league's better guards, but the team needs a better replacement than Ramirez if he is to go down. Braden Hansen would fit the bill.
Hansen is very good at opening holes in the run game and can be trusted in pass protection. If Kuper were to go down, it would be much better to turn to this guy than Ramirez.