NFL Draft Picks Who Would Be Instant Starters for Denver

Travis Wakeman@@traviswakeman10Featured Columnist IVJanuary 28, 2013

NFL Draft Picks Who Would Be Instant Starters for Denver

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    Following a 13-3 season that included an 11-game winning streak and home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs, the Denver Broncos may just be a few pieces away from a Super Bowl. One of the best ways to find those pieces is the NFL draft.

    Here, we are looking at players that if drafted by the Broncos, could be in the starting lineup right away.

    The Broncos have several positions, especially on the offensive side of the ball, where a player is entrenched into the starting role. For instance, Peyton Manning, Eric Decker or Demaryius Thomas won't be losing their starting spot anytime soon. The same can be said for players like Von Miller or Elvis Dumervil.

    But the team does have a few holes such as the defensive tackle and middle linebacker spots. So, who are some players the Broncos could draft that could immediately find themselves as starters? Click forward to find out.

Defensive Tackle

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    Defensive tackle is easily the Broncos' weakest position and both starters from 2012, Kevin Vickerson and Justin Bannan, will be free agents this offseason. Mitch Unrein had a productive year but he is a free agent as well. That leaves Sealver Siliga as the only defensive tackle signed for the upcoming season.

    Even if the Broncos re-sign all of those guys, it is still a position in need. There is a wealth of talent at the position in this draft and several of them could be day-one starters for the Broncos.

     (All projections are according to

    First-Round Projections

    Star Lotulelei, Utah:  Lotulelei will be one of the first five picks in this draft, so unless the Broncos trade up from the No. 28 spot, there's no way they'll get him. His stock has risen all year and he will make a great interior lineman no matter which team drafts him. Extremely powerful, Lotulelei is also a huge mismatch for many guards and centers and has drawn comparisons to Ndamukong Suh.

    Shelton Richardson, Missouri: Due to the way he plays the game, Richardson reminds many of J.J. Watt. He is a disruptive tackle who can also play defensive end. A very versatile athlete, he will likely be gone by the time the Broncos go on the clock, but if he happens to be there, the team should not hesitate to take him.

    Jesse Williams, Alabama:  Williams is a big man (6'4", 320), yet very athletic. If the Broncos selected him, he would be used mainly to plug the gap in the middle and shut down the run. He's more suited for a 3-4 scheme and is not viewed as much of a pass-rusher.

    John Jenkins, Georgia:  A lot like Williams, Jenkins is a 350-pound run-stopper who is a very good athlete. He wouldn't bring much to the pass rush of the Broncos, but you will see several mock drafts over the next couple of months that have Jenkins coming to Denver.

    Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State:  Hankins may be the best run-defender in this year's draft. He gets off the block very well and is very physical at the point of attack. He may be just a two-down tackle, however.

    Shariff Floyd, Florida:  Floyd is a very intriguing prospect and one who has plenty of raw talent. He is not the most refined defensive tackle in this draft but he is very coachable and is a guy who could turn into a very productive player. Some may see Floyd as a reach in the first round, but if he gets into the right scheme, he will pay huge dividends down the line.

    Second-Round Projections

    Kawann Short, Purdue (pictured):  Short would be an excellent choice for the Broncos, even in the first round. Both quick and strong, Short defends the run well but he would also bring a boost to the pass rush as teams would have to account for Miller and Dumervil, allowing the explosive Short to come up the gut. Short is the type of player who could have 6-7 quarterback sacks a season and may be the best fit at the defensive tackle position for the Broncos.

    Sylvester Williams, North Carolina:  Williams isn't the quickest player at the position, but he uses his hands very well, whether it be to fight off a lineman or to bat down a pass. Williams would need to improve his tackling, but he could definitely start over a guy like Bannan. 

Middle Linebacker

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    There are several questions regarding the middle linebacker position for the Broncos going into the 2013 season.

    Keith Brooking saw the most action at the position in 2012, but he is a free agent and will be 38 years old next October. Joe Mays lost his starting position to Brooking last season before being lost for the year due to a knee injury. The most memorable moment for Mays last season was a hit on Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub that drew a 15-yard penalty and netted him a $50,000 fine along with a one-game suspension.

    Whether it be through free agency or the draft, this is a position the Broncos must address this offseason. Here are some guys who could slide right into the starting spot.

    (All projections are according to

    First-Round Projections

    Kevin Minter, LSU:  Minter is a very physical, hard-hitting player that would be a great fit in between Miller and Wesley Woodyard. The main concern with him is his pass coverage skills, something teams would be able to take advantage of with a versatile running back or quick slot receiver. Because of that, Minter may be just a two-down player until he could improve in that area.

    Manti Te'o, Notre Dame (pictured):  Despite having his name dragged through the mud recently (via CNN), Te'o is the best middle linebacker in this draft. He plays the run very well and is above average in pass coverage. Te'o is a defensive leader on the field and will be a great addition to any defense. His draft stock may go down a little, but the team that takes a shot on him will reap the rewards.

    Third-Round Projection

    Jon Bostic, Florida:  Bostic is exactly the kind of player the Broncos are looking for: quick, athletic and very good against the run. Coming from one of the best defenses in the country at Florida, Bostic played against very tough competition in the SEC and had a good senior season. This pick would make a lot of sense.


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    It is highly unlikely that the Broncos will select a center in the upcoming draft. They have Dan Koppen and J.D. Walton on the roster and Koppen played quite well filling in for Walton, who went down for the season in Week 4 with an ankle injury. Still, if the Broncos want to upgrade the position, there are a couple of players to be had, though one stands out.

     (All projections are according to

    Second-Round Projection

    Barrett Jones, Alabama:  Jones is by far the best center in this draft. He's actually one of the best overall linemen in this draft. A very versatile player, Jones played left tackle in college and played very well. He excels in pass-blocking and is very good at opening up holes in the running game. Another player that has faced the best the SEC has to offer, teams can't go wrong with this pick.

Strong Safety

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    Many feel the Broncos need to address their depth at the safety position. They may do that in the draft, but they probably won't find an immediate starter out of it unless they draft one of the guys on this or the next slide.

    Mike Adams had a good first year for the team, making 80 tackles. They will also be getting Quinton Carter back after he missed most of the 2012 season due to injury.

     (All projections are according to

    Second-Round Projection

    Matt Elam, Florida: Elam is an excellent, all-around safety who could easily dispatch Adams and Carter for the starting role. There's not much he doesn't do well. He can defend the run, defend intermediate- and deep-pass plays and he is a punishing hitter. Elam possesses great instincts and a real knack for the ball and he would fit into almost any scheme the pro game has to offer. Without trading up in the second round or selecting him in the first, Denver likely wouldn't have the chance to pick him.

Strong Safety

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    Despite making a terrible play in the divisional playoffs that allowed the Baltimore Ravens to score a miraculous 70-yard touchdown in the waning moments to send the game into overtime, Rahim Moore played very well. He made 72 tackles and accounted for two turnovers, one interception and one fumble recovery. But what was most encouraging was Moore's improvement over his rookie season.

    Unless the front office was as displeased with Moore as the Denver fans were, he won't be losing his job next season. However, if the team decided to make that move, there is one player they could select.

     (All projections are according to

    First-Round Projection

    Kenny Vaccaro, Texas:  In all likelihood, Vaccaro is a first-round pick in April's draft. He could conceivably be there when the Broncos come up at No. 28, but they have more pressing needs. Still, if drafted, Vaccaro would likely be able to take the starting spot away from Moore due to his skill set. Vaccaro is strong against both the run and the pass and he is a great tackler. He has the speed to cover the entire field and should be a key contributor to the secondary of the team that selects him for many years to come.