When the Broncos' 2012 season came crashing down two weeks ago, John Elway and staff started looking to the future. On January 14, the Broncos' pick for the 2013 NFL draft was set; they would pick 28th.
At the beginning of the 2012 season, the Broncos were the 10th-oldest team in the NFL. Elway spoke at the end of the season about adding youth and the importance of having them intermixed with veterans. The draft helps produce "the core of our team," Elway said, and there is plenty of talent to choose from in this year's draft.
So, what are the Broncos' most pressing needs? And, where can youth immediately be used?
The Broncos' first priority should be filling out the "guts" of the team, with positions like defensive tackle and middle linebacker. With the 28th pick in the draft, Elway and the Broncos should pick a young defensive tackle who could contribute size and speed immediately.
Sharrif Floyd from the University of Florida is one of the best defensive tackles in this year's class. At 6'3" and 303 pounds, Floyd would add bulk to the defensive line where it is needed. During his time at Florida, Floyd tallied 58 solo tackles and 115 total. Although his numbers aren't astounding, he has the ability and size to play any position on the defensive line.
If Floyd is still on the board when the Broncos make their first pick, he could instantly contribute to the beefing up of the defensive line. His size, strength and speed will improve the Broncos defense in 2013.
The Broncos are looking for a long-term solution to the middle linebacker position, and the NFL draft is a great place to find the answer. After veteran Keith Brooking failed to make an impact for the Broncos and D.J. Williams' suspension, the Broncos need a young and talented linebacker with a good head on his shoulders.
Arthur Brown from Kansas State is one of the best middle linebackers in the year's draft and the Broncos should pursue him in the second round. Brown is a little small for the NFL (6'1", 230 pounds), but can easily bulk up in the offseason.
Although Brown is considered small, his speed and ability to stop opponents on the run would be a great addition for the Broncos defense immediately.
There is one position where the Broncos definitely need youth: running back. While Willis McGahee is still playing at an elite level, he is 31 years old, coming off an injury and due to make more than $2 million next year.
If the Broncos are looking for a fast and explosive running back who can play a physical game, they should look no further than Wisconsin's Montee Ball. Ball significantly improved his football IQ over the last two seasons at Wisconsin. In 2011, his junior year, Ball led the nation with 1,923 rushing yards and 39 touchdowns. He was also a Heisman finalist.
Ball could instantly add a few qualities to the Denver Broncos: quickness, toughness and the ability to read defenses. Ball has the great capability of a fast change in play direction and gaining large yardage with bursts of energy. He is also tough, routinely pushing through defenders by lowering his shoulder to take a big hit or stiff-arming opponents.
Lastly, Ball's greatest asset is his ability to read defenses. Ball was a patient running back at Wisconsin, waiting for a hold to open up at the line of scrimmage then punishing the defense by bursting through the line.
A running back with these traits would be a great contribution in 2013, especially with McGahee's health uncertain.
Prior to the 2013 season, Brandon Stokley will turn 37 and become a free agent. In the following year, both Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker will be free agents. In the meantime, the Broncos need a solid third WR to replace Decker or Thomas without missing a beat in the offense.
The season following Robert Griffin III's departure, Terrance Williams got people talking again about Baylor. Williams was one of the best wide receivers in the country in 2012, totaling 1,832 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Bears.
In the last regular-season game against Oklahoma State, Williams had a record-breaking night, finishing with 71 yards off six receptions and shattering the school single-season receiving yards record (1,693), per The Sports Xchange. Williams' speed is astonishing, impressing many at the 2013 Senior Bowl, according to Dave Richard of CBS Sports.
Williams' speed and ability to catch long passes would be a great addition with Peyton Manning's offense.
At age 35, Champ Bailey will soon be ending his career and needing a replacement. He showed his age in the game against the Ravens, getting burned multiple times by Torrey Smith. The Broncos should use one of the later picks to pick up a replacement for Bailey.
Adams will have his name in the record books at Michigan State for several things. His interception return yards rank fourth in school history with 230, his 24 pass break-ups rank 11th and his 11 career interceptions are 10th most in Michigan State football history. (stats per NFL Draft Scout)
The Broncos definitely need to address the issue of finding Bailey's replacement in this year's NFL draft. Adams would be a solid contributor for years to come.