2014 NFL Draft Prospects Who Could Be Instant Starters for Denver Broncos
Still feelings the effects of a crushing loss in the Super Bowl, the Denver Broncos must now focus on the offseason.
The first order of business will be to decide which free agents they intend to keep and which ones they'll turn loose to the open market. Following that, preparations for the NFL draft will intensify.
If the Broncos are going to make another run to the Super Bowl (and win), they will need to get more physical on the defensive side of the ball.
The team should focus heavily on the defense when the draft comes around, and if they play their cards right, several players could be obtained who could start from day one.
Here, we will take a look at some of those players.
To be clear, the Broncos won't draft all of these players. These are just players that, if drafted by the Broncos, could start immediately.
Jason Verrett, Cornerback, TCU
The Broncos face plenty of uncertainty at the cornerback position heading into the 2014 season.
They need to find a way to give Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie a big contract before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. But what about Champ Bailey? Will he be back for a 16th season?
Chris Harris will also be coming off a torn ACL that ended his 2013 season.
Even if the Broncos and Bailey stay together, they need to find more depth in the draft.
Jason Verrett from Texas Christian could be the third-best cornerback in this draft behind Justin Gilbert and Darqueze Dennard. If he is still on the board when Denver comes up at No. 31 in the first round, they should jump on him.
Verrett has great ball skills and is a tough, strong cornerback. He is solid in man-to-man coverage. If the Broncos want a physical cornerback, this is their man.
If Denver could line up Rodgers-Cromartie and Verrett as their starting cornerbacks in the season opener, that would be huge for the defense.
Kyle Fuller, Cornerback, Virginia Tech
Kyle Fuller is another cornerback who could start right away if selected by the Broncos. They could possibly find him in the second round.
Like Jason Verrett, Fuller has very good ball skills, but he is also a solid tackler who can assist in run support. He is not afraid to get physical and was a starter all four years at Virginia Tech.
At 6'0" and just a shade under 200 pounds, Fuller would make a nice addition to the Denver secondary.
David Yankey, Guard, Stanford
Zane Beadles is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, and if the Broncos are unable to bring him back, they could be in the market for a top-ranked guard to bolster the offensive line.
David Yankey would be about the best they could get.
Playing under David Shaw at Stanford, Yankey put together a solid career, showing he could play both guard and tackle.
He will fit into any run-blocking scheme as his strength is as a run-blocker. He can pass block as well, and the fact that he played multiple positions on the offensive line in a pro-style offense such as the one Stanford runs will be very appealing to NFL teams.
Yankey is good enough to be among the first 10 players chosen in the draft. Based on team needs, he will probably fall down a little further.
If Denver loses Beadles, this would be an ideal player to target.
Cyril Richardson, Guard, Baylor
Cyril Richardson would be another guard whom Denver might take as a potential replacement for Zane Beadles, should they lose Beadles to free agency.
Richardson is a huge offensive linemen (6'5", 335 pounds) who is very athletic for his size. He played the guard and tackle positions at Baylor but projects as a guard in the NFL.
Richardson can be a major force in the running game, getting to the second level to open running lanes.
He may need to polish up his skills in pass protection before facing some of the league's quick interior defensive linemen, but he comes with a ton of upside and could be a starter along the offensive line for the next 10 years.
Shayne Skov, Linebacker, Stanford
Wesley Woodyard will be an unrestricted free agent for the Broncos, but even if they are able to keep him around, they need someone who can lead the defense from the middle linebacker spot.
Shayne Skov would be an optimal selection.
Playing in a rugged defensive system at Stanford, Skov showed his leadership skills every time the Cardinal took the field. He is solid against the run, attacking blockers to get to the man with the ball. On top of that, he can be very good in blitz packages.
Skov is adequate in coverage but would have to improve in that area in order to stay on the field.
Still, with his aggressive style and fiery attitude, he could help bring an identity to the Denver defense that is sorely missing.
Chris Borland, Linebacker, Wisconsin
If Denver misses out on Shayne Skov, they could still find a new starting middle linebacker in Wisconsin's Chris Borland.
Due to his lack of size (6'0", 245 pounds), Borland will always have his detractors. But he is a very intelligent, disciplined football player.
Much like Skov, Borland employs an attacking style, and he diagnoses plays very well. He is a determined athlete who does not let his size deter him.
He is probably better than Skov in coverage as well, so that will help his stock.
Borland has drawn comparisons to Zach Thomas who stood just 5'11" but had a stellar NFL career at the middle linebacker position.
Travis Swanson, Center, Arkansas
Manny Ramirez was not Denver's first choice to play center this season. He probably wasn't even their second. Though he did outperform expectations, an upgrade at the position should be considered.
Travis Swanson of Arkansas is the best center in this year's draft.
At 6'5" and 310 pounds, Swanson is a good run-blocker who does a good job sealing off interior defenders. He was elected team captain in both 2012 and 2013 at Arkansas.
Swanson will have to prove himself in pass protection, but he should easily be the first center off the board. The only question is, do the Broncos want to use a first-round pick on a center when there are more pressing needs on defense?
Weston Richburg, Center, Colorado State
If the Broncos truly want to find a new center in the draft, Colorado State's Weston Richburg may be an even better choice than Travis Swanson.
Richburg started all 49 games of his career at CSU and will bring durability and great upper-body strength to the NFL. After a strong showing in the Senior Bowl, Richburg should be rising up draft charts but the Broncos could likely find him in the second or third round.
He is an intelligent player who displays the ability to run block and pass block at a high level. He is also deceptively athletic.
If the Broncos make a list of best possible value picks in this draft, Richburg would have to be high on it.
Kony Ealy, Defensive End, Missouri
This is a player whom Denver fans would quickly be gushing over should the Broncos find a way to land him in the draft.
Kony Ealy is one of the most athletic players at any position in this year's draft and is one of the most intriguing as well.
He is incredibly quick off the snap and also possesses a good spin move that helps him get inside. On top of that, Ealy is adept at stopping the run.
In 2013, he tallied nine sacks, two of which came in Missouri's 41-31 win over Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl.
The Broncos could use more depth on the defensive line, specifically from a pass-rush perspective, regardless of what the future holds for Robert Ayers and Shaun Phillips, who both are scheduled to become free agents.
Ealy would be a gift if he's still available when the Broncos pick at No. 31 overal. If they were able to land him, having he and Von Miller on the same defense would present an intimidating scenario for opponents.