Denver Broncos Still Need Middle Linebacker to Polish off Free-Agency Dominance

Travis WakemanCorrespondent IIMarch 13, 2014

Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen with Chris Borland (44) before an NCAA college football game against Tennessee Tech Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Morry Gash/Associated Press

If the mission for the Denver Broncos heading into free agency was to greatly improve the defense, then mission accomplished.

The Broncos have added safety T.J. Ward, cornerback Aqib Talib and defensive end DeMarcus Ware. Those signings alone make the Denver defense vastly improved from a season ago.

Still, there is a glaring hole in the middle of the defense at middle linebacker.

The Broncos never really found an answer at the position last season, settling on Paris Lenon. Playing with his fifth NFL team, Lenon gave the Broncos just 22 tackles on the year.

Wesley Woodyard had a career year in 2012, but he saw a sizable drop-off in production last year, going from 117 tackles down to just 84 and from 5.5 sacks down to just 1.5.

So how does Denver address the issue?

With Jon Beason agreeing to a new deal that will keep him in New York, according to Dan Graziano of, the Broncos should shift their focus to the upcoming NFL draft.

Here are three players the Broncos should consider drafting.


Chris Borland

It may be a little early to take Chris Borland with the No. 31 overall pick in the first round, so Denver could consider trading down to get an extra pick and still get Borland in the second round.

If they stay in the first round, selecting him isn't a bad option.

Borland is a superior tackler who can shed blocks. He is also tremendous at stopping the run. He would give the Broncos a presence in the middle of the defense that has been missing since Al Wilson left in 2007.

The area of concern with Borland centers around his ability to defend against the pass. Can he match up with a tight end or slot receiver going across the middle?

This is a fair question, as Borland didn't display the ability to do so during his college days at Wisconsin. However, he can be very effective in blitz packages on passing downs.


Shayne Skov

Like Borland, Shayne Skov would be a big help in the running game. At Stanford, Skov was the leader of one of the toughest defenses in the country.

An explosive player, Skov would bring aggressiveness and physicality to the defense. Anyone who watched the Super Bowl knows that isn't a bad thing.

He would need to show he has the speed to cover the entire field so that running backs can't beat him to the edge. His ability in pass coverage could also be a big question mark.

Still, the positives outweigh the negatives, and if Denver could find Skov in the third round, they should pull the trigger.


Max Bullough

Bullough would be more of a late-round find for the Broncos, with the concern being that he is just a two-down player.

Bullough is a very instinctive player who diagnoses quickly and reacts accordingly. He is a solid tackler who can come up and punish the ball-carrier as well.

He may even offer something in zone coverage on passing downs.

He lacks range and speed, making him susceptible on plays to the outside. He will also need to improve on his ability to shed blocks so he's not taken out of plays so often.