Biggest Questions Denver Broncos Must Answer Over Draft Week
In order for the Broncos to do so, they'll have to fill a few key holes with quality draft prospects. Because the Broncos lost in Super Bowl XLVIII, they won't select until late in the first round with the No. 31 overall pick.
However, the Broncos will have seven total draft picks entering the 2014 NFL draft and will have their opportunities to improve a roster that fell just short of winning the Lombardi Trophy last season.
As with any NFL franchise entering draft week, the Broncos have questions they'll have to answer as the draft approaches.
What are five of the biggest questions the Broncos will face as we inch closer toward the 2014 NFL draft?
Could Broncos Strengthen Running Back Position?
The Denver Broncos enter the NFL draft with Montee Ball projected as the starting running back and C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman as the backups.
As strongly as Ball may feel about being the Broncos' starting running back in 2014, the fact is he's never been a starting running back so far in his NFL career.
Anderson is a young back with potential, but he was an undrafted free agent in 2013 who played in five games and has seven career carries to his name.
Hillman enters his third season in the NFL, and although he was supposed to be the Broncos' back of the future when he was selected in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft, he has fallen way out of favor in Denver.
Hillman was inactive in six of the last nine regular-season games in 2013, while also being named inactive for all three of the Broncos' postseason games.
Though there may be a lot of potential within this group, one can conclude that the Broncos see there are improvements that can be made at the position through the NFL draft.
The Broncos won't use a draft pick from any higher than the middle rounds to shore up the RB position, but that doesn't mean there aren't many quality backs to be had in the third and fourth rounds.
It should be interesting to find out how the Broncos feel about their RB situation as the NFL draft develops.
Which Middle Linebacker Will Be Taken off the Board?
It's clear that one of the Broncos' biggest voids entering the NFL draft is at middle linebacker.
The Broncos don't have a true starting middle linebacker in place. The team is so thin at the position that the plan at the current moment is to start Nate Irving at MLB. Irving has started just four games in his three-year career.
Outside of the issues with the MLB position on the current roster, the NFL draft itself lacks quality prospects at the position. Just one inside linebacker, Alabama's C.J. Mosley, is projected to be drafted in the first round.
With Mosley being the only clear top-tier prospect at the position in this year's draft, he will most likely go in the middle of the first round. This gives the Broncos very little chance of drafting the Alabama product, provided they stay at their current No. 31 spot.
The next inside linebackers on the pecking order are Wisconsin's Chris Borland and Stanford's Shayne Skov.
When will the Broncos draft their starting middle linebacker and who will it be?
How Will Broncos Fill Left Guard Void?
The Denver Broncos have been shuffling around their starting offensive line during their offseason conditioning program to compensate for the loss of former starting left guard Zane Beadles to free agency.
That doesn't mean the Broncos aren't still looking at drafting a left guard.
Luckily for the Broncos, there are a lot of quality prospects at the guard position entering the NFL draft. The Broncos won't be in a position to draft a prospect such as Notre Dame's Zack Martin, but they'll definitely be in a position to draft UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo.
With how well the offensive line played last season in the absence of Ryan Clady—least amount of sacks allowed of any offensive line—the Broncos could easily plug in a player such as Su'a-Filo or a middle-round prospect such as Mississippi State's Gabe Jackson with ease.
This is all dependent upon whether the Broncos value the guard or middle linebacker positions as their biggest priority during the draft.
Will Broncos Shore Up Defensive End and Cornerback Positions?
When you look at the defensive end and cornerback positions for the Broncos, you probably think the team is set.
Denver added Pro Bowl players such as DeMarcus Ware and Aqib Talib through free agency.
Behind Talib at cornerback are Chris Harris, Tony Carter and Kayvon Webster. All three players were a part of the defensive back rotation in 2013 and will continue to play key roles for the Broncos in 2014.
However, Harris will be returning after a tear in his ACL.
At defensive end, Ware has been arguably the NFL's most consistent pass-rusher over the past decade. Ware has been named to seven Pro Bowls and All-Pro teams since entering the NFL in 2005. He has 117 sacks in his nine-year NFL career.
Along with Ware, the Broncos have Malik Jackson and Derek Wolfe at left defensive end.
Wolfe was the team's starter at the position during the 2012 and 2013 seasons before an illness sidelined him for the last month of the regular season and the entire postseason. Jackson started in his place for the remainder of the season.
A wild card at the position is 2013 fifth-round draft pick Quanterus Smith. The Western Kentucky product racked up 12.5 sacks in his senior season before an ACL injury ended his season. Smith spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve recovering from this injury.
The Broncos are not short on quality players at these positions. The concern here is their injury/medical history.
Because of this, the Broncos may shore up the defensive end and cornerback positions through the NFL draft.
Who Will Broncos Draft in 1st Round?
The final and most important question of all is, who will the Broncos draft in the first round?
As mentioned in the previous three slides, the Broncos have voids at middle linebacker, left guard, defensive end and cornerback.
The franchise could go in a variety of different ways with the No. 31 overall pick.
In fact, CBSSports.com's latest mock drafts find Denver looking in a number of directions with its first-rounder.
Rob Rang has the Broncos selecting guard Joel Bitonio of Nevada. Dane Brugler has the Broncos drafting Ohio State outside linebacker Ryan Shazier. Pete Prisco projects the Broncos picking OLB Kyle Van Noy of BYU. Pat Kirwan projects Denver selecting CB Kyle Fuller of Virginia Tech, while Will Brinson has the Broncos selecting DE Demarcus Lawrence of Boise State with their first-round draft pick.
Who the Broncos will select with their first-round pick is such a toss-up that these five draft experts have the Broncos selecting five different players at four different positions with their pick.
Come May 8, we'll find out once and for all who the Broncos will really select with their first-round selection.
All draft projections and draft analysis courtesy of CBSSports.com.