Denver Broncos: Ranking Remaining Offseason Priorities

DJ Siddiqi@@DJSiddiqiCorrespondent IIIMay 19, 2014

Denver Broncos: Ranking Remaining Offseason Priorities

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    The Denver Broncos concluded their 2014 NFL draft by drafting six new players.

    Of the six new players, two of them are linebackers, two are offensive linemen, one is a wide receiver and one is a cornerback.

    The biggest selection of them all was the first-round pick, Ohio State's Bradley Roby. Roby figures to play a prominent role in the Broncos' 2014 season.

    The Broncos had the biggest free-agent signing period of any NFL team when they signed DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward and Emmanuel Sanders. Now that the draft is over, what are the Broncos' remaining offseason priorities?

5. Fitting WR Cody Latimer into the Game Plan

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    The Broncos selected WR Cody Latimer with their second-round draft pick.

    It was a bit of a shock to see the Broncos select Latimer, considering they already have a stacked receiving core. The Broncos already have Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Emmanuel Sanders and Andre Caldwell on the roster.

    To go along with an already stacked receiving core, it was also a shocking selection considering Latimer is recovering from a broken metatarsal in his left foot.

    At the same time, however, Latimer is an extraordinary talent.

    Because of his injury, Latimer was not able to do anything at the NFL combine but the bench press. At Indiana's pro day, Latimer ran a 4.39 40-yard-dash despite his injury. He also has a basketball background at the high school level.

    Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase had the following to say to reporters about Latimer's size and physical ability:

    He's a physical specimen, and when he plays, he plays his size. To see him catch the ball as well as he does and then his blocking is unbelievable. I don't think I've really seen a college guy go after it the way he has, and hopefully he just carries that over to this level.

    Though it may be hard to envision Latimer fitting into Denver's plans in 2014 with their depth at the receiving position and Latimer's recovery from injury, it would appear from Gase's comments that the Broncos plan on utilizing Latimer's size in the red zone:

    I think I saw him — 50-50 balls, he came down with it every time. ... That's a dimension that we're always looking to improve on, especially in the low-red area. That was probably one part of our red-area game we struggled on, where we probably kicked too many field goals inside the 5 (-yard line).

    Considering the Broncos' lack of size at the wide receiver position with the exception of Thomas, it makes sense that they plan on using the second-round draft pick in red zone situations for 2014.


4. How Will Running Back Situation Play Out?

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    It's safe to assume the starting running back job is Montee Ball's to lose. But although Ball is the presumed favorite to be the Broncos' starter in 2014, it's still a question mark as to how the running back situation will unfold.

    For example, the Broncos like a running back-by-committee backfield. They have done it the past few seasons, with Knowshon Moreno-Ronnie Hillman in 2012 and Moreno-Ball in 2013.

    It would be safe to assume the Broncos will do the same in 2014.

    The question becomes: Who will be the No. 2 guy behind Ball? Will it be C.J. Anderson? Will it be Ronnie Hillman? Or could it be an unknown back currently on the roster?

    Ball may be pegged as Denver's running back of the future, but he won't be the only one carrying the load in 2014 for the defending AFC Champions.

3. Finding a Starting Middle Linebacker

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    The Denver Broncos spent two draft picks on linebackers with their selections of LSU's Lamin Barrow in the fifth round and Oklahoma's Corey Nelson in the seventh round.

    The problem is, both linebackers' natural positions are on the outside.

    Though the Broncos could attempt to shift Barrow to Mike linebacker leading up to the regular season, the more likely scenario would be veteran Nate Irving starting at MLB, with Barrow playing on special teams during his rookie season, according to The Denver Post's Mike Klis.

    The Broncos play in the nickel package a lot of the time, so their starting middle linebacker will only have to be a two-down one. This is how the Broncos were able to get away with aging veterans such as Keith Brooking and Paris Lenon as their starting Mike linebackers in 2012 and 2013, respectively. The position is just not a huge focal point of the defense.

    Having said that, it would be an upgrade for the Broncos to actually have a consistent threat at the position for the first time in years.

    Training camp will dictate whether the man in the middle will be Barrow or Irving.


2. Figuring out a Starting Offensive Line

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    The Broncos' offensive line is a huge question mark at the moment.

    They refused to address their starting left guard dilemma through the 2014 NFL Draft, instead opting to draft a center and an offensive tackle.

    The good news is that the Broncos have a lot of depth along the line with their two new draftees, center Matthew Paradis and offensive tackle Michael Schofield.

    The bad news is that because the Broncos don't have a true left guard at the moment, they have to shift around their offensive line in order to find one.

    Which means Orlando Franklin has shifted from right tackle to starting left guard, while Chris Clark shifts from left tackle to starting right tackle.

    Franklin had the following to say about the shift in offensive line personnel, via Troy E. Renck of The Denver Post: "They want to play the best five. If Chris Clark can play right tackle and I can go back and play left guard at a high level, that's what the starting five will look like."

    Renck did comment that the shift in personnel is not definite. "It's not concrete that Franklin will remain inside. He was told that 'nothing was definite' as the coaches begin their evaluations."

    Heading into training camp, the Broncos' offensive line situation will be one of the team's biggest storylines.


1. What Is Bradley Roby's Role for 2014?

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    The Broncos' blockbuster pick of the 2014 NFL draft was the 31st overall selection, cornerback Bradley Roby.

    Roby was such a highly regarded prospect coming out of Ohio State that people considered him to be a top-15 talent, per Joan Niesen of Sports Illustrated.

    There is little doubt that Roby is an athletic corner with playmaking ability. He scored two touchdowns in 2013, one a blocked-punt return against Northwestern and the other an interception return against Illinois.

    But how do the Broncos plan on using Roby this season?

    Roby will be play a prominent role in the defensive backfield in 2014. There is a reason the Broncos spent their first-round-draft pick on a corner rather than more pressing position needs such as guard and middle linebacker.

    The question is: Will Roby play in the nickel or on the outside?

    In all likelihood, this is more contingent on how Chris Harris returns from his ACL injury in training camp. With Harris being an effective nickel corner, the Broncos may see fit to play Roby on the outside opposite of Aqib Talib.

    If Roby is able to make the transition smoothly from college corner to NFL corner, the Broncos could have a top-tier defensive backfield with Talib, Harris and Roby.