2013 Mock Draft: The Smartest Picks the Denver Broncos Can Make

Sarah Marshall@SBMarshallBUContributor IJanuary 8, 2013

2013 Mock Draft: The Smartest Picks the Denver Broncos Can Make

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    The Denver Broncos are set at quarterback with Peyton Manning for a few years and their defense is one of the best in the AFC, but there is always room for improvement. 

    It's almost that time again: the NFL draft. Which means it's time for your first mock draft. So at what position do the Broncos need the most improvement? Which young guys do you have your eyes on?

    Read on to see who I've picked in my first mock draft. 

CB: Johnthan Banks

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    One of the Denver Broncos' main concerns should be finding a cornerback to learn from, and eventually fill, Champ Bailey's shoes. Champ may be old, but he hasn't shown any slump lately. At the same time, he will turn 35 this summer and would be a great teacher to help a young rookie learn how to take over his position. 

    Although it isn't certain where the Broncos will draft, it will probably be late in the first round. With their first pick, the Broncos should pick cornerback Johnthan Banks from Mississippi State. The senior made a name for himself following the 2011 season, where he solidified himself as one of the top defensive backs in the country. Over his career at Mississippi State, he is second in interceptions with 12.

    One of his best games of the 2012 season was in a 28-10 win over Auburn, where he had two interceptions. He finished the year by winning the Jim Thorpe Award and many NFL consider him the No. 1 cornerback in this year's draft.  

    The Broncos could definitely us his aggressiveness on the secondary, even if it takes a few years to groom him and let Champ Bailey finish his career. 

WR: Ryan Swope

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    While the Broncos are set right now with WRs Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, they will need to find a replacement soon for Brandon Stokley.

    It was well documented that Stokley thought about retiring prior to the season, then QB Peyton Manning called and said he'd like to play with him again in Denver. Stokley is 36 and began to wear down as the season grew on and Decker became more involved. 

    If he is still on the board when Denver picks in the second round, the Broncos should select Ryan Swope out of Texas A&M University. Swope could start out as a fourth option in the first few years of his career, then move into Stokley's spot when he retires. At the beginning, Swope would be added depth and his numbers show he could add a lot to the Broncos. 

    This season, he had 72 receptions for 913 yards and eight touchdowns. In his last game as an Aggie, Swope had eight receptions for 104 yards, one touchdown and took home the Cotton Bowl trophy after defeating the Oklahoma Sooners, 41-13.

RB: Rex Burkhead

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    Rex Burkhead is the future Willis McGahee, it's as simple as that. The similarities are eerie. Burkhead is a fast, powerful runner like McGahee. Burkhead would also be a perfect complement for Ronnie Hillman, and together, they would be almost unstoppable. 

    Burkhead missed some time in his senior season because of knee injuries, but he still made an impact and got NFL scouts' tongues wagging. Burkhead finished with 675 yards and five touchdowns this season.

    In 2011, when he was fully healthy, Burkhead finished with 1,357 yards and 15 touchdowns. In his last game as a Husker, Burkhead carried the offense and improved his draft stock with 140 rushing yards and a touchdown.

    Burkhead is currently ranked as the No. 10 running back on NFLdraftscout.com and will probably go late in the second round or early third round. There are concerns about his injuries, but after seeing him play in high school in Plano, Texas, I'm 100 percent certain this young man will do great things in the NFL. It would be even better if he was wearing orange. 

DT: Kawann Short

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    This was a large need last year and the Broncos did a great job by drafting Derek Wolfe. Wolfe has made a big impact, but will still need help. By the time the Broncos can make their pick to fill this position, the higher-ranked DTs, Sheldon Richardson (Missouri) and Jonathan Jenkins (Georgia), will likely be gone. 

    Kawann Short was selected to the All-Big Ten first-team after leading Purdue by recording 14.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. On top of those stats, Short also finished the 2012 season with 42 tackles, four blocked kicks and two recovered fumbles. 

    At 6'3" and 315 pounds, Short would be perfect to make big stops. According to Todd McShay's mock draft in December, Short is a need for the Broncos in the backfield. I'd have to agree a Broncos uniform would look great on Kawann Short.