With the NFL Draft approaching on Thursday, the Denver Broncos are hoping that they are one player away from another Super Bowl appearance. They hold the 31st pick of all seven rounds of the draft, eliminating the chance to take up an attractive option such as Jadeveon Clowney, but can still make a big splash in the first round. Although the Broncos made significant additions during the free agent signings, there are a few gaps in the starting lineup that could be filled in the draft.
Denver addressed their biggest needs in the first 48 hours of the free agency: Defense. The Broncos brought in T.J. Ward at safety, Aqib Talib at cornerback and DaMarcus Ware at defensive line. Even though these signings improved the defense pretty much overnight, Denver let middle linebacker and defensive captain Wesley Woodyard walk. It seems evident that an inside linebacker is the biggest need for the Broncos in the defensive side of the ball.
C.J. Mosley is the highest rated middle linebacker in the draft. The 21-year-old is NFL ready and no stranger to big games as he helped Alabama win back-to-back national championships. Mosley would fit in just fine with the Broncos, but there is a catch; he will probably be selected early. If Mosley slides, it would definitely be worthwhile for Denver to pick him up.
Another quality middle linebacker candidate is Florida State’s Telvin Smith, who posted a 4.52 40-yard dash time at the combine. It was revealed on Tuesday that Smith was one of approximately 10 NFL Draft candidates who failed or provided a diluted urinalysis sample back in February. This unfortunate news may impact Smith’s chances to be drafted relatively high, but it’s good news for Denver if they want to make a move on him with the 31st overall pick.
It’s difficult to address the remaining needs for the Broncos offense. Denver lost wide receiver Eric Decker to the Jets, but replaced him with Emmanuel Sanders days later. Running back Knowshon Moreno was also lost during free agency, but it seems that the Broncos will give the nod to Montee Ball who picked up steam towards the end of last year. With all the injuries to the offensive line last year, Denver could very well use up a few of their draft picks to protect Peyton Manning. There is a plethora of quality offensive lineman in the early rounds of this year’s NFL draft.
The Broncos have an estimated cap space of $5.4 million to spend on player contracts this year. Because of this, it’s unlikely that Denver will trade up very far (if at all). Whoever they choose with their first round pick, their contract won’t eat up much of their remaining salary cap. Tune into NFL Network tomorrow night for live coverage of the 2014 NFL Draft.