Denver Must Draft Well at Pick 31
The 31st spot in the NFL Draft is the worst place to pick because it means you lost the Super Bowl and are looking to get over the hump to make sure you’re holding that Lombardi Trophy the next season. That’s the talk at Dove Valley for the Denver Broncos. After losing, 43-8, to the Seattle Seahawks, John Elway once again did his thing in free agency signing DeMarcus Ware, Aquib Talib, T.J. Ward, Emmanuel Sanders and Will Montgomery.
Denver will write the next chapter in its 2014 season with the 31st pick in next month’s draft. But what are the Broncos’ needs? Middle linebacker, center/guard and depth at corner.
As of right now Nate Irving is the starting middle linebacker during the first set of OTAs. Irving was given the starting job going into training camp last season, but lost the job to Stewart Bradley by the first preseason game. And, by the time the season was over, 36-year-old veteran Paris Lenon was the starting middle linebacker for most of the year, including the Super Bowl. The last couple of years, defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has gone with veteran guys such as Keith Brooking and Lenon, but this will be a different season with more than likely a starting rookie middle linebacker.
C.J. Mosley will visit with the Broncos and work out with the team this week. Mosley is rated the No.1 linebacker in the draft and will more than likely go within the top 20 picks. Mosley would be a great fit for the Broncos, playing either inside or outside, and would be a no-brainer of a pick. Denver would have to trade up to get the former Alabama star.
A sleeper linebacker the Broncos might go after in the second round is Stanford standout Shayne Skov, who brings that “I’m gonna take you out of the game” mentality. No doubt Elway has looked at Skov because Hall of Famer is a Stanford guy himself and knows the Cardinal very well, watching his alma mater week after week.
Denver will also look for some depth at the cornerback. Chris Harris Jr. will be coming back off an ACL injury and will be placed on the other side of his former Kansas Jayhawk teammate Aquib Talib. One question is who will replace Champ Bailey, who recently signed with the New Orleans Saints? When healthy, Bailey played a lot in the slot in the nickel formation and split time with Tony Carter and rookie Kayvon Webster.
Tony Carter signed his free agent tender to come back to Denver, but there is no doubt the Broncos will add depth and draft a corner.
Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert tweeted that he will visit and work out with the Broncos. Gilbert more than likely won’t be around at 31 for the Broncos unless they trade up. Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller could be there at 31.
I personally like TCU's Jason Verrett to come in and play the slot.
The Broncos also had a lot of problems in the Super Bowl not being able to move the ball and protect Peyton Manning. That all comes down not being able to control the line of scrimmage. Denver had a lot of problems with the O-line, starting with All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady missing the entire season with a foot injury. There are now a lot of holes to fill on the line.
Pro Bowl left guard Zane Beadles took an offer he could not turn down with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Chris Kuper announced his retirement.
Clady will be back to protect Manning's blind side, but who will block to Clady’s right? Orlando Franklin confirmed via Twitter that he will start off OTAs at left guard. Franklin played guard at the University of Miami and then played right tackle after getting drafted in 2011. Louis Vasquez will stay at right guard after earning All-Pro honors last season, and Chris Clark will move to right tackle.
Who will play center? Manny Ramirez started every game last season snapping the ball to a five-time NFL MVP. Elway also brought in Montgomery to compete for the starting center role.
Denver could go offensive line in the first round with No.1-ranked center Weston Richburg from Colorado State or hope that UCLA’s top guard Xavier Su'a-Filo or Stanford’s David Yankey will still be available when the Broncos make their first-round selection.
The Broncos can make some noise and draft well despite their late picks in each round or they can even trade up for that "must-have player". Denver must draft well to get over that elusive Super Bowl hump.