Florida State defensive end Cornellius Carradine is shown during the...

Florida State defensive end Cornellius Carradine is shown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Miami. (Oct. 20, 2012) Credit: AP

The first round of the 2013 NFL Draft kicks off April 25, and every team will look to build for both present and future. This is the 26th in a two-a-day, 30-part series that looks at each team and which potential first-round picks would be a good fit.


2012 record: 13-3

Key offseason acquisitions:

Wes Welker, wide receiver

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, cornerback

Terrance Knighton, defensive tackle

Louis Vasquez, guard

Stewart Bradley, linebacker

Key offseason departures:

Tracy Porter, cornerback

Elvis Dumervil, defensive end

D.J. Williams, linebacker

Justin Bannan, defensive tackle

Dan Koppen, center

Brandon Stokley, wide receiver

Biggest holes in roster: Defensive end, safety, cornerback, linebacker, defensive tackle

Denver made what many people will call the splashiest free-agent signing, signing ex-Patriot Wes Welker to a two-year deal. But as happy as that deal may have made Peyton Manning -- who wouldn't want your rival QB's top pass-catcher? -- it did nothing to address the team's defense.

The Broncos allowed the second fewest yards and fourth fewest points in 2012, yet each unit comes into the draft with question marks. The secondary, which was stout during the regular season, now looks suspect after getting torched by Joe Flacco in the playoffs. D.J. Williams, who provided some versatility at linebacker, is now a Bear. And the Elvis Dumervil fax fiasco means that Von Miller is now the team's only bona fide pass rusher.

Of all the needs on defense, that last one may be what the Broncos choose to address first in the draft. Florida State defensive end Cornellius "Tank" Carradine could be worth a look. The former JUCO transfer was having a great senior campaign, racking up 11 sacks and 80 tackles (13 for a loss) in 12 games last year. He displayed good speed and the strength to shed blockers and get to the ballcarrier. Then Carradine tore his ACL on Nov. 24 against Florida, and his draft stock plummeted from a top 15 pick to a fringe first-rounder. He impressed at a workout last Saturday, running 4.75 seconds in the 40-yard dash just 135 days after surgery. If the Broncos believe he has fully recovered, then he might be a steal this late in the draft.

Another, more intriguing option: SMU's Margus Hunt. The 6-8, 277-pound Estonian put on a clinic at the Combine, clocking a 4.60 in the 40 at the Combine and putting up 38 reps in the bench press (the latter of which was tied for No. 1 at the Combine). He wasn't just a workout warrior, though - he finished his Mustangs career with 28 sacks and an eye-opening 17 blocked kicks. He's inconsistent, but his ability to bat down passes at the line of scrimmage reminds many scouts of J.J. Watt, which is high praise for any defensive prospect.

There's also the defensive backfield that needs addressing. The Broncos have said that they are sticking with Rahim Moore, even after Jacoby Jones burned him for a 70-yard touchdown in the final seconds of the AFC divisional round, but they need someone to pair with him. FIU's John Cyprien and LSU's Eric Reid (if he's still available) could be tabbed at no. 27. They could also take a cornerback to groom for Champ Bailey's eventual retirement. Boise State's Jamar Taylor, Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks or Houston's D.J. Hayden are all options in that scenario.

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