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2014 NFL Draft primer: Denver Broncos

Texas Christian defensive back Jason Verrett warms up

Texas Christian defensive back Jason Verrett warms up at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. Credit: AP / Michael Conroy

This is the latest primer in our NFL Draft two-a-days that looks at each team and which potential first-round picks would be a good fit. The draft begins Thursday, May 8.


2013 record: 13-3

Key offseason acquisitions: CB Aqib Talib, DE/OLB DeMarcus Ware, SS T.J. Ward, WR Emmanuel Sanders.

Key offseason departures: WR Eric Decker, CB Champ Bailey, G Zane Beadles, KR Trindon Holliday, RB Knowshon Moreno, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, MLB Wesley Woodyard, OLB Shaun Phillips.

Biggest holes: Guard, cornerback, linebacker.

The Broncos are going all in.

After a 43-8 shellacking at the hands of the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII, Denver reloaded. They scooped up a lot of the bigger names in free agency, including Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware and T.J. Ward. That splurge allows them to consider the "best player available" approach in the first round.

They have some needs still, including a cornerback opposite Talib. Champ Bailey and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are both gone, and Chris Harris is coming off a torn ACL. By this point, though, most (if not all) of the top cornerback prospects will be off the board, so it'll be slim pickings for the Broncos.

Of the top cornerbacks, TCU's Jason Verrett is the most likely to fall to the Broncos. Verrett is small at 5-9, 189 pounds, but he's an athletic, aggressive ball-hawk with good technique and instincts. He could start off in the slot and eventually move to the outside.

There's also a chance that Ohio State's Bradley Roby falls here. Roby has excellent speed (4.39-second 40 at the Combine) and athleticism, but he was inconsistent at times during his junior season with the Buckeyes (the most notable moment coming against Wisconsin, when he was torched by projected mid-round pick Jared Abbrederis for 10 catches, 207 yards and a touchdown). If he can show that his focus issues are a thing of the past, he would be a solid pick here.

The Broncos also could use a guard to replace Zane Beadles, who left for Jacksonville. UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo could be the pick if they want to address that need in the first round. Su'a-Filo is an athletic lineman who is good when asked to block on the move, whether it's in the second level or pulling on a counter run.

They also could take Nevada lineman Joel Bitonio. Bitonio played tackle in college, but his 6-4, 302-pound frame suggests that he's better suited inside in the pros. He tested toward the top of the class in the 40 (4.97 seconds), vertical jump (32 inches), broad jump (114 inches), three-cone drill (7.37 seconds) and 20-yard shuttle (4.44 seconds). He's a smart, tough, lineman who shouldn't have a problem finding a home at the next level.

The Broncos also may address the middle linebacker position now that Wesley Woodyard is a Titan. There aren't too many pure middle linebackers available here, but Ohio State's Ryan Shazier could be an intriguing possibility if he slides this far. He was a run-and-chase Will linebacker in college but has the overall athleticism to play in the middle. Shazier reportedly clocked a 4.36 40 at his Pro Day. He's a strong tackler and is also very good in coverage, making him an every down player.

Possible mid-round and late-round options include Florida cornerbacks Marcus Roberson and Jaylen Watkins, Florida State CB/S Lamarcus Joyner, Mississippi State guard Gabe Jackson, LSU guard Trai Turner, Wisconsin MLB Chris Borland and UConn MLB Yawin Smallwood.

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