NFL Draft Needs: Denver Broncos still need a linebacker, might draft a starter

Frank Schwab
NFL Draft Needs: Denver Broncos still need a linebacker, might draft a starter

Before the NFL draft on May 8-10, we'll be looking at all the key prospects and also breaking them down by position. In our "Draft Needs" series we will also examine which teams will be in the market at each position, looking to fill their remaining roster holes.


Denver Broncos: John Elway's shopping spree improved the roster, but the GM did strike out and miss on finding a new inside linebacker. The Broncos kicked the tires on a few of the notable linebackers on the market but still haven't landed one, which puts them at the front of the line for a new inside linebacker in the draft. With a team that is built to win now, drafting for need makes sense, so it would be a surprise if the team didn't fix its patchwork middle linebacker issue early in the draft. The problem is they have the 31st pick. The Broncos might not have a chance to land C.J. Mosley, the top inside linebacker, but it's easy to see them ending up with a thumper like Wisconsin's Chris Borland. NEED LEVEL: Extremely high

Washington Redskins: Perry Riley is an underrated player, and it was wise for the Redskins to re-sign him this offseason. The other inside linebacker spot is a mystery after London Fletcher retired. Akeem Jordan, who signed a one-year deal this offseason, is an option. So is Keenan Robinson. But the Redskins will want to find a long-term solution. It wouldn't be a surprise to see them use a relatively high pick on the position, though there are a few needs on this team. NEED LEVEL: High

Pittsburgh Steelers: With Larry Foote gone, the Steelers have Lawrence Timmons and little else in the middle. Free-agent addition Arthur Moats is decent, and Sean Spence might be an option if he ever could stay healthy, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Steelers try to find a difference maker to go next to Timmons. It seems like they have other needs to fill at No. 15, but a Mosley-Timmons duo inside would be pretty wicked. NEED LEVEL: Medium

Other teams in need: Green Bay, New Orleans, New England


Atlanta Falcons: Whether you want to classify their scheme as a 4-3 or a 3-4, the Falcons need a pass rusher for it. If they stay at No. 6, outside linebacker Khalil Mack makes a ton of sense for them, if he's there. If Mack is gone, maybe Anthony Barr of UCLA makes sense. Atlanta had 32 sacks last year, only one more than the Bears and Jaguars, who were tied for fewest in the NFL. Atlanta needs to come up with a top pass rusher in this draft. It would be a big surprise if they don't come up with one, using the sixth pick to fill that hole. NEED LEVEL: Very high

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles came into free agency needing a pass rusher, and weren't able to address that need. So it should be a top priority in the draft. The Eagles have Trent Cole, who led the team with eight sacks last year, but he's 31 and his cap number almost doubles to $11.625 million next year. Philadelphia is building a contender, but the lack of a young edge rusher is a major hole that needs to be filled. NEED LEVEL: Very high

San Francisco 49ers: The Aldon Smith situation has reached a level in which the 49ers have to be prepared in case he is suspended or the small chance he is not with San Francisco in 2014. And even if Smith is there in 2014, his status in 2015 and beyond is shaky at best. The problem is, it's incredibly hard to replace a player like Smith, and good luck doing it with the 30th pick of the draft. It's hard to see the 49ers being able to trade up far enough to get one of the elite rush linebackers like Barr, but maybe someone like BYU's Kyle Van Noy will be a possibility. NEED LEVEL: High

Other teams in need: Houston, New Orleans, Cincinnati, San Diego

NFL Draft Needs seriesApril 18: Linebacker
April 19: Defensive line
April 20: Offensive line
April 21: Running back
April 22: Receiver/tight end
April 23: Quarterback
April 24: Defensive back
April 25: Running back

- - - - - - -

Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!