2013 Broncos draft team needs: Denver's direction depends on left tackle Ryan Clady

John Harris
Special to Yahoo! Sports

LAST SEASON Rush Offense - 114.5 ypg (16th)
Pass Offense - 283.4 ypg (5th)
Total Offense - 397.9 ypg (4th)
Scoring Offense - 30.1 ppg (2nd)
Rush Defense - 91.1 ypg (3rd)
Pass Defense - 199.6 ypg (3rd)
Total Defense - 290.8 ypg (2nd)
Scoring Defense - 18.1 ppg (4th) MOST PRESSING NEEDS Offense: Center and re-signing LT Ryan Clady
Defense: Interior defensive line and a secondary neutralizer


The Tim Tebow Experience turned into the Peyton Manning Show last season. Unfortunately, the Show got canceled a few weeks before a Super Bowl trip to Manning's childhood hometown of New Orleans. However, barring some unforeseen disaster, the Broncos quarterback situation is fairly clear-cut and no rookie in this class can, should or will get the call on draft weekend. Moving on.

Running Back The Draft Board

3rd round Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State (6-2, 244) 4th round Kenjon Barner, Oregon (5-9, 188)
Robbie Rouse, Fresno State (5-5, 186)
5th round Rex Burkhead, Nebraska (5-11, 210)
Dennis Johnson, Arkansas (5-9, 213)
Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt (5-9, 210)
Denard Robinson, Michigan (5-11, 195) 7th round Sam McGuffie, Rice (5-10, 200)

Although the Broncos' running game generated less than 115 yards per game, it's not an overt concern in Denver because the focus shifted to Manning and the passing game in 2012. That said, there's still a question as to what the Broncos will do with Willis McGahee. He'll turn 32 in October, almost ancient in running-back years, and could be a cap casualty. But given the ups and downs of his career, he still has some tread left. Knowshon Moreno and Ronnie Hillman, a 2012 third-round selection, have more explosiveness and younger legs. If the Broncos choose to release McGahee, who is returning from a broken leg, there are plenty of cheaper options in this draft on Day Three that could get snaps early.

If Denver decides to roll the dice late in the third round, Bell is an extremely intriguing choice. If you haven't seen Bell and know him only by his reported size, you'd probably think hulking goal-line or short-yardage back. Uh, not at all. He has great hands and will be an effective receiver out of the backfield in the screen game. From that perspective, he's not the only interesting option on this board. Rouse is a Jacquizz Rodgers clone; he might be short, but he's not small. Rouse is compact and powerful, but he's a guy that can make you miss in a phone booth. Watching him completely stonewall linebackers in the RB-LB blitz drill at the Senior Bowl should give Manning even further comfort in the pocket.

Wide Receiver The Draft Board

6tt round Emory Blake, Auburn (6-2, 193)
Jasper Collins, Mount Union (6-0, 190) 7th round Marcus Davis, Virginia Tech (6-3, 230)

The Broncos might have the best receiver duo in the league in Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas. But, behind them, the depth is shaky. Brandon Stokley is an unrestricted free agent, but he fits this offense perfectly as a third option behind Decker and Thomas. At 37, he probably has another year left and it makes sense to bring him back on a team-friendly deal. If those spots are locked up, then receiver isn't high on the priority list. However, finding some young wheels to be a potential clear-out, deep threat is part of the sixth or seventh round to-do list.

Blake is the son of former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Jeff Blake and that alone could be enticing to John Elway, Denver's President and GM, in the latter stages of this draft. The younger Blake had to suffer through two extremely difficult years with limited quarterback production after Cam Newton departed a year early. But, he can fly and will work at his craft to become a more complete receiver. Collins has true speed, and if he lights up the Combine field turf in the 40, he may not make it to the sixth round. Given the success of Jacksonville's Cecil Shorts, teams won't shy away from a Division III speedster. Davis has all the tools to be a good receiver, but his effort was questioned this past season. An on-line video has made the rounds highlighting (or lowlighting) his lack of desire for doing anything that didn't involve running routes in the passing game. That said, he's big, raw and little risk in the seventh round.

Tight End

Joel Dreesen and Jacob Tamme were perhaps even better than advertised after signing with the Broncos during the 2012 off-season. Given their presence, alongside two 2011 draft picks, the Broncos more than likely won't explore the tight end position in this year's draft.

Offensive line The Draft Board

2nd round C/G Barrett Jones, Alabama (6-3, 305)
C/G Travis Frederick, Wisconsin (6-4, 338) 3rd round T/G Justin Pugh, Syracuse (6-5, 301)
T/G Brian Winters, Kent State (6-4, 310) 4th round T/G David Quessenberry, San Jose State (6-4, 295) 5th round G J.C Tretter, Cornell (6-4, 302) 7th round C Matt Stankiewitch, Penn State (6-3, 303)

Let's keep this as simple as possible. The offensive line game plan this off-season begins and ends with three words: re-sign Ryan Clady. The Broncos could ultimately place the franchise tag on the former Boise State star and ensure that he's back at least for this season. Clady is level-headed about the tag, saying that he would like a long-term deal, but understands the situation and would be OK with the designation. If the free-agent Pro Bowl left tackle is brought back, then the Broncos' offensive line, as long as nearly everyone returns healthy, is left with only one other question: center. After being released by the Patriots last August, Dan Koppen signed with Denver in September and took over as the starter after JD Walton broke his ankle early in the season. Koppen signed a one-year deal and is now an unrestricted free agent. If he has another year left, it's hard to imagine Manning not wanting to have him in the lineup, given his understanding of line protections, audibles and adjustments. But if Walton is healthy, does he move back to center? Maybe it's option three which would be to draft a rookie center to compete with Koppen and/or Walton.

Versatility will mean a great deal to Elway. Nearly everyone on the board has the potential to play multiple positions, beginning with Jones, who started at all three positions at Alabama. Frederick moved over to center after playing guard in 2011. Winters has a guard's body, but he played left tackle at Kent State the last few years. Quessenberry showed versatility by going to the Senior Bowl and having a really good week at guard after playing tackle at San Jose State.

Defensive line The Draft Board

1st round DT Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State (6-3, 322)
DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida (6-3, 303)
DT John Jenkins, Georgia (6-3, 358)
DT Jesse Williams, Alabama (6-4, 320)
DT/DE Datone Jones, UCLA (6-4, 280) 5th round DT Everett Dawkins, Florida State (6-2, 288)
DT Bennie Logan, LSU (6-3, 295) 6th round DT Cory Grissom, USF (6-1, 313) 7th round DT Abry Jones, Georgia (6-3, 308)
DT Quinton Dial, Alabama (6-5, 318)

The rest of the Broncos' off-season questions are concentrated on the defensive line. Derek Wolfe is a future star and Elvis Dumervil mans the other defensive end position. But inside there are few answers on the roster. Kevin Vickerson and Justin Bannan are both unrestricted free agents with very little depth behind them. Unless Elway pulls a major upset and finds a ton of money under the salary cap to sign a free agent, the team's most significant draft need will be defensive tackle. The good news for the Broncos is that defensive line depth is deep in this draft, so the Broncos should emerge with a starter after a first-round selection and a rotational player later on Day Three.

This defensive tackle class has a little bit of something for everybody. Need a pure two gap DT? Jenkins fits that bill perfectly. Need strength and power to defeat double-teams unselfishly? Williams plays with great technique and rarely stays blocked. Need quickness and burst in small spaces? Floyd took his game to a different level by dominating with his athletic ability. Need a guy who could play any spot on the line? Hankins can play over the nose, as a 3-tech or even as a 4/5 technique two-gapping in some 4-3 over/under fronts. Need the most explosive player with the best upside who can play each position in this front? Jones is a physical specimen who can play every single spot, but might create the most havoc playing a 3-technique inside.

Linebackers The Draft Board

4th round ILB Kiko Alonso, Oregon (6-3, 242)
ILB Jon Bostic, Florida (6-1, 246) 6th round ILB Vince Williams, Florida State (6-1. 247)

After only two years in the league, Von Miller is the best edge player in the AFC. Wesley Woodyard had a great year, leading the team in tackles with 117. The only question here is what to do at middle linebacker. Ageless Keith Brooking is an unrestricted free agent and will be 38 by the end of October. For the production he provided, he was tremendous value in 2012, but counting on that to happen again in 2013 is a dicey proposition. Joe Mays couldn't get his job back from Brooking, so there seems to be little confidence that he can maintain the starting spot moving forward. An intriguing option to get a shot in the middle is 2011 third-rounder Nate Irving. Had Irving stayed healthy in his career at NC State, he would've been selected a round or two earlier. But on the surface, neither Brooking, Mays nor Irving generates a ton of confidence.

Alonso has, at a minimum, second-round ability, but there are issues that push him into the fourth round. He's had incidents at Oregon off the field and he may not interview well. But in a situation where he can come in, sit and learn behind a veteran, especially a guy such as Brooking, he could be the best fit long-term. Worst case, Alonso becomes a demon on special teams until he can grasp the defense and take his spot between Miller and Woodyard. Bostic is solid, if unspectacular, while Williams didn't live up to expectations for the most part. .

Secondary The Draft Board

3rd round S D.J Swearinger, South Carolina (5-11, 210) 4th round S T.J McDonald, USC (6-2, 210) 5th round CB/S Tyrann Mathieu, LSU (5-9, 178)
CB/S Micah Hyde, Iowa (6-1, 185) 6th round CB D.J Hayden, Houston (6-0, 190) 7th round S Cody Davis, Texas Tech (6-2, 204)

The immediate reaction post Ravens playoff loss was to fire everyone in the secondary. No question it was a tough night for nearly everyone involved in the back four, but making rash decisions won't further the cause in Denver. The cause, of course, is to win one for Elway and Peyton and Von too. Now, it's not perfect, but it's also not Doomsday either. Champ Bailey is aging and his performance in that playoff game could signal a downturn, but the Broncos have a group of younger corners to build upon if Bailey's near the end. Bailey may not want to do it, but if he moved to safety, it could extend his career a year or two. He'd be tremendous in the middle of the field and he'd strengthen that area of the defense. If Bailey stays at corner, the focus then turns to safety Rahim Moore. Can he bounce back from that playoff loss and his unfortunate gaffe of losing leverage on Ravens WR Jacoby Jones late in the game? The Broncos won't know that before April, but drafting for value and depth was already a focus heading into the off-season.

Swearinger is perhaps the most physical safety in this class and has absolutely no fear. The problem, if there is one, is that being a missile doesn't have a positive connotation in the new, safety-conscious NFL. That said, maintaining a physical presence in the middle of the field is a necessity, and Swearinger will do that. Making every tackle and wrapping up? Those are things he'll still need to work on. McDonald, son of former 49er Tim, had a tough year after returning as a senior to USC, hence his fourth-round grade. Mathieu is interesting. Sure, we're all aware of his off-the-field troubles, but what a chess piece he'd be, especially playing as a slot/nickel DB.

John Harris hosts The John Harris Show for Yahoo! Sports Radio.

Other popular content on Yahoo! Sports:
Bears head coach Marc Trestman excited to work with Jay Cutler
Was this NBA trade deadline the worst ever?
Texas is moving to an up-tempo offense this spring

What to Read Next