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With The 31st Pick, The Broncos (Should) Take …

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Brett Heinzerling By Brett Heinzerling
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First of all, let me preface this by saying just because the Broncos HAVE the 31st overall pick in this week’s draft, doesn’t mean they’ll use that pick. As General Manager John Elway (that’s a lot easier to type than his other title, Executive Vice President of Football Operations) indicated earlier this week, they could trade up, they could trade down, or they could stand pat. Thanks for clearing that up.

That being said, my lasting memory of the previous season is the Broncos walking off the field in New Jersey, heads down, shoulders slumping. I don’t even remember the score because I, too, had my head down and shoulders slumped for a good portion of the “game.” I learned a few things while watching the not-so-Super-Bowl. Most of what I learned is what the Broncos need to change, to add, to subtract during the offseason, and what better time to spout my opinions than now, days before the draft.

Here are their needs to avoid repeating last season’s demoralizing ending:

- They NEED a cover-corner who can COVER. And with all due respect to Champ Bailey, he should have switched to safety a couple years ago. Wait, they signed Aqib Talib and Chris Harris (Jr.) will be back next season? OK, forget this need.

- They NEED another proven pass rusher to actually fill the shoes left by Elvis Dumervil to compliment the great (and hopefully healthy) Von Miller. DeMarcus Ware, you say? Nice! I’ll take it!

DeMarcus Ware (credit: CBS)

DeMarcus Ware (credit: CBS)

- They need a hitter at safety. I grew up watching Steve Atwater strike fear into anyone willing to go across the middle, then he’d simply STRIKE said player. Enter T.J. Ward. I like what you did there, Elway.

- They could use a backup quarterback. I’m not entirely sure even I agree with this, I just truly have no idea. Brock might turn into a great signal-caller once 18 hangs up the cleats. But until it happens (hopefully after a couple more seasons and a Super Bowl win) we’ll never know what a 6-foot-8 quarterback can do as a full time passer (Side-note, there is absolutely zero chance Denver drafts a QB on Day 1)

What Denver really needs, in my estimation, and what they were sorely lacking against a team that has it in droves, is toughness. They need an edge and an attitude. That’s not Peyton Manning’s game. He’s a surgeon, not a butcher. The Broncos need to get that out of someone else on the roster, and we all learned the hard way last year that that someone was not on that roster. I hope they have already used free agency to add attitude, because I certainly think they have added some very solid players.

Broncos draft picks Derek Wolfe, Brock Osweiler and Ronnie Hillman pose for a photo in April 2012. (credit: CBS)

Broncos draft picks Derek Wolfe, Brock Osweiler and Ronnie Hillman pose for a photo in April 2012. (credit: CBS)

I’m less sure, though, if it’s wise to try to add toughness in the draft. They thought they added a guy that will play with an edge when they called Derek Wolfe’s name, and they may have, we just don’t know yet. But “tough” can’t be measured at the Combine, it can’t be put on display in shorts at a staged pro-day. It has to be proven on the field. And, quite frankly, I’m not sure it can even be proven on the college field. Anyone that hears his name called at Radio City Music Hall will need to play against the grown men of the NFL if he wants to demonstrate that combination of talent and attitude that Denver so desperately needs.

In the end, they need a right tackle, and I’m willing to bet that’s the position they go with Day 1. Peyton the quarterback and John the ex-quarterback know how important protection is, and they’ll go that route. And they should. Let’s all just hope that the right tackle they draft is tough and plays a little mean.

Or they’ll take an inside linebacker named Ryan Shazier. Yeah, that’s my guess.

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