The Broncos reached the NFL's Elite Eight last season. That makes it easy to forget that:
1. They only won eight games last year.
2. They were extremely lucky to win those eight games. They were blown out five times, including in the playoffs.
After the Broncos added Peyton Manning, the team was immediately hailed as Super Bowl contenders. We wouldn't be so sure. With a brutal schedule on tap, the Broncos will have to play much better just to win eight games again. And they have all sorts of weak spots on the depth chart. We're doing a series on five teams that desperately need to have a strong draft in April. The Broncos were the first team to come to mind. Consider the roster holes:
Backup quarterback: The team has Caleb Hanie there now. Bears fans will tell you that is no solution, especially when Manning is a massive injury risk. The Broncos may use an early pick on a quarterback of the future.
Center: You never want to go into a draft needing a starter. That's what the Broncos may be facing with the center position after swinging and missing on Jeff Saturday.
Running back: The team can't count on a repeat season from Willis McGahee. Anything they get from Knowshon Moreno is a bonus. They want a rookie that can play.
Nose tackle: The team is wildly thin at defensive tackle after Brodrick Bunkley left. Ty Warren is on the roster, but he hasn't played in two years.
Linebacker: Joe Mays is a mediocre starter in the middle and D.J. Williams is suspended the first six games of the season.
Secondary: John Elway signed two starters (Mike Adams and Tracy Porter), but this group badly needs depth. You could argue that Manning still needs more weapons at wide receiver as well.
Add it all up, and the Broncos had an average roster at best before Manning arrived. This is a team that needs rookies to play key roles this year, or Denver could fall well short of their now-lofty expectations.