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Denver Broncos 2014 Draft Preview
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - If you were thinking the Denver Broncos' 43-8 thumping at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII would cause Peyton Manning to ponder his football mortality, think again.
The reigning NFL MVP, who turned 38 in March, surfaced in Denver last month for the first time this offseason, and flashed a sense of urgency highlighted by his organization's high-profile dealings in free agency.
"I feel that I have a responsibility to the team to be on top of my game," Manning said before his appearance as a guest speaker for the local Boy Scouts of America's annual sports breakfast. "That's what I think about every day when I lift weights and throw with my receivers -- doing my job to help the Denver Broncos."
A win in the big game had many speculating that Manning could stop playing and ride off into the sunset as a champion with his second Lombardi Trophy -- legacy stamped, a thought process fueled by the fact that the five-time MVP admitted he could see the "light at the end of the tunnel" of his playing career.
Only Manning knows if that's how things would have shaken out if Denver bested Seattle, but the Seahawks' rout ensured there would be no happy ending to his fairy tale, at least in 2014.
Any remaining doubts Manning would be back for another run at the game's ultimate prize ended in March when he was formally cleared to play after an exam on his surgically repaired neck.
Like most, Manning was very impressed by John Elway's handiwork in free agency which resulted in a haul that not only placed receiver Emmanuel Sanders in the Rocky Mountains but also high-profile defensive targets like pass rusher DeMarcus Ware, shutdown cornerback Aqib Talib and ascending young safety T.J. Ward.
Denver was always going to be a serious threat to get back to the Super Bowl as long as Manning returned, but by "winning" free agency, the Broncos have seemingly lapped an AFC field they were already dominating.
The shelf life of this group remains about as lengthy as that gallon of milk you picked up last night. The future isn't what this team is about, though.
"I think you could look at a couple different places," NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said when asked about Denver's draft plans. "Obviously Eric Decker is gone so you've got an opportunity to put another player in that offense with Peyton Manning to be successful.
"And then when you look on the defensive side of the ball, the linebacker to me, you could continue to add a linebacker in there. But this team, when you look at it, there's some teams where these needs just jump off the page and you go, okay, man, they literally can't line up and play a game unless they get this solved. This Bronco team is pretty deep."
Perhaps but one spot does stand out a bit. The loss of Zane Beadles in free agency means the Broncos are thin at guard opposite Louis Vasquez. Xavier Su'a Filo, the most experienced and NFL-ready member of UCLA's impressive O-line, might be a nice get with the 31st overall pick and he could step right in as a starter.
"I you're trying to add to that depth, I still say offensive line is still a spot they could take a look at," Jeremiah's colleague Charles Davis said. "The pressure Seattle bought to them in the Super Bowl to get in Peyton's face really, really hurt them."
2013 Record: 13-3
Top Needs: OG, LB, RB, QB
First Three Picks: No. 31, No. 63, No. 95
Number of Selections: 7 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
CALLING THE SHOTS: You build through the draft and take your shot in free agency when you think you are close. Elway has gone all-in for a second straight season and Denver will pay for it down the line but the Hall of Famer would have been derelict in his duty if he didn't do everything possible while Manning is still upright and playing at a superstar-like level.
RECENT FIRST ROUND HISTORY: 2013 - Sylvester Williams (DT, North Carolina); 2012 - none; 2011 - Von Miller (LB, Texas A&M); 2010 - Demaryius Thomas (WR, Georgia Tech), Tim Tebow (QB, Florida); 2009 - Knowshon Moreno (RB, Georgia), Robert Ayers (DE, Tennessee); 2008 - Ryan Clady (T, Boise State); 2007 - Jarvis Moss (DE, Florida); 2006 - Jay Cutler (QB, Vanderbilt); 2005 - none; 2004 - D.J. Williams (OLB, Miami-Florida); 2003 - George Foster (OT, Georgia).
05/02 12:04:23 ET