Broncos bolster defense but don't grab a tackle

By Arnie Stapleton

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, April 30 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

Denver Broncos vice president John Elway discusses this year's NFL draft during a news conference at the football team's headquarters in Englewood, Colo., on Saturday, April 30, 2011.

Ed Andrieski, Associated Press

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos used the draft to infuse athleticism into their defense, a nastiness into their offensive line and some much-needed youth into their secondary.

They still have a huge hole in their defensive line, though.

"We had a lot of holes," coach John Fox said. "You can't fill them all in just this draft."

So, they'll have to address their biggest deficiency — run-stuffer — in free agency, whenever that comes.

Of the nine picks the Broncos had, they used six of them on defense, selecting three linebackers, two safeties and a defensive end. On offense, they selected a right tackle and two tight ends.

But they didn't address their greatest need: defensive tackle.

"We looked hard at the defensive line until the last pick," John Elway said following his first draft as the Broncos' chief of football operations.

The Broncos went into their first draft with the new front office trio of Elway, Fox and general manager Brian Xanders in need of a major makeover on defense, and they took four defensive players with their first five picks, including pass-rusher Von Miller of Texas A&M and middle linebacker Nate Irving, who survived a horrific car accident that cost him his 2009 season at N.C. State.

Their biggest need was at tackle after ranking 31st in the league against the run last season, surrendering a whopping 155 yards a game on the ground. And this draft was especially deep on defensive tackles.

Elway said he wanted to build the foundation of the team through the draft, but they bypassed the top-rated D-tackle in Alabama's Marcell Dareus with the second overall pick in favor of Miller.

"Two great players," Elway said. "Obviously, Dareus is going to have a great career. I just think when we looked at Von, the difference to me was he's one of those guys that comes around once in 10 years."

When the Broncos traded down in the second round, they lost out on the chance to get Clemson's Jarvis Jenkins but run-stuffers Stephen Paea and Marvin Austin were still available when they were on the clock with Nos. 45 and 46 and instead chose Rahim Moore of UCLA and Miami offensive lineman Orlando Franklin, who has a nasty streak the Broncos loved.

They stuck to the philosophy of not drafting for need, which leads to reaches, Fox explained.

Elway said the Broncos talked about trading back up into the first round to select a premier defensive tackle when Nick Fairley slipped down the board — he eventually went 13th to Detroit — but "we just decided we were better off where we were."

Right now, the Broncos have Kevin Vickerson at D-tackle and they'll also have Marcus Thomas in the mix if free agency comes in under last year's rules whenever the labor impasse is resolved.

On Saturday, the Broncos selected AP All-America safety Quinton Carter of Oklahoma in the fourth round, one day after grabbing Moore in the second round.

Both said they count Broncos safety Brian Dawkins as their hero and look forward to learning from the 16-year pro who will be 38 next season.

Carter projects as a strong safety with Moore at free safety, "but I hate to pigeonhole them," Fox said. Fox said these selections don't mean Dawkins is on his way out, either.

"We just needed some youth and depth," Fox said.

The Broncos' incumbents in their defensive backfield are Dawkins and Renaldo Hill at safety and Champ Bailey and Andre' Goodman at cornerback. All are 32 years old except for Dawkins, who is 37.

Carter said he was surprised the Broncos selected him after picking Moore a day earlier.

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