- Jeff Legwold, ESPN Staff Writer
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After their free-agency binge, the Denver Broncos had just one significant hole on the depth chart when they were done doling out the checks -- middle linebacker.
And while executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway has said he always hopes the team can use free agency to "fill glaring needs" so the Broncos can use the draft to take the best player available, the draft could provide some help. Linebacker is certainly still a need, especially with no proven starter in the middle and Von Miller coming back from ACL surgery at the strongside spot. There are some intriguing prospects at the position for the Broncos who could be available at various spots on the board.
In the first round, there is Alabama's C.J. Mosley. Mosley is athletic, instinctive and tough; in short, he's the whole package and would likely be a walk-in starter for the Broncos or any other tam that selects him. Sitting with the 31st pick of the first round, the Broncos would need a pile of good fortune to even have a shot at Mosley.
The only significant criticism people have of Mosley, especially after he ran so well at his pro day, is his injury history. Though Mosley played in all 13 games for the Crimson Tide this past season, he skipped the 40-yard dash at the combine because of a sore hip and knee.
Mosley suffered a gruesome left hip dislocation in January 2012 and had an elbow injury in '11. But it is the hip injury that concerns some teams, as some personnel folks have said it could potentially be a problem down the road. Mosley also had shoulder surgery before his senior season.
But his football ability is undeniable. On a Crimson Tide defense filled with athletic, instinctive and savvy players, Mosley led the team in tackles with 108, which was 38 more than any other player.
In the middle rounds, there is Louisville's Preston Brown, who has also visited the Broncos in recent weeks. Brown, at 251 pounds, didn't run as well as Mosley did in pre-draft workouts but he had a nice showing of 4.79 in his 40-yard dash at his pro day.
Brown, an inside linebacker, led the Cardinals with 98 tackles this past season, with 12.5 tackles for loss. He played in 52 games in his career and a look at his game video shows a player comfortable in his pass drops. And when Elway evaluates prospects, he's always looking for three-down linebackers strong enough to hold up in the run game and athletic enough to contribute at least some in pass coverage, which is why Kentucky's Avery Williamson is a third-day option as well.
And then under the radar is a potential outside linebacker who certainly deserves some of the Broncos’ attention in Texas-El Paso's James Davidson. Davidson played as a 235-pound defensive end for the Miners and is an answer to a football trivia question.
Davidson turned the trick in November in UTEP's 57-7 loss to Texas A&M. Manziel threw six touchdown passes in the game, but Davidson collected two sacks along the way. Davidson likely deserves more pre-draft love than he's gotten along the way, but he fits the profile of a guy who played on a bad team getting lost in the shuffle a bit.
The Miners were 2-10 and surrendered at least 32 points in nine games. But Davidson showed some skills despite plenty of attention from offenses and his defense almost never getting to play with the lead. There's potential there for anybody willing to give him a shot.