It's not Roy Hibbert. Or a Dunkin Donut. But the Broncos have a potential hole in the middle. They insist they are covered with linebacker Nate Irving.

But it would surprise no one if Denver traded up to the middle of the first round of the NFL draft Thursday to acquire a linebacker. Alabama's C.J. Mosley tops most teams' draft boards at the position, drawing comparisons to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Lavonte David, a player the Broncos passed on three years ago, much to their regret.

The Buffalo Bills (ninth overall), Baltimore Ravens (17th) and Green Bay Packers (21st) have been connected to Mosley in predraft chatter. He visited the Broncos but remains a longshot for them. Regardless, Mosley is expected to be chosen Thursday, despite teams' reluctance to invest heavily on inside linebackers and concerns about his durability because of injuries.

"He's considered a first-round pick, eight to 21. He's a great cover guy," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. "Inside linebackers have been phased out in importance of getting to the running back. You have to cover or pressure the quarterback."

The Broncos find themselves in an interesting situation with the 31st overall selection. It's a potential hot spot for deals, given the fifth-year option for first-round picks. If a quarterback falls in the first round, and many experts believe Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater will, another team could frantically dial up the Broncos, handing them a draft pick in exchange.

Broncos general manager John Elway said the free-agent addition of T.J. Ward, a linebacker in safety's clothing, provides freedom in how they address inside linebacker.

"I don't know that it's necessarily a need," Elway said. "We feel pretty good about Nate, especially on first and second down. When we look at it, we're more concerned with third down, the nickel backer on third down. Ward does a tremendous job in the box, so he could be that guy. We are fortunate that we don't have huge holes."

But the Broncos need a linebacker, even if it's not Mosley.