Denver Broncos: How defensive position groups stack up in AFC West

The AFC West is loaded with talent on the defensive side of the ball heading into 2020. How do the Denver Broncos stack up at each position group?

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DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 10: Defensive end Shelby Harris #96 of the Denver Broncos celebrates after a sack against the New York Jets at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on December 10, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

The Denver Broncos have made a variety of moves they hope will catapult them into the playoff picture. The rest of AFC West has also made a significant amount of moves to bring in talent this offseason to compete with the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Cheifs.

I broke down each position group in the AFC West and provided scores from 1 (Cannot Compete) to 10 (Elite). Most average units rank between 6 and 7.

The first article takes a look at how the Broncos stack up at each offensive positional group.

Defensive Line

Denver: DE Jurrell Casey, DT Mike Purcell, DE Shelby Harris

Shelby Harris had his best year in 2019 and returned for his third season in Orange and Blue. Harris provides a strong interior pass rush (6 sacks in 2019) along with a knack for knocking down passes at key times (2018 vs Pittsburg; 2019 vs Oakland).

Mike Purcell was entered in the lineup in the fifth game of the season and provided the team with a dominant run defender, turning in to a key cog in the defensive resurgence. John Elway robbed Tennesse by brining in perennial Pro-Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey to replace Derek Wolfe.

Not only can Casey replace Wolfe, but he may also be one of the few options available to provide the team with an upgrade. Look for this group to wreak havoc all year in 2020. 8.0

Kansas City: DE Frank Clark, DT Chris Jones, DT Derrick Nnadi, DE Alex Okafor

Kansas City's defense starts up front with two of the league's highest-paid defenders in Frank Clark and Chirs Jones. Clark was exactly what the team needed and provided a dominant edge defender capable of changing a game to compliment Jones a superior interior lineman.

Alex Okafor provides a quality bookend that can advantage of being singled up on 3rd down. Derrick Nnadi is a quality run defender but provides little push in the middle. 8.0

Los Angeles: DE Joey Bosa, DT Linval Joseph, DT Justin Jones, DE Melvin Ingram

Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are back together for another season terrorizing opposing quarterbacks. Bosa gets the name recognition, but Ingram has been the more consistent contributor over the last several years.

The team brought in Linval Joseph who should provide quite a push from the middle. Justin Jones is a young player who has yet to make a place in the NFL. 8.0

Las Vegas: DE Clelin Ferrell, DT Maliek Collins, DT Johnathan Hankins, DE Maxx Crosby

Maxx Crosby was a find in the mid-rounds of the 2019 draft. He is relentless and provides the team with a top pass rusher.

Clelin Ferrell, the 4th overall selection in the 2019 draft is flushed with talent but struggled throughout the season to provide consistent pressure on the other side. Maliek Collins comes over from the Cowboys and is capable of pushing the pocket. Johnathan Hankins is strictly a run stuffer. 7.0


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DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 01: Linebacker Alexander Johnson #45 of the Denver Broncos stands on the field before a game against the Los Angeles Chargers at Empower Field at Mile High on December 1, 2019, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

Denver: LB Von Miller, LB Bradley Chubb, LB Alexander Johnson, LB Todd Davis

The Broncos have one of the NFL's best edge pairings in the NFL. Though Bradley Chubb is returning from injury, he is looking to earn Comeback Player of the Year. Von Miller had a reduction in sacks last year but was disruptive throughout the season.

Chubb was often double and triple-teamed, allowing others to have one on one matchups. Alexander Johnson changes the defense with his emergence, consistently making splash plays. Johnson will team up with Todd Davis who is the quarterback of the defense. 9.0

Kansas City: LB Anthony Hitchens, LB Damien Wilson, LB Willie Gay Jr.

Anthony Hitchens has been a solid contributor since arriving in 2018. Damien Wilson played okay with 81 combined tackles but was subbed out often in passing downs. Willie Gay Jr. was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2020 draft and brings an abundance of athleticism to the group.

However, Gay Jr. is raw and may need some time to adapt before he makes an impact. 6.5

Las Vegas: LB Cory Littleton, LB Nick Kwiatkoski, LB Nicholas Morrow

The Raiders struggled mightily in the second level of their defense for years. So, Gruden and GM Mike Mayock went out and spent some money, bringing in Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski.

Littleton has been a standout for the Los Angeles Rams for the past few years and brings athleticism and smarts the position. The Raiders are banking on Kwiatkoski translating limited production as a top backup in Chicago into an impactful presence the team desperately needs.

Though Kwiatkoski may be an upgrade, he may not be a dynamic difference-maker. Nicholas Morrow rounds out the group but is a player the team should look to challenge in camp. 6.5

Los Angeles: LB Nick Vigil, LB Denzel Perryman, LB Kenneth Murray

The Chargers will roll with Denzel Perryman in the middle for year six. Perryman is an average defender offering minimal impact as a pass rusher or pass defender.

The team then went out brought in Nick Vigil to man one flank and drafted Kenneth Murray in the first round to take the other side.

Vigil is a solid contributor over the past few years and will be an upgrade for the team as a strong-side linebacker in the 4-3. Murray is an above-average athlete who brings some tenacity to the group. However, Murray's ability to cover is strictly based on his traits and not on his production in college. 7.0

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DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 17: Safety Justin Simmons #31 of the Denver Broncos chats with wide receiver Demarcus Robinson #11 of the Kansas City Chiefs after a play during the third quarter at Empower Field at Mile High on October 17, 2019, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

Denver: CB A.J. Bouye, CB Bryce Callahan, CB De'Vante Bausby, S Kareem Jackson, S Justin Simmons

The Broncos lost cornerback Chris Harris to the Chargers but quickly jumped on bringing in A.J. Bouye. Bouye is a former Pro-Bowl defender who is a perfect fit for Fangio's defense. Callahan produced at a high level for Fangio in 2018 with Chicago but missed 2019 with an injury. He will be counted on to rebound.

De'Vante Bausby was playing very well before going down for the year. Kareem Jackson and Justin Simmons formed one of the league's best safety duos. Jackson transition to safety for the first time in 2019 and made plays all over the field. Simmons's play earned him 2nd team All-Pro, and he can still get better. 7.5

Las Vegas: CB Trayvon Mullen, CB Damon Arnette, CB Prince Amukamara, CB/S Lamarcus Joyner, S Johnathan Abram, S Damarious Randall

The Raiders have turned over this group entirely in two seasons. Trayvon Mullen played well as the season went on after experiencing early-season growing pains. Lamarcus Joyner provided the team with a chess piece to cover the slot.

Johnathan Abrams was hurt in the first game of the year but seems to as hitter he was advertised to be. Damon Arnette and Prince Amukamara may be solid contributors, but will most likely be picked on as CB2's. Damarious Randall is a versatile defender who plays similarly to Joyner. 6.5

Los Angeles: CB Desmond King, CB Chris Harris, CB Casey Hayward, S Derwin James, S Rayshawn Jenkins

The strength of the Chargers defense got stronger with the addition of Chris Harris. Though Harris may be a bit old for the position, his impact as a slot defender cannot be understated. Desmond King and Casey Hayward are both solid cornerbacks who make big plays.

Derwin James is the ultimate chess piece and can impact the game in a variety of ways. Jenkins filled in nicely at the end of the season and will get a chance to earn the spot permanently. 8.5

Kansas City: CB Bashaud Breeland, CB Charvarius Ward, CB Rashad Fenton, S Juan Thornhill, S Tyrann Mathieu

The Chiefs secondary is led by All-World Tyrann Mathieu, who shows his impact all season. Charvarius Ward and Rashad Fenton played well enough opposite Bashaud Breeland but can be picked on by opposing quarterbacks.

Breeland played well but will miss time this year after being suspended by the league. Juan Thornhill was a wonderful partner opposite Mathieu before being injured. If healthy, Thornhill and Mathieu will form one of the league's better duos. 7.0

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Special Teams

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DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 22: Placekicker Brandon McManus #8 of the Denver Broncos kicks a 34-yard field goal on hold from Colby Wadman #6 during the second quarter against the Detroit Lions at Empower Field at Mile High on December 22, 2019, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

Denver: PK Brandon McManus, P Sam Martin, Returner Diontae Spencer

Brandon McManus provides consistency inside 50 yards and also hit several bit kicks from outside 50. Sam Marin is a solid addition and will provide the team with more opportunities to flip field position that simply hasn't been there in the last few years. Diontae Spencer provided a spark to the return game and looks to build on that again in 2020. 7.0

Las Vegas: PK Daniel Carlson, P AJ Cole III, Returner Jalen Richard

Daniel Carlson was below-average in 2020 and needs to rebound for the team to capitalize on scoring opportunities. AJ Cole was kicked well and provided the team with a 46.0 yard average on punts in 2019. Jalen Richard was safe if unspectacular and should be in the spot again. 6.5

Los Angeles: PK Michael Badgley, P Ty Long, Returner Desmond King

Michael Badgley performed well when he was given the opportunity. Ty Long not only contributed well in the punt game with a 47.0-yard average but chipped in with 4/5 on FGA. Desmond King is one of the team's best returners. 7.0

Kansas City: PK Harrison Butker, P Tyler Newsom, Returner Mecole Hardman

Harrison Butker provides the team with consistent kicking on the rare occasion Mahomes doesn't find the endzone. Tyler Newsome will get the first crack after the release of Dustin Colquitt. Mecole Hardman is an electric returner who makes ST coordinators worried every time he touches the ball. 8.0

Based on the breakdown of each team's positional group, the Denver Broncos are positioned squarely in second place in the AFC West.

There's no surprise that the Chiefs man the top spot, but there is a noticeable gap between Denver and the Chargers at number 3 and the Raiders at number 4.

Below is a visual breakdown of how the teams stack up.

AFC West   Coach QB   RB  REC  OL   DL   LB    SEC   ST    Total
KC                 9.5      10    7.5  9.0   7.5   8.0  6.5  7 8     7.0   73.5

Denver        7.5      7.5   8.5  7.5   7.0   8.0  9.0  7.5     7.0   69

LA                 7.0      6.5   7.0  8.0   7.0   8.0  7.0   8.5    7.0   66

LV                 7.5       7.0  7.5  7.5    8.0  7.0  6.5   6.5     6.5  64.5

Next: How the Broncos stack up on offense vs. the AFC West

There's no surprise that the Chiefs man the top spot, but there is a noticeable gap between Denver and the Chargers at number 3 and the Raiders at number 4.