How confident should we be of each position on the Denver Broncos following the conclusion of the NFL Draft?
The Denver Broncos showed some positive things in 2019. Despite rolling with three separate quarterbacks throughout the year, Courtland Sutton managed to get 1,100 receiving yards, and Phillip Lindsay topped 1,000 rushing yards for the second year in a row.
The team added some key pieces in free agency and the 2020 NFL Draft to help them in places they struggled last year.
Consistency was something the Broncos lacked in 2019. They also got off to a poor start in terms of defensive pressure.
On paper, they looked like a solid team but just did not perform as well as Broncos fans would have hoped.
It is now a new year, with high expectations and the same goal: improve to a championship level.
I have rated each position on the Broncos roster on a scale of 1-10. One is the lowest amount of confidence we have at a position, with 10 being the highest.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know.
Drew Lock showed in his five games that there’s not a lot (or perhaps nothing that he’s seen yet) that pressures him to the point of no return.
Just like he said a while ago, the thumb injury he sustained in the preseason was the best thing that ever happened to him. He had time to learn the offense while not feeling the pressure to perform immediately.
It was like he took control of the offense as soon as he stepped foot onto the football field for his first game action.
Sure, it may be crazy to have this high of confidence in a guy who played five games, but it’s not like he stunk it up.
The Broncos wisely moved on from Joe Flacco after just one season, but maybe could have tried adding a more reliable backup than former Lion Jeff Driskel.
Running Back: 8
Both Phillip Lindsay and Melvin Gordon have shown that they can be really, really good running backs in this league. They have a couple of 1,000-yard seasons between them, with Lindsay having two, and Gordon with one, and an almost-1,000-yard season (997 in 2016).
They both have missed a little bit of time during their careers due to injury, but the hope is that this won’t be an issue anymore because of the shift in workload. Gordon is expected to see a significant snap count percentage, keeping Lindsay fresh.
On paper, this duo can be one of the best in the league, with Lindsay’s shiftiness and Gordon’s ability to catch the football out of the backfield. Denver’s 2020 opponents better watch out.
Wide Receiver: 7
The Broncos already had a 1,000-yard receiver (1,112) in Courtland Sutton. They needed to upgrade their depth outside of Sutton and they did that in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Last year, if I were doing this rating system, I’d give them a five, maybe a six. Now they added speed to the group and that’s an important factor in this rating.
Jerry Jeudy will automatically become the team’s number two receiver on the other side of the field, while K.J. Hamler will be their slot receiver (something they desperately needed to address).
While this position group was a huge weakness on the team just last year, the team certainly made an effort to address it.
Is eight a high rating for this group? It’s entirely possible. They will need to prove that they are worthy of that rating, but I honestly am very confident that they will do so.
Offensive Line: 6.5
The Broncos need stability across the offensive line. Garett Bolles improved over the 2020 season but apparently not enough to make the team confident enough to pick up his fifth-year team option. He also will be challenged by Elijah Wilkinson for the starting job.
The Broncos have another new starting center as Connor McGovern bolted to the Jets. They drafted LSU’s Lloyd Cushenberry who is expected to start.
Ja’Wuan James, after not playing a lot in 2019 due to injury, is a question mark. His potential is there but he needs to stay healthy.
The only stability across the offensive line is at left guard, where they have second-year player Dalton Risner. Risner was a big highlight from the 2019 season.
Tight End: 7
For me, this is a tough one to evaluate. Aside from Noah Fant, Nick Vannett, and Albert Okwuegbunam, there is competition at the position. That is if the Broncos keep four tight ends—which seems likely in my opinion.
The top performer at tight end for the Broncos last year was Noah Fant, who was just a rookie.
Outside of Fant is Jeff Heuerman, Albert Okwuegbunam, Jake Butt, Austin Fort, Troy Fumagalli, Andrew Beck, and Nick Vannett.
The Broncos could keep Beck due to his ability to play the fullback position when called upon.
Fant showed a lot of promise as a rookie and quickly made it known that he would become the team’s No. 1 tight end.
There will be a battle for the other one or two roster spots at the position. Who will step up? It is going to be one heck of a battle.
Defensive Line: 8
A big reason for this rating is due to the addition of Jurrell Casey via a trade with the Tennessee Titans.
Casey is a great nose tackle who can make plenty of tackles, as well as get to the quarterback. He has 51 career sacks.
Shelby Harris, Dre’Mont Jones, and DeMarcus Walker each showed some promise in their first year in Vic Fangio’s defense. Walker struggled as a rookie but was placed at linebacker. He finally found his way on the field and has made a strong impact.
Outside linebacker: 10
The Broncos’ outside linebacker group is very deep, with Von Miller and Bradley Chubb being the main men, and Jeremiah Attaochu being a solid backup. The team drafted NDSU pass rusher Derrek Tuszka, who played defensive end in college but will compete for snaps at outside linebacker.
Inside Linebacker: 7
At inside linebacker, Todd Davis and Alexander Johnson are currently the starters. Davis has had two consecutive seasons with 100+ tackles. Their depth at inside linebacker consists of Josey Jewell, Josh Watson, Justin Hollins, rookie Justin Strnad, and Joe Jones.
It will be good to see how much better Davis can get. We may have seen the best of Jewell this early in his career, and unfortunately, he has become a reserve. Strnad could see a good number of snaps as a rookie in 2020.
The top of the cornerback group is going to look a whole lot different in 2020 than it did in 2019. Chris Harris Jr. is gone, Bryce Callahan will get his first snap as a Bronco despite spending the whole year with the team last year (injured).
The Broncos also traded for A.J. Bouye, who becomes the top guy. I am extremely excited about this addition. Bouye is a good interceptor, as he has picked off fourteen passes in his career.
Behind Bouye and Callahan are Isaac Yiadom (who still has work to do to show that he can stick around), Davontae Harris, Duke Dawson, rookie Michael Ojemudia, Shakial Taylor, and De’Vante Bausby, who showed a lot of promise last year before getting hurt for the remainder of the season.
I’m a huge Bausby fan and think that he is a lock to make the team because of his efforts last season. He played in just five games but recorded 13 tackles and defended three passes.
Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson could be the best safety tandem in the NFL.
Batman and Robin, if you will.
Simmons has shown that he can be reliable in terms of staying on the field. He rarely misses a snap. In fact, he played one hundred percent of the team’s snaps in 2018 and followed that up by playing 99.72 percent last season.
He was one of the best safeties in the game last season. It is a horrible thing that he was not named as a starter in the Pro Bowl.
As for Jackson, he had some awesome games in 2019, including the game against his former team, the Houston Texans. He laid a vicious hit on DeAndre Hopkins that rocked the whole stadium and then was handed a backward toss if you will. He returned that one for a touchdown.
Following the 2020 NFL Draft, I was concerned that the Broncos did not address the safety position. But if these two can stay healthy, there is absolutely nothing to worry about. This will be a fun unit in 2020.
Kicker Brandon McManus has been very reliable for the Broncos since arriving in 2014 from the New York Giants. He has missed just two field goals from within 20-29 yards, two within 30-39 yards, but ten within 40-49 yards.
McManus has attempted 35 field goals of fifty yards or longer. He has made seventeen of them. That’s not great, but it’s hard to blame him for that. It’s not easy.
The Broncos moved on from punter Cody Wadman after a failed two seasons. He punted 143 times in 28 games, pinning opponents inside the 20 yard-line just 51 percent of the time. He has a career net average of just 38.7 percent.
His replacement is former Detroit Lion Sam Martin. Martin has a lot more experience, punting 473 times for 21,760 yards, and a long of 72 yards. He has pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line 175 times. This is a major upgrade.