How will the Denver Broncos' 2020 roster settle? Who may be added?
With the 2020 NFL draft behind us, we can begin to look at how rosters will shake out before the beginning of the regular season and I provide my predictions on how the team will look this year. The Denver Broncos received glowing reviews around the league for their work both in free agency and the draft. The Broncos not only added depth but several starters on offense, defense, and special teams.
After another losing season despite winning for their five games, the 2020 team will have more of the look of a Vic Fangio team than the previous two regimes. Fan favorites Derek Wolfe, Chris Harris Jr., and Emmanuel Sanders are gone.
In comes Jurrell Casey, A.J. Bouye, and Jerry Jeudy among others. The Broncos focused on veteran replacements defensively via free agency while heavily investing draft capital in young exciting offensive players in the draft.
The Broncos may make a few moves between now and the beginning of the season, but the brick and mortar of the squad are well solidified. The Broncos roster is ready to compete on both offense and defense in 2020.
Here is a projected breakdown of a Broncos’ 53-man roster for the 2020 season and keep in mind, two players can be called up from an expanded practice squad pool.
Two practice-squad players each week may be promoted to the team's roster, meaning game-week roster sizes could increase from 53 to 55. The practice squad is increased from 10 players to 12 starting in 2020.
Starter: Drew Lock
Backup: Jeff Driskel
Outside looking in: Riley Neal (practice squad), Brett Rypien (cut)
We can say it is safe to assume that Drew Lock and Jeff Driskel are locked in to make the final roster. As for the 3rd quarterback, the Broncos may decide to stash either Brett Rypien or Riley Neal on the practice squad.
The Broncos may find value in Rypien or Neal as a developmental quarterback, but neither displays the tools warranting a roster spot and a street free agent could be picked up to provide something similar during the season.
Final prediction: The Broncos roll with Lock and Driskel and stash Neal on the practice squad. Rypien finds a team running a “Shannahan” style west coast system as a 3rd option.
Starter: Melvin Gordon III (1a)
Backup: Phillip Lindsay (1b), Royce Freeman
Outside looking in: Levante Bellamy (practice squad/game day active), Khalfani Muhammad (practice squad), Jeremy Cox (cut)
Melvin Gordon III arrives from the division rival Chargers to some mixed reviews from Broncos Country, as Denver already has two-time 1,000-yard rusher Phillip Lindsay.
What many don’t know is how the pair will be used. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has a history of featuring one back, and if the contracts of each player are an indicator, Gordon III is that guy.
Many believe the writing is on the wall for Royce Freeman, and that may be true. He regressed in 2019 after beginning his career strong in 2018. Freeman is a capable back with receiving skills under a low cap number.
Look for undrafted free agency Levante Bellamy to crack the roster as he brings speed and quickness to the room.
Final verdict: Freeman benefits from the addition of the two extra men called up from the practice squad. Bellamy will be the practice squad call up to start. This leaves Muhammed as the odd man out and on the practice squad again this season.
Starters: Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick
Backups: KJ Hamler, Diontae Spencer, Tyrie Cleveland
Outside looking in: Trinity Benson (practice squad), Zimari Manning (practice squad), Juwann Winfree (practice squad), DaeSean Hamilton (cut), Kelvin McKnight (cut), Fred Brown (cut), Kendall Hinton (cut)
The influx of top-end talent brings a starting presumed starting lineup of Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, and KJ Hamler. Shurmur's affinity for 11 personnel creates a need for a starting-caliber number three, and Jeudy and Hamler can both work out of the slot.
Tim Patrick plays special teams and is a big body that comes in handy on third downs. However, look for Patrick to begin the season as the WR2. With a shortened preseason the team may rely on Patrick's status as a veteran to begin the season.
Jeudy and Hamler should move to WR2 and WR3 by midseason unless Patrick surprises.
Diontae Spencer will remain on the roster as the main return man and gadget player. The last spot comes down between Tyrie Cleveland, Juwan Winfree, and DaeSean Hamilton.
The character of Hamilton is appreciated. He is willing to block, shows humility, and is a team-first guy, but the production has not been enough. Couple the drops with not playing special teams and it spells doom for Hamilton. The Broncos have quite a stable of young prospects to hide on the practice squad and will keep two or three guys on it.
Winfree did little to impress and could get squeezed out by the addition of Jeudy and Hamler.
Watching Zamiri Manning dominate his level of competition, he appears to be a guy who may be a steal with some time to develop.
Manning, Winfree, and Benson make the practice squad with Winfree being a guy that gets the first call-up for injury or disappointment.
Starter: Noah Fant
Backups: Nick Vannett, Albert Okwuegbunam, Andrew Beck (TE/FB/HB)
Outside looking in: Jake Butt (cut), Jeff Heuerman (cut), Troy Fumagalli (cut)
Noah Fant is the unquestioned starter in this offense following his rookie season. Nick Vannett was brought in to add punch to the run game. Albert Okwuegbunam is a high upside addition that can spell Fant while offering similar traits.
Beck came on last year and provides a solid H-Back option. Beck will hold one of the last roster spots and is expendable if Okweuegunam shows he can handle some of the H-Back tasks, or another position group gets hit hard with injuries.
Butt simply ran out of chances. With the addition of Okwuegbunam, there is no longer room for a “what could be” player. Troy Fumagalli has not taken advantage of his opportunities. His old college teammate replaces Jeff Heuerman for a lower cap number.
Starters: Garett Bolles, Dalton Risner, Lloyd Cushenberry III, Graham Glasgow, Ja’Wuan James
Backups: Austin Schlottmann, Patrick Morris, Netane Muti, Elijah Wilkinson, Kelvin Beachum (predicted signing)
Outside looking in: Jake Rodgers (practice squad), Hunter Watts (practice squad), Tyler Jones (cut), Nico Falah (cut), Quinn Bailey (cut), Calvin Anderson (cut)
Lloyd Cushenberry III, Graham Glasgow, and Dalton Risner will form quite the stout interior line for the next several years. Morris and Schlottmann provide interior depth while Muti can continue to develop and into a starting-caliber interior lineman in the next few years.
Garett Bolles and Ja'Wuan James will be counted on to man the outside and Elijah Wilkinson will be a utility man after being offered a chance to compete at left tackle. Bolles will start training camp as the starter at left tackle, but watch out for Wilkinson whose consistency may be enough to push for the job.
The curveball here is the predicted late addition of Kelvin Beachum, who has played for Broncos offensive line coach Mike Munchak before. This provides more depth and a real challenge for Bolles and Wilkinson on the left side plus insurance for James on the right side.
Austin Schlottmann and Patrick Morris provide quality interior depth and experience at the center position. Muti is a high-upside prospect who will push for playing time next year.
Jake Rodgers earned another look at the practice squad. The team will like what UFDA Hunter Watts shows in camp, also adding him to the practice squad.
Starters: Jurrell Casey, Mike Purcell, Shelby Harris
Backups: Dre’Mont Jones, McTelvin Agim, Christian Covington
Outside looking in: Jonathon Harris (cut), Joel Heath (cut), Kyle Peko (cut), DeMarcus Walker (cut)
Jurrell Casey, Shelby Harris, and Dre’Mont Jones will take the lion's share of the snaps up front.
Mike Purcell has shown to be a quality run stuffer and McTelvin Agim was a premium selection in the 2020 draft.
Christian Covington was brought in shortly after the draft and offers versatility across the line.
Kyle Peko, Joel Health, and Jonathan Harris have been at the bottom of the roster guys and seem to be pushed off with the additions of Covington and Agim.
Lastly, DeMarcus Walker, a former 2nd round selection, has rarely cracked the lineup and seems to not have impressed either of the last two coaching staffs. He will be on the move this season in favor of other additions.
Most likely, the team will look to other team's cuts to fill their practice squad with Harris a possibility to be stashed there.
Starters: Bradley Chubb, Von Miller, Alexander Johnson, Todd Davis
Reserves: Malik Reed, Jeremiah Attaachu, Justin Strnad, Joseph Jones, Justin Hollins
Outside looking in: Derrek Tuszka (practice squad), Josh Watson (practice squad), Malik Carney (cut), Josey Jewell (cut)
The four mainstays will remain in Bradley Chubb, Von Miller, Alexander Johnson, and Todd Davis. Malik Reed showed enough last year to earn more snaps.
Jeremiah Attaochu came on late and was a key role player. Justin Strnad offers coverage traits that most of this group lacks and Joseph Jones offers premium special teams play. Justin Hollins will remain based on his skillset and the hope to refine his ability to play all over the field.
Derrek Tuszka will show out well but needs some time in an NFL weight room and can get that while hanging in on the practice squad. Josey Jewell’s limitations outweigh his contributions and will be looking for a new team this year.
Starters: AJ Bouye, Bryce Callahan, Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson
Backups: De’Vante Bausby, Darqueze Dennard (projected signing), Duke Dawson, Michael Ojemudia, Essang Bassey, Douglas Coleman III
Outside looking in: Isaac Yiadom (cut), Trey Marshall (cut), Davontae Harris (cut), Alijah Holder (practice squad), Shakial Taylor (practice squad), P.J. Locke (cut), Kahani Smith (cut)
Simmons and Jackson form a top tier safety tandem while Bryce Callahan and AJ Bouye offer perfect scheme fit starters outside. De’Vante Bausby was a great re-up on a minimum contract to compete at the nickel or dime spot.
To no one’s surprise, the Broncos were linked to a veteran cornerback throughout the offseason in Prince Amukamara. However, the Broncos left him on the market and he signed with the Las Vegas Raiders.
Looking for depth with upside, I am predicting the Broncos bring in Darqueze Dennard and he makes the final roster. Duke Dawson and Michael Ojemudia will provide safety and slot nickel depth.
Isaac Yiadom has been disappointing since he arrived in 2018. However, he could make the cut and take up the one extra roster spot in a career-defining year if he shows out in camp.
Trey Marshall and Davontae Harris just did not show enough at the end of last year. Alijah Holder and Shakail Taylor will most likely hit the practice squad again.
Brandon McManus (Kicker), Sam Martin (Punter), Jacob Bobenmoyer (Long Snapper)
Outside looking in: Wes Farnsworth (Long Snapper)
McManus has been the most consistent offensive weapon for the Broncos over the past four years and Martin was a free agent addition. Jacob Bobenmoyer and Wes Farnsworth will battle it out in training camp for the long snapper job.
Based on my predictions, the Broncos will have some tough cuts this year with some talented players being let go. It’s a far cry from years past, but a nice place to be heading into the 2020 season.