Denver Broncos Roster - Keepers or Pink Slips?

     Not long ago, I wrote an article called "Denver Broncos Talentless? I Think Not." In that article, I suggested that the Broncos might not be quite as devoid of talent as many experts might have us believe. That article was written with two games left. I have since chosen to question my original optimism. This soul searching came, in part, after reading an article by Jeff Legwold --  a regular contributor to the Denver Post.

     Legwold recently wrote an article called "Talent-deprived Broncos facing major makeover" for the Denver Post. In this article, he presented a look at the level of talent (or lack thereof) on the 2010 Broncos. I would urge you to check out his article. It is, IMHO, well written and thoughtful.

     Part of what he presented was the intriguing idea of sorting the players on the roster according to talent level. This led me to think it might be fun to make my own attempt to sort the Broncos players. Legwold shared several players as examples, sorted into four categories. My article will sort all fifty-three players on the active roster -- as posted on denverbroncos.com -- plus the eight players currently listed as being on the practice squad and the nine players on injured reserve.

     Take a moment to read Legwold's article, then take the jump with me, see where I placed players --based mostly on my own subjective "eye test," and then offer your own ideas.

I decided to attempt to rate the current players under contract with the Denver Broncos according to how I viewed their talent level. Although I have -- in many cases -- included 2010 statistics, the sorting is based mostly upon my own impressions from watching the Broncos play in 2010. I divided the roster into six categories:

1)Best of the Best - these are players that I see as being among the best at their position in relation to the entire NFL.
2)Worth Keeping - these are players that I see as being solid starter quality players, though they may not be "elite."
3)Good for Depth/Situational Play - this should be pretty self-explanatory, good backups, but not necessarily every down players.
4)Has the Potential - players who have shown "flashes" but have not played enough to be considered in the higher categories.
5)Worth a Look - these are largely players who have had little or no playing time and/or are on the practice squad
6)Pink Slip - these are the players that I see as needing to be off the team come 2011.
Best of the Best

WR Brandon Lloyd 1448 yds, 18.8 ave, 11 TDs #1 in yards in NFL, 5th in yards per catch, 4th in TDs, 2nd in 20+ plays, 2nd in First Downs
K Matt Prater 16/18 FG, 10/10 1-39 yds, 14/15 1-49 yds Only question that I have is how well he'll bounce back from his season-ending injury

 

Worth Keeping

QB Kyle Orton 58.8%, 3653 yds, 7.3 ypa, 20 TD, 9 INT, 34 Sacks Put together solid stats, needs upgrades in runnin game & defense to shine; could be a starter or backup
WR Eddie Royal 627 yds, 10.6 ave, 3 TD Was a solid #3 receiver in 2010, bounced back from a 2009 sophomore slump with a solid 2010 performance
OL Ryan Clady NFL does not keep official individual stats for offensive linemen As the season went on, he appeared to grow stronger after his off season injury; still have questions as to how well he can bounce back
OL Ryan Harris NFL does not keep official individual stats for offensive linemen As the season went on, he appeared to grow stronger after his off season injury; still have questions as to how well he can bounce back
OL Chris Kuper NFL does not keep official individual stats for offensive linemen As the season went on, he appeared to grow stronger after his off season injury; still have questions as to how well he can bounce back
DL Kevin Vickerson 42 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackles for loss, 3 passes defensed, 1 INT Put in a solid performance in limited playing time; plus have to love a DL that intercepts a pass
LB Elvis Dumervil Spent 2010 on injured reserve Was the NFL's sack leader in 2009; biggest question will be how he bounces back from his injury
LB D. J. Williams 119 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, 9 passes defensed A solid defensive player, leading tackler on the team; some questions about how well he does in pass coverage
CB Champ Bailey 45 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss, 3 passes defensed, 1 INT Still a solid player, but there are questions about whether or not he really wants to stay in Denver
P Britton Colquitt 44.6 average, 19 inside the 20, 7 touchbacks, 17 fair catches, 50 returned for an average of 11 yards per return Put in a solid performance overall
S Brian Dawkins 66 tackles, 2 sacks, 5 passes defensed, 1 INT May have slowed a bit with age, but is still a strong, emotional leader on the defense

 

Good for Depth/Situational Play

RB Correll Buckhalter Rushing 147 yds, 2.5 average, 2 TDs, 10 First Downs, Passing: 240 yds, 8.6 average, 2 TDs, 9 First Downs Not a primary or every down back, but is a good situation player and excellent as a receiver coming out of the backfield
WR Jabar Gaffney 875 yds, 13.5 average, 2 TDs Has given way to Lloyd as a primary target, but is still solid as a situational receiver
DL Jamal Williams 47 tackles, 1 pass defensed Not an every down player, but can still be effective in selected situations
DL Marcus Thomas 35 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss, 1 pass defensed Not an every down player, but can still be effective in selected situations
DL Justin Bannan 35 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss, 4 passes defensed Not an every down player, but can still be effective in selected situations
LB Mario Haggan 87 tackles, 5.0 sacks, 7 tackles for loss, 1 pass defensed 2nd tackler on team in 2010, good in situational play
LB Jason Hunter 60 tackles, 3 sacks, 9 tackles for loss, 2 passes defensed, 1 INT Led the team in tackles for loss in 2010, good in situational play
LS Lonnie Paxton NFL does not keep official individual stats for offensive linemen Was not a popular acquisition in 2009, but has been solid all year long

 

Has the Potential

RB Knowshon Moreno 779 yds, 4.3 average, 5 TDs Despite missing 3 full games and part of two more, he put up decent numbers; durability is a major question/concern when talking about whether or not he can be an every down back
WR Demaryius Thomas 283 yds, 12.9 average, 2 TDs As with Moreno, durability is a concern. Thomas has shown flashes when he has had the opportunity
OL J. D. Walton NFL does not keep official individual stats for offensive linemen Often looked like the rookie he was, but showed potential on many plays
OL Zane Beadles NFL does not keep official individual stats for offensive linemen Often looked like the rookie he was, but showed potential on many plays
LB Robert Ayers 39 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, 1 pass defensed Has shown promise, but needs some other pieces in place on the defense to be able to shine
LB Wesley Woodyard 37 tackles, 1 sack Has shown the potential to be a solid starter, and has done well as a situational player, needs more playing time to make a stronger judgment
LB Joe Mays 40 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 pass defensed Was showing strong potential before going down to a season ending injury
CB Syd'Quan Thompson 18 tackles, 4 passes defensed, 2 INTs Showed some flashes both on defense and in special teams play
S David Bruton 25 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 pass defensed Showed some good plays in the limited opportunities he had

 

Worth a Look

QB Tim Tebow 50.0%, 654 yds, 8.0 average, 5 TDs, 3 INTs, 6 sacks Was exciting to watch and show flashes of promise but needs more game time to be able to determine how good he might become
RB Lance Ball 158 yds, 3.9 average Showed promise in the brief chances he had
RB Brandon Minor No stats in 2010 Was on the practice squad, deserves a shot to show what he can do
RB LenDale White No stats in 2010 Spent the season on Injured Reserve, has the reputation to be a "smash mouth" type of running back, would like to see how he bounces back from his injury and what he can contribute
FB Spencer Larsen Minimal contributions statistically Ended the season on Injured Reserve, there are questions about whether or not he can fulfill the role of FB on a consistent basis
WR Britt Davis No stats in 2010 Might be worth a look in the offseason
WR Eric Decker 106 yds, 17.7 average, 1 TD Not much exposure, be worth a look due to being 8th on team in receiving yards despite limited playing time
WR Eron Riley No stats in 2010 Was on the practice squad, deserves a shot to show what he can do
WR Matthew Willis 17 yards, 17.0 average Was thought to have promise before going down to injury, deserves a shot to show what he can do
TE Dan Gronkowski 65 yards, 8.1 average Appeared to be solid before going down to injury
TE Daniel Coats No stats in 2010 Might be worth a look to see what he can do
TE John Nalbone No stats in 2010 Was on the practice squad, deserves a shot to show what he can do
OL Jeff Byers No game time in 2010 Might be worth a look
OL Chris Clark No game time in 2010 Might be worth a look
OL Eric Olsen No game time in 2010 Might be worth a look
DL Jeff Stehle No game time in 2010 Was on the practice squad, deserves a shot to show what he can do
DL Mitch Unrein No game time in 2010 Was on the practice squad, deserves a shot to show what he can do
DL Louis Leonard No game time in 2010 Might be worth a look
LB David Veikune Very limited playing time Made a couple of solid hits, might be worth a look
LB Dominic Douglas No game time in 2010 Was on the practice squad, deserves a shot to show what he can do
CB Chevis Jackson No playing time in 2010 Might be worth a look
CB Nick Polk No playing time in 2010 Was on the practice squad, deserves a shot to show what he can do
CB Cassius Vaughn Limited playing time in 2010 Showed some flashes of potential as a special teams player
S Kyle McCarthy 4 tackles Ended season on Injured Reserve, might deserve a shot to show what he can do
S Darcel McBath 17 tackles, 1 pass defensed Durability is an issue, but he is well worth a longer look
RB Jeremiah Johnson No playing time in 2010
Was on the practice squad, deserves a shot to show what he can do

 

Pink Slip

QB Brady Quinn No stats in 2010 Was brought in to be a veteran backup but failed to earn and keep that position
RB Laurence Maroney 74 yds, 2.1 average Was brought in due to his knowledge of the offense, but looked tentative and hesitant throughout his runs
TE Daniel Graham 148 yds, 8.2 average Was thought to be the strongest receiving TE on the squad, but dropped a number of easy catches, appeared to be slowing with age
TE Richard Quinn 9 yds on 1 catch Underwhelmed as both a receiver and a blocker
OL Stanley Daniels NFL does not keep official individual stats for offensive linemen Underwhelmed in the opportunities he had
OL Russ Hochstein NFL does not keep official individual stats for offensive linemen Underwhelmed in the opportunities he had
DL Ryan McBean 19 tackles In 2010, McBean had some good hits, but mostly seemed to commit untimely penalties and underwhelm on most plays
DL Ronald Fields 22 tackles Simply did not impress in 2010
LB Lee Robinson 2 tackles Had only 2 tackles before going down to injury. Not sure if he's worth a look or not
CB Perrish Cox 59 tackles, 14 passes defensed, 1 INT Most likely facing a suspension and most probably a lengthy jail term That statement was a violation of the innocent until proven guilty premise of the justice system and I apologize for it. This would most likely move him to the Worth a Look category
CB Andre Goodman 17 tackles, 8 passes defensed Often looked lost on defense in 2010, plus struggled with minor injuries throughout the season
CB Nate Jones 57 tackles, 3 passes defensed Did not look particularly impressive on most plays, often seemed to be out of position
S Renaldo Hill 63 tackles, 4 passes defensed, 2 INT Appeared to slow down some as the season wore on
K Steven Hauschka Did well as a replacement kicker Don't see him staying should Prater return

 

     I think the thing I find disturbing in this look at the roster is the preponderance of players in the "Worth a Look" and "Pink Slip" categories (58% of the current players). By the same token, 51% of the players fall in the Worth a Look/Has the Potential categories. What this suggests is that we have a very young -- and by extension -- very raw group of players on the roster. The worrisome thing is that we do not seem to have a strong set of talented veterans to build around, and we are definitely lacking in top tier talent.

My hope, at this point, is that we will have a strong draft that brings in some players who can make an immediate impact and that the majority of those players in the "Worth a Look" and "Has the Potential" categories prove to be impact players. A lot of that will depend upon what happens with the coaching staff and how quickly the new coaches are able to bring the players up to speed.

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