While we all like to speculate and pontificate about our knowledge of the game, and OUR team, I decided to take a shot at a "no brainer" analysis of what the 2013 Broncos will look like. My intention here is to identify the players we all agree 100% will be on the roster in 2013, barring injury, criminal indictment or June 1st roster cut of course.
My format will be laid out by first discussing position by position the offense, moving first from the 100% in guys on to the 85 – 90% guys. I will leave the fringe debate to those more talented than I. The next phase will be a review of the defense, using the same format as I did with the offense. I will round it all out with a sentence or two about the special teams group. So let’s get to it . . .
Quarterback – This is about as easy as it gets. Manning and OZ are locks to make the roster. I suggest that Manning would likely make it even if he was facing criminal charges, or if he only had one arm (so long as the remaining arm was the right arm).
Running Back – I will include fullbacks into this discussion rather than adding a separate category. The only two I see here as stone cold locks to make the roster are MBall and Hillman. I expect the FO hopes MBall seizes the #1 job out of the gate and leaves no doubt (after watching him run against nebraska last season I have my doubts about that plan though). Hillman will have his entire rookie contract to prove his worth because he is young and will continue to grow. The average age of an NFL running back is roughly 25 years old, and the highest production from NFL running backs typically comes between the ages of 24 and 28. Hillman will be 21 years old this season, so he will get a few more years to show something.
Tight End – Green. That is it, that is the only guy that is a 100% lock to make this roster. Is anyone beginning to sense a pattern here?
Wide Receiver – Thomas, Decker, Welker, and no one else. Remember, I am talking about locks to make the roster. These three guys could drop every pass thrown their way, wiff every block and generally suck and still make the roster. None of the other receivers in camp are in this category.
Offensive Line – Clady, Franklin, Beadles, Vasquez, Walton. Our projected starting five are the only locks to make this roster. I think there are a couple of guys that are likely close to locks, but these are the only ones you can take to Vegas as stone cold locks.
That gives us 13 offensive players that are locks to make the team. I expect another 10-12 offensive players will be on the final 53 man roster. Here is a group of players at their respective positions I view as near locks to make the roster:
Quarterback – None. I put Dysert at 50/50 sight unseen to make it. His spot depends on two important variables as I see it. First, how impressive is he during the preseason? If he performs too well, a la Malik Jackson in 2012, then he will have likely made himself too valuable to expose through relegation to the PS. Second, what are the other roster needs? We could have an injury or two that requires us to hold a player or two, who would otherwise have been cut, in order to wait out the injury (ie team intends to keep 5 WRs but one gets knicked up in preseason and will be out a few weeks. I could see his replacement costing a guy like Dysert).
Running Back – McGahee & Moreno. Say what you want about injuries and fumbles. These guys have both produced at solid NFL levels over measurable periods of time. While they both have some issues, they know our system, generally have the trust of the coaches and both seems to be good team guys. While we may carry a fullback this season, I tend to doubt we will. I expect Green and possibly a lineman will handle short yardage blocking duties.
Tight End – Tamme, Dreessen, Thomas. I see us going light on fullback and heavy on TE. We have two guys that are versatile (Green and Dreessen) and two that are more receiving oriented. Suits our perceived strength of a passing offense. Coach Fox has spoken highly of Thomas recently and he must be doing something right behind the scenes because he has gotten paid for two years while accomplishing nothing during the regular season. I expect him to break out this year.
Wide Receiver – King. It is tough to see if the team will carry 5 or 6 WRs. Probably depends at least in part to what happens on ST. Wouldn’t it be great to have a return man who also a legitimate WR threat?
Offensive Line – Kuper, Blake, Clark. I expect to get challenged on this by many here at MHR. My view on Kuper is he will be healthy enough to perform and that he wants a ring more than he wants to start. He will get a descent shot to start somewhere in 2014, but this year he backs up the guard spot, and saves us all from watching Handy Manny get trucked by Dtackles ever again. I see Blake as a virtual lock because he was selected by this regime and because we need to have a backup at that spot. Finally I choose Clark as a virtual lock because he can play both tackle spots (ok that is a bit of a reach) and he can play TE or FB in short yardage packages. I will concede that this is the most questionable group when it comes to being near locks to make the team, so feel free to cut away.
So that adds 9 to the original 13 for a total of 22 offensive locks/near locks to make the team. Not a ton of additional space for guys to stick here. I could see the following additional guys making strong cases for a roster spot: Cladwell, Hester (the FB) and Painter. On to the other side of the ball . . .
Defensive Tackle – Williams, Knighton, Vickerson. These guys will be there, one more guy will have a chance to earn a spot I expect.
Defensive End – Wolfe, Ayers, Smith. Not sure if Smith will be on the active roster, but I am assuming he will. Maybe he will be a PUP guy. But if he is ready he will be on the roster. No way a guy that does what he did in college will not get at least one season to show it in the NFL. The other two are no brainers to make it.
Outside Linebacker- Grouping both sides together is a cop out, I know. The locks are Miller, Woodyard and Trevathan.
Middle Linebacker– None. Not one of the guys currently on the roster has shown anything to make them 100% locks. Several are close, but there are no locks in this group.
Corner Back – Bailey, DRC, Harris, Carter, Webster, Bolden. While I view all 6 as roster locks, I do not believe they are all roster locks for our team. There has to be a trade brewing here as it is difficult to see how we could carry 6 CBs. But each of these guys is a roster lock this season.
Safety – Moore, Bruton. Starter and ST ace will be here in 2013. Several other guys are close I expect.
That is 17 defensive players, with of course the caveat that I strongly believe we will move one of our CBs for a draft pick during the preseason. Most probable candidate is Carter. This is of course making the assumption that we are being given the straight scoop and Webster is a CB playing corner rather than a S masquerading as a CB. A switch there could alter the landscape at CB. Here is the group I see as virtual certainties to make the 2013 roster on the defensive side of the ball:
Defensive Tackle – Unrein. Solid but unspectacular. He gets his job done at a reasonably high level.
Defensive End– Jackson. Should he show improvement in his ability to get to the QB I could see him moving into the stone cold lock section.
Outside Linebacker- Phillips. DE or OLB, unless dude has completely lost it, or decides to show all of himself to law enforcement again, he will be on the team. Not a lock only because I think he is a bit of a loose cannon on a team I don’t think will tolerate the nonsense. $1 mil, 1 year deals are not locks in my book.
Middle Linebacker– Irving, Johnson, Mays. We have been told Irving and Johnson will battle for the starter spot, and barring any backslide from last season both have show enough to be considered virtual locks. I am skeptical of Irving though. For Mays I am making two assumptions as the basis for putting him here: 1) he is fully recovered from his injury, 2) he will continue to kill people on ST plays. If either of those are not 100% accurate, then I would take him off this list.
Corner Back – None
Safety – Carter. I am not sold on him and I am certainly not sold on Adams. But Carter has show more playmaking ability and is younger, so I view him as a near lock to make the roster. If we have the depth to warrant Adams getting the axe I will be pleased. If not I will be concerned to a limited degree.
So this adds 7 to the 17 above for a total of 24 (with one CB spot likely opening up after a trade). So if a trade is executed we would be at 23 defenders on the team as locks/virtual locks. One or two more spots likely available to be earned in camp.
We will keep a K and a P, of course I see that as Prater and Colquitt. Brewer will be the long snapper and we will have a return man, most probably Holliday. So I will add 4 locks to the roster, as I view these 4 players as locks/virtual locks to the roster.
At the outset of camp I view our team as having 22 offensive, 23 defensive and 4 special teams spots essentially set. So out of the 53 coveted roster spots 49 are all but set. Of course we will hear talk of guys fighting for their positions and all the other coach speak. But in real life the top echelon teams only recycle a small portion of their roster each year. We are a top echelon team and going into camp this summer 4 or 5 spots are open for full competition, while the other 49, at least in my view, are nearly locked in.
I see our 2013 team very much in the same light as the 1997 team, let’s go Broncos, get #3!! This one’s for . . .