With free agency and the draft in the rear view mirror, we have a pretty good idea of who the Denver Broncos will be bringing into camp, besides maybe a few straggler signings or a trade.
So here is my first stab at projecting the final Broncos 53-man roster. I know, I know it’s way too early and we won’t have an educated guess at most of these roster battles until the players actually take the practice field, but we’ve gotta put that mock draft energy somewhere, right?
I have listed starters in orange bold and extended the definition of “starter” to someone who will likely get more than 50% of the available snaps.
Quarterbacks (3): Case Keenum, Paxton Lynch, Chad Kelly
For the first time in two years we don’t have to have a lot of conversation here. I agree with Emmanuel Sanders that it feels nice to know who the guy is heading into camp.
Only thing of note here is that last year Denver carried only two quarterbacks with Chad Kelly on IR (adding Brock Osweiler later), but I think Denver will keep all three on the 53-man roster. Kelly is at least worth hanging onto to develop while he’s cheap, and Paxton Lynch will have been with Billy Musgrave long enough that he can step in as backup if needed.
Emmanuel Sanders: "This is the first time in 2 or 3 yrs that I’m not standing up here talking about a QB debate. I remember when I got out here, I went out to the team store and I saw Keenum jerseys. I was like, ‘Thank God, I don’t have to deal with that again.’ Case is our guy."— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) May 2, 2018
Running Backs (4): Devontae Booker, Royce Freeman, De’Angelo Henderson, Phillip Lindsay
So I fudged the “starter” designation a little with Booker and Freeman, because I think it will be a timeshare, but I think Freeman shows enough in camp to carve out significant role. Also, I’m much higher on Booker than most, it seems. I think he has every down potential and should take a good chunk of the snaps given his experience.
I chose Lindsay over 7th round pick, David Williams because of the Colorado connection, and Lindsay seems to be one of those guys that will show enough in camp/pre-season to make the coaches keep him.
Wide Receivers (5): Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, DaeSean Hamilton, Carlos Henderson, Courtland Sutton
I am really high on DaeSean Hamilton and think he will be the go-to slot receiver Week 1. I think Henderson will get some opportunities too. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sutton didn’t play much this year, and that’s not a bad thing. He’s still learning the position and needs some refinement to go with his tremendous physical ability.
Bob McGinn gathered some great quotes and nuggets from scouts and personnel executives on this draft class. Here’s a great quote on DaeSean Hamilton.
“He’s not a tester but he is a good player,” one scout said. “He’s not going to run away from you or out-size you. But somehow, some way he gets open and he catches the ball. As far as I know, that’s how you play wide receiver. He was one of the better guys at the Senior Bowl. He really knows how to play.”
2 or my favorite players outside my top 50– Penn St WR Daesean Hamilton and Florida CB Duke Dawson. Both guys have a role day one next season. Outstanding slot WR and nickel CB.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) April 25, 2018
Tight End (4): Jake Butt, Jeff Heuerman, Austin Traylor, Troy Fumagalli
I think we’re all going to be pleasantly surprised with Jake Butt this year, and finally have a quarterback to utilize the seams and middle of the field, so I expect our tight end group to be much more productive this year. Case Keenum leaned heavily on Kyle Rudolph on 3rd and short, and in the red zone, and I expect Butt to fill that role nicely.
Austin Traylor showed enough good things last year to make the roster, and Jeff Heuerman takes Virgil Green’s role as the guy who its “his year” to break out.
Hey @NDTScouting, where would you or one of your TE guys have a healthy Jake Butt ranked in relation to this year's crop of TEs?— Jeffrey Essary (@JeffreyEssary) April 20, 2018
He'd be in mix for TE3 with Hurst and Andrews well rounded guy, hope he's healthy https://t.co/0jJhRbpVY8— Kyle Crabbs (@NDTScouting) April 20, 2018
Offensive Tackle (4): Garett Bolles, Jared Veldheer, Menelik Watson, Cyrus Kouandjio
For once the starters seem locked down at the tackle position. The quality of said starters’ play remains to be seen, but at least we know who they are.
I know the team talked about trying Watson at guard, but I kept him here at tackle and expect him to provide depth at either position. Kouandjio is an intriguing option and didn’t look too bad in limited snaps last year.
Let’s hope Veldheer and Bolles stay healthy.
Interior Offensive Line (5): Ronald Leary, Matt Paradis, Connor McGovern, J.J. Dielman, Billy Turner
I would have preferred a guard with starting potential in this draft, but the front office must feel pretty good about Connor McGovern at right guard. He looked pretty good in a starting role once injury forced him to step in and play. Vance Joseph spoke very highly of JJ Dielman this off-season and the team is apparently excited about him. He, Turner, and Watson all provide position flexibility which is what you want from your reserve linemen.
Notice Max Garcia is not here. I am frankly surprised he is still on the roster currently. If he shows out in camp, he could replace Turner as a reserve guard, but I am projecting him to not be here come September.
Interior Defensive Line (6): Derek Wolfe, Domata Peko, Adam Gotsis, Zach Kerr, DeMarcus Walker, Shelby Harris
You’ll notice I split defensive line into two major categories (Interior and Edge) instead of traditional positional titles as this is more indicative of role and responsibility of the player.
Everyone in this group besides Peko has flexibility all up and down the defensive line and will likely play all over the line depending on the package. Wolfe, Gotsis, and Peko seem locked in as your three down linemen in base, and are a formidable run stopping force.
The rest provide versatility and some added pass rushing ability as well. Hopefully Demarcus Walker can contribute as a designated interior pass rusher, as getting him going would really take the defensive front to another level.
I’m probably wrong to cut Clint McDonald as the team signed him to a two year deal in free agency, but I just can’t find a spot for him, currently.
Edge (5): Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, Shaquil Barrett, Shane Ray, Jeff Holland
This is one stacked group. Question marks surround Ray with the 5th-year option not being exercised, but I think the organization will get one more motivated contract year from him before letting him hit free agency, gladly taking a comp pick. If that’s the case, this will be an extremely dangerous group as they all rotate in and keep each other fresh, and occasionally all rush together.
I would expect Barrett and Chubb to get most of the run stopping snaps, while Ray becomes a designated pass rusher in sub packages. Look for Bradley Chubb to line up with Von Miller on the same side in certain sub packages. The possibilities are endless with these four guys, and opposing quarterbacks should be very afraid.
I’m really excited about Jeff Holland’s potential (not as excited as Scotty, but excited nonetheless) and think he becomes the next UDFA to make Denver’s 53-man roster.
The Denver #Broncos have reportedly agreed to terms with UDFA pass-rusher Jeff Holland.— PFF DEN Broncos (@PFF_Broncos) April 29, 2018
Holland racked up 65 quarterback pressures in 2017 - the most among draft-eligible 3-4 outside linebackers. Good deal! #BroncosDrafthttps://t.co/EGNzn56SS3 pic.twitter.com/6FUodmRP3t
Linebackers (4) Brandon Marshall, Todd Davis, Josey Jewell, Keishawn Bierria
I think Denver is due for an infusion of fresh blood at the linebacker position and this year’s draft is just what the doctor ordered. Zaire Anderson could sneak in here while Denver stashes Bierria on the practice squad, but I haven’t seen enough out of him lately when he’s been on the field to give him the nod.
Cornerbacks (6) Bradley Roby, Chris Harris, Tramaine Brock, Brendan Langley, Isaac Yiadom, Marcus Rios
This is a group that has the most potential for someone to really break out and shine in training camp, or could potentially be ugly if no one steps up. I like the Isaac Yiadom pick, but don’t know if he will be ready to step in Day 1. Tremaine Brock is the best bet to start as the 3rd corner.
I’m keeping six corners here due to the uncertainty at the position and need to develop some of these guys.
Safeties (4): Darian Stewart, Justin Simmons, Su’a Cravens, Will Parks
Outside of edge rusher, this group is one of the most solid on the team. Budding star Justin Simmons should continue his upward trajectory, Darian Stewart will benefit from a shift back to free safety, and ya’ll know how much I love the Sua Cravens addition. He’ll see 50% or more of the snaps playing as a dime linebacker in Denver’s go-to, three safety, sub package.
I like Parks a lot better as a special teams guy/reserve safety than in his starting role he had last year.
Specialists (3): Brandon McManus, Marquette King, Casey Kreiter
Isaiah McKenzie - I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief on kickoff and punts now.
Jordan Taylor - As much as I hate to do it, the new blood at receiver and Carlos Henderson coming back don’t leave much room for Taylor.
Max Garcia - I mentioned him already, but given his increase in salary this year, I wouldn’t keep him at his current production quality.
Andy Janovich - I know, I’m killing off all the fan favorites
(just call me Marvel), but he only took 15% of the offensive snaps last year. If Fumagali could sneak onto the practice squad, maybe we keep him. but I just don't see it.
Clinton McDonald - As I said above, given his two year deal with Denver, he’s probably safe, but I couldn’t find room for him.
So what do you think Broncos Country? Who would you keep or cut? Let’s discuss in the comments.