Training Camp for the Denver Broncos which basically kicks off the 2018 season for them is just days away from beginning and they enter it with many positional battles up for grabs. Those battles will be decided in the coming days and weeks of practices and some preseason games during that span. The 53-man roster will be formed during that span, but I will take a stab at predicting how it all plays out before they even take a single Training Camp rep.
So let us take a look at how I currently see the Broncos 53-man roster looking as they head into week one of the regular season.
Starter: Case Keenum
Backups: Paxton Lynch and Chad Kelly
Unlike the past few years, the Broncos head into camp with their starting quarterback already decided and have very little drama surrounding the position. All eyes will be on Case Keenum to see how he looks, but there is no question that he will be the Broncos starting quarterback.
The only questions to be answered here is will Paxton Lynch or Chad Kelly be the backup? I think the backup will be Paxton Lynch as the Broncos will hope it finally clicks with him while Kelly serves as the third-string quarterback.
The only way I really see Kelly passing Lynch on the depth chart is if Lynch really stinks up the joint and Kelly stands out during camp and the preseason. This is certainly possible, but it seems like General Manager John Elway and the Broncos will stick with their former first-round pick for one more year unless Lynch(or Kelly) forces their hand.
Starter: Royce Freeman
Backups: Devontae Booker, De’Angelo Henderson, and David Williams
I think the Broncos would like Rookie Royce Freeman to win the starting running back job and I think he will. Freeman is a popular breakout candidate and I think he will live up to expectations during camp.
Booker will be the Broncos “1B” and get some carries obviously but mainly serve as the Broncos pass-catching back for quarterback Case Keenum. I have second-year running back De’Angelo Henderson serving as the third-string back and figuring into the mix as well. I have the powerful Williams cracking the roster but could easily see Lindsay doing it instead.
Starter: Andy Janovich
The fan favorite is all but a lock to make the team in my opinion. I understand the logic behind him not making the team, but the facts are this. The Broncos want to run the ball in 2018 and usually to do that, you need a powerful lead blocker to pave the way for the ball carrier. That is exactly what Jano can do as well as serve as a short-yardage guy as well as a special teams ace.
Starters: Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders
Backups: Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton, Jordan Taylor, and Isaiah McKenzie
Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders will be your starters while rookies Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton will mix in and contribute as well. We know all that. However, the fifth and sixth spots on the depth chart are up in the air right now.
If Jordan Taylor comes back healthy, I think he makes the team. If he struggles to come back or is slowed by the injury, he won’t make this team. It is simple as that. I’m staying positive here and I think Sunshine and his hair will be wearing a Broncos uniform come week one.
Finally, I have the Broncos giving punt returner Isaiah McKenzie one more shot. He’s talented enough to make the team, but if he struggles with fumbles once again, he’s gone.
I have 2017 third-round pick Carlos Henderson not making the team. He has struggled with conditioning, injuries, level of play, and off the field issues while watching the Broncos draft two receivers who are expected to be already ahead of him on the depth chart. I really hope he proves me wrong, but as of now, I do not see it with Henderson.
Starter: Jeff Heuerman
Backups: Jake Butt and Troy Fumagalli
I know there is a lot of hype surrounding Jake Butt and rightfully so, but keep in mind, he’s essentially a rookie and is coming off his second ACL tear. I believe the Broncos will ease Butt into action and serve as the Broncos second tight end in the early portions of the season.
Unless the Broncos add a veteran, former third-round pick Jeff Heuerman should be the Broncos week one starter with Butt and rookie Troy Fumagalli mixing in. This will be one of the more interesting positional groups to watch during camp.
Starters: Garett Bolles and Jared Veldheer
Backup: Menelik Watson
The Broncos two starters are decided. 2017 first-round pick Garett Bolles will start at left tackle and look to improve on his rookie year while the veteran Veldheer will look to lock down the right tackle position.
As for the backups, I struggled between keeping one or two but decided to keep just Menelik Watson. Yes, he really, REALLY struggled last year, but his contract basically keeps him a member of the Broncos for one more year. None of the other tackles on the roster really stand out to me(right now at least) so we shall see how it all shakes out going forward.
Starters: Ronald Leary and Connor McGovern
Backups: Max Garcia
Leary and McGovern are the Broncos starters heading into camp and it should stay that way throughout camp and the preseason. Leary will move to his more natural spot of left guard while McGovern will serve as the right guard.
As for the backup, I have them keeping Max Garcia. He has had his issues but would serve as an experienced backup(even though he only plays left guard). Watson who I have listed at tackle will also take reps at guard as well.
Starter: Matt Paradis
Backups: J.J. Dielman
Paradis is entrenched as the starter and that will not change this summer. He is coming off a somewhat down year for his standards and will look to improve on that in 2018.
The Broncos signed Dielman last year and they seem to really like him. He also offers versatility at center, guard, and tackle and that bodes well for someone fighting for a roster spot.
Starters: Derek Wolfe and Adam Gotsis
Backups: Shelby Harris, DeMarcus Walker, and Clinton McDonald
This position was an area of concern of mine last year but just one-year later it looks like a strength. Wolfe is healthy and looking to have a bounce-back year, Gotsis(Depending on his legal issues) is coming off a strong year, Shelby Harris turned into one of the Broncos better defenders, Walker is full of pass rush potential, and McDonald adds another veteran interior pass rusher in the mix.
If this unit can stay healthy and live up to their expectations, it can be one of the strongest units on the entire team.
Starter: Domata Peko
Backup: Zach Kerr
The veteran Peko helped turn the Broncos run defense around in 2017 and will look to do the same in 2018. As for his backup, I look for Kerr to step in and be primarily a nose tackle after bouncing between end and nose tackle last year. I could see the other Peko crack the roster, but for now, I have Kerr making it.
Starter: Von Miller and Bradley Chubb
Backups: Shaq Barrett, Shane Ray, and Jeff Holland
This unit is full of huge upside.
Von Miller is a stud and we know what he is capable of. Joining him this year is the 5th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, edge rusher, Bradley Chubb. He was the best defensive player in the draft and now joins an already solid pass-rushing unit. I expect him to start opposite of Miller even with Ray apparently being healthy.
Barrett gives the Broncos another talented player to mix in and a player who is a stud against the run. Ray is an interesting case. Is he trade bait? Could he start? Can he stay healthy? or is he simply just a rotational pass rusher? He makes the team(unless traded) but his role remains up in the air. Jeff Holland somehow went undrafted and should be able to crack the 53-man roster. He is too good not to make the team in my opinion.
Starter: Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis
Backups: Josey Jewell and Keishawn Bierria
The Broncos need some better production from this unit in 2018. Marshall was hindered by an injury while Davis was a stud against the run, but a liability against the pass. Both will likely be a starter this year, but keep an eye on rookie Josey Jewell to push Davis for a starting gig.
Jewell is an instinctive linebacker who has a nose for the ball and is a leader. He could quickly become a favorite of the coaches and fans with his play and attitude. The rookie Bierria offers more athleticism and likely will make a name for himself on special teams his rookie year.
Starter: Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby
Backups: Tramaine Brock, Isaac Yiadom, and Brendan Langley
Chris Harris Jr. returns and will continue to be his dominant self in 2018. Opposite of him will now be the former first-round pick, Bradley Roby. I am anxious to see how Roby does as he moves up from being the third corner to being the second corner and replacing the productive Aqib Talib. I’m looking for him to really impress this summer and season.
After those two it becomes very undecided. You have two third-round picks who both have size/speed but need development and a veteran who really didn’t play much last year for the Vikings. The number three corner is my biggest concern heading into camp. Brock has the job right now, but I am positive the Broncos would like Langley or Yiadom to step up and take it.
One player who I don’t have making the team curently but could be a darkhorse is Marcus Rios. He looked good in limited playing time last season and could push for a roster spot this summer.
Starter: Justin Simmons and Su’a Cravens
Backups: Darien Stewart and Will Parks
I am really excited about the Broncos safeties this year.
Third year safety Justin Simmons stepped in for T.J. Ward last year and performed well. I think we will see him do even better this season.
Former Washington second-round pick, Su’a Cravens is the Broncos most interesting addition this offseason. He is a talented player with a solid college resume who could greatly impact the Broncos defense. He does have some off the field concerns/injury concerns, but if all is good, the Broncos got themselves a good one. I look for him to take the other starting safety job from veteran Darian Stewart.
As for the backups, the previously mentioned veteran Stewart will serve as the versatile backup who will step in during some three-safety looks. As for Parks, he will serve as depth and likely a special teams player for the Broncos.
Kicker: Brandon McManus
Punter: Marquette King
Long Snapper: Casey Kreiter