With news coming out that Vic Fangio will be the new head coach of the Denver Broncos and Gary Kubiak will coordinate the offense, I continued my look at Denver’s roster. What players mean the most to the team. Obviously some of these players could move up and down based on how the schemes change. That means this is as much art as science, but to be as transparent as possible I wanted to lay out how I made my list. There are 3 main aspects I considered.
1. Their value to this year’s team and past performance.
2. Positional value
3. Salary compared to both past & expected future performance.
All three factors are important, but obviously this isn’t an exact science, so I look forward to seeing how Broncos Country disagrees with me.
Check out last week’s GIF Horse to see players 45-35 here.
34. Tramaine Brock - Cornerback
When he was healthy, Brock had some serious ups and downs last season.In his favor was the fact that he only allowed 6.6 yards per pass on throws in his direction. He also missed 4 games and parts of others because of injuries, which is the story of his career really. Just 30 years old, it wouldn’t be out of the question for him to return, especially if Roby is not resigned.
I’ll be looking at more Fangio tape as the offseason continues to get a better idea how Brock may fit the new system, but one thing stands out. While Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller played like stars for the 2018 Bears, Fangio has made hay on defense with less than stellar cornerback play in the past. An aging Carlos Rogers and Tarrell Brown were manning the corners for much of his stint with the 49ers. His last year in San Francisco, former Bronco Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver combined for 9 interceptions.
33. Max Garcia - Guard
Played a little more than 20% of the Broncos snaps before tearing his ACL in November, but was really disappointing when he did. Garcia has had a fortunate career path so far, he’s been better than free agents busts like Menelik Watson and Donald Stephenson, which has masked the fact that he’s also pretty mediocre.
Broncos should move on this offseason, but if he returns he has experience playing both guard spots. He’s also pretty mobile for a guard and did start some games as a rookie when Kubiak was head coach. If he’s resigned, he’ll probably find himself in a fight with Sam Jones over the summer.
32. Tim Patrick - Receiver
Patrick is an upside guy who showed flashes of a bright future in 2018. He’s the kind of size/speed prospect you hope your team takes a shot on every couple of seasons with hopes that proper coaching and health luck will lead to a steal or two.
If there was one player to benefit from Emmanuel Sanders injury it was Tim Patrick, who’s role increased exponentially. He made the most of it: 82% of his receptions and 76% of his receiving yards came after the Bengals game.
31. Elijah Wilkinson - Offensive Lineman
One of the Broncos swing lineman before the season began, Wilkinson was kicked inside to guard after injuries derailed Matt Paradis, Ronald Leary, and Max Garcia’s seasons. The opportunity proved fruitful for Wilkinson, as he put out some really solid tape.
Individually, the 3rd-year pro isn’t anything special. As a true tackle, he’s heavier and taller than all of the Broncos other interior lineman, but he also lacks the movement skills they do. Generally speaking, an offensive line as a unit can survive one weak link and if it’s Wilkinson the Broncos are in good shape. Ideally, he returns to the 2019 squad as a more experienced swing lineman for his efforts last year.
30.Jeff Heuerman - Tight End
If the former Buckeye posted a 49-564-4 line in 2018, he would be a bit higher on this list. Alas those are the 5th-year pros career numbers after injuries have limited him to a grand total of 37 games as in the NFL.
If I were managing the Broncos I would probably move on from Heuerman in 2019. By all accounts this is a loaded draft class at tight end and Heuerman’s shown nothing worth breaking the bank for. He’s a serviceable dump-off receiver and blocker, but don’t let his game against the Houston Texans fool you; he has yet to show he can be a true X-factor against a team that adequately defends tight ends. If he’s retained the cost is worth a bit of scrutiny.
29. Jake Butt - Tight End
If you wanted to swap 29 and 30 you’d hear no protests from me. Both have been injury prone below average tight ends so far. Heuerman has obviously produced more at the NFL level, but if he plays for the Broncos in 2019 it will be on a new contract. Meanwhile Butt has two years remaining on the rookie deal he signed when Elway drafted him in the fifth round out of Michigan.
28. Andy Janovich - Fullback
There may not be a Bronco more impacted by the news that Gary Kubiak will return to the call the offensive shots. Throughout his coaching career Kubiak’s used a lot of 2 back personnel sets. In the past that meant using an H-back at times, such as James Casey with the Texans, but Jano is likely to see the field in a Kubes O more than the 200 times he did last season.
Another thing that could be good news for the former Cornhusker is how Kubiak makes the most of his fullbacks. He’ll rarely be asked to bash straight on in an iso-style lead block. Instead, Kubiak will use more outside zone than Musgraves did, which will lead to angle blocks.
27. Isaac Yiadom - Cornerback
This is an optimistic ranking for Yiadom, with the hopes that he continues to improve as he did over the course of the season. When pressed into duty against the Ravens, Yiadom looked as bad as Brendan Langley did in 2017.
So it should come as a bit of a surprise to see that the final numbers had the Broncos as average or better against all receivers by DVOA. They were the best D in the league against tertiary receivers, but also 11th against WR1s and 17 against WR2s. All of those numbers are relevant to Yiadom as he found himself moving around a bunch with the injuries to players ahead of him on the depth chart.
Additionally, Yiadom’s charting numbers showed significant growth: He averaged 7 yards allowed on passes where he was the primary defender according to Sports Info Solutions and plays where the offense attacked him were “successful” only half the time. (SIS defines their success rate as 45 percent of yardage on first down, 60 percent on second down, or 100 percent on third down). Not bad for a raw third round pick who couldn’t cover a rock with a blanket in the early going.
To be perfectly honest, all that leaves me intrigued enough that I hope to go back and watch his games later this offseason. Let me know if that’s something you’d be interested in Broncos Country.
26. Domata Peko - Interior Defensive Line
Peko is a player I had some trouble ranking, through no fault of his own. The Broncos nose tackle had another solid year in 2018, but without going back over the tape at length it’s hard to know how much the decline of the interior run defense is on him compared to players around him. It’s something on my list, but those questions combined with his age and expiring contract left me conflicted at 26. With a loaded draft and free agent class, as well as Shelby Harris on the roster, Peko may be number crunched.
25. Billy Turner - Offensive Lineman
Would you be surprised if I told you that Turner played more snaps than all but 3 Broncos in 2018? It probably shouldn’t. I’ll admit I was completely wrong on Turner, who I thought was a surprise survivor of the final roster cuts at the end of the preseason. He began the season as a reserve tackle but wound up with playing time at both guard spots and filling in when Jared Veldheer was injured. While he had his fair share of troubles against top tier edge rushers at tackle, he looked very good inside. He even earned praise from Pro Football Focus for his week 11 game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Going forward, Turner is an unrestricted free agent that Elway and the Broncos front office should explore resigning. His experience along the line of scrimmage would be a valuable commodity with the Broncos offensive line again in flux with Ronald Leary’s injury as well as Veldheer and Matt Paradis’ contract situations. Only 27, his best years should be ahead of him.
What do you think Broncos Country?