Good morning, Broncos Country!
I’m no fan of rankings - especially when they are too predictable (give Patriots all the credit) and/or don’t rank my favorite team(s) very well.
But debating the ranking can be a useful exercise - if only to give us one more benchmark to argue about until there is some football to watch.
So Pro Football Focus is here to save the day, providing a ranking of every NFL team’s roster based on the season grades issued to each projected starter (including college grades for any rookie likely to start).
As you might have guessed (if you, for example, read the headline), the Broncos didn’t fare too well, earning a whopping No. 22 out of 32 teams. Patriots were, of course, No. 1 based almost solely off of having Tom Brady still playing at age 79, while the Chiefs came in at No. 7 because of Patrick Mahomes and its explosive - if not felonious - offense.
But a bit of a surprise might be that the Los Angeles Chargers rank sixth on the list, ahead of the Chiefs, while boasting some of the best grades on both offense and defense among all the top teams.
Offering very little explanation of their calculation methods for the roster rankings, PFF also issued its biggest strength, weakness and X-factor for each team. Those are rather predictable for the Broncos, as are many of the grades, with Von Miller and Shelby Harris being the only two players to break into the 90s and be considered “elite” by PFF standards.
Miller was obviously considered the Broncos’ biggest strength, but it was the relatively weak grade for a team’s most important position - the quarterback - that earned the Broncos its biggest weakness and pushed it down the rankings. Joe Flacco’s 72 grade is barely passing (no pun intended), but on the bright side, it is two points better than Case Keenum’s 70, so we’ve got that going for us.
The offense is going to miss Matt Paradis’ 79 over Connor McGovern’s 58.3 but if Dalton Risner can be in the high 70s or even get into the 80s as a rookie that would be a gigantic improvement on this O-line. Kareem Jackson and Bryce Callahan paired with Chris Harris Jr. should also make for a much-improved secondary.
Of course, Von Miller's incredible three-year stretch between 2012 and 2014 is the best by an edge defender in the @PFF era.— PFF DEN Broncos (@PFF_Broncos) June 25, 2019
His three-year stretch from 2012-14 saw him rack up 208 QB pressures from 1,205 pass-rushing snaps. #BroncosCountry
: https://t.co/Jvlio9i3tx pic.twitter.com/XDTxT88vKV
PFF considered Bradley Chubb the biggest X-factor, presumably to see if he “can take his game to the next level,” giving the Broncos once again “one of the most feared pass-rushing duos in the NFL.”
Personally, I see Chubb as a very known factor on this team and completely expect him to make a big jump in year two, so I’d pin my X-factor on the head coach. After all, if Vic Fangio proves to be the defensive mastermind he has been touted, then there could suddenly be a host of “x-factor” players on this defense - such as Todd Davis, Justin Hollins, Demarcus Walker - who surprise a few opponents.
As for being named the 22nd best roster, I’d definitely like more explanation on how the individual grades for 22 players factored into the ranking, but if I just look at the teams listed ahead of the Broncos, I have a hard time thinking some of those rosters are better than Denver’s. The Lions? The Jags? The Falcons?
Time will tell, but I think the Broncos will end up in the top half of the NFL by the end of the 2019 season.
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