Training Camp starts early this year because of the Denver Broncos involvement in the Hall Of Fame game. So we get to start talking actual football this Thursday as the Broncos will have their first Training Camp practice of the year.
The team will enter the 2019 season with a new Head Coach(Vic Fangio), a new starting quarterback(Joe Flacco), new young quarterback(s) to watch develop(Lock and Rypien), a new Offensive Coordinator(Rich Scangarello) and just a new sense of hope surrounding this team.
Like most years, there will be multiple roster spots on the line during these Training Camp practices. Some players disappoint and lose their starting status or roster spot, so position groups as a whole disappoint, and sometimes you have a Phillip Lindsay who shines and becomes a star. All of that will likely happen in the coming weeks and I am going to do my best to predict how it will all shake out come cut day.
So here is my pre-Training Camp 53-man roster projection for the Denver Broncos
Who makes it: Joe Flacco, Drew Lock, and Brett Rypien
Joe Flacco barring an injury or some crazy unforeseen shenanigans is your starting quarterback come week one of the 2019 regular season. His job and roster spot are not in question and we will all be picking apart each and every practice rep he takes these next few weeks.
Behind him will be the Broncos second-round pick, Drew Lock. He will likely serve as the Broncos backup quarterback and hopefully, take over as the full-time starter come next season. His development during camp will be something we all will keep an eye on.
Finally, I have the undrafted free agent, Brett Rypien. I am not a big fan of keeping three quarterbacks, but I believe he will play too well and force the Broncos hands here. With the commitment they made to him financially, I see them likely keeping him around on the 53-man roster regardless.
Who makes it: Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, Devontae Booker, and Andy Janovich
This group (barring an injury of course) is probably locked into roster spots. They don’t face much competition behind them and all will likely have key roles on the offense.
I think we will see a healthy dose of both Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman this season. I believe Freeman will be your “starter”, but obviously, Lindsay will get his fair share of touches as well. Their usage will likely depend on game flow, the hot hand, and the game plan of course, but they are your two main ball carriers.
Devontae Booker will return as your third-down specialist. He’s the best pass blocking back on the team and is potentially the best receiving back on the team. He will have a role on this offense and I really do not believe his roster spot is in any danger.
Rounding out the group is Andy Janovich. Kyle Shanahan’s offense in San Francisco used the fullback often in their offense, so I think we will see plenty more of Jano this upcoming season.
Who makes it: Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton, Tim Patrick, River Cracraft and Juwann Winfree
If Emmanuel Sanders post-Achilles rehab is coming along as smoothly as it appears, he should be good to go for week one of the regular season. As of right now, I am going with that assumption. If he will remain the same type of player will be the big question, but I at least think he will suit up for them come week one.
Following him will be the two 2018 draft selections. Big Courtland Sutton who may be your number one receiver and likely starting slot receiver, DaeSean Hamilton. Both figure to take big jumps in year two(especially Sutton) and the Broncos will need them to do just that if they want to have success this upcoming season.
I have Tim Patrick easily making this team. He impressed me last season and should earn himself a role on this offense, especially if Sanders lands on the PUP or is being eased back. The big receiver could flourish as a deep option for long ball specialist Joe Flacco.
We have the oft-injured rookie Juwann Winfree rounding out the group. He is a bit of an unknown but did flash talent when healthy during his college career. He is a potential camp breakout candidate if he can remain healthy.
Finally, we have return specialist and slot receiver, River Cracraft. He will serve as the Broncos punt returner this upcoming season. He’s not the flashiest returner but appears to be sure-handed and trustworthy back there.
Who makes it: Noah Fant, Jeff Heuerman, Troy Fumagalli, and Austin Fort
The Broncos selected tight end Noah Fant in the first round of this past April’s 2019 NFL Draft so he is obviously a lock to make the team. I am not sure if he will start right away, but he certainly will be utilized in this offense.
Veteran Jeff Heuerman is another roster lock and could start the season as the Broncos starter at tight end. He has dealt with injuries a bit during his short career but has flashed some potential when healthy.
I have Troy Fumagalli making the 53-man roster after missing his entire rookie season due to injury. He has stood out to onlookers during the OTA and minicamp practices so he will be looking to continue that during Training Camp.
I have undrafted free agent Austin Fort cracking the 53-man roster over Jake Butt. I believe returning from a third ACL tear will be just too much of a hurdle while his future health will be a big question mark moving forward. Fort earned some buzz this offseason so I have him next in line to make the team. They could go elsewhere to find another tight end, but going off the current roster, I have Fort making it.
Who makes it: Garett Bolles, Dalton Risner, Connor McGovern, Ronald Leary, Ja’Wuan James, Sam Jones, Don Barclay, and Elijah Wilkinson
The starting offensive line is likely settled if they all can remain healthy. Left tackle Garett Bolles will start again at left tackle and look to flourish under Mike Munchak. Rookie Dalton Risner will start his NFL career as the Broncos starter at left guard while veteran Connor McGovern will replace Matt Paradis at center. Oft-injured veteran Ron Leary will start at right guard if he can remain healthy while Ja’Wuan James who the Broncos signed to a big deal during the offseason will start at right tackle.
The only real question mark here is Leary’s health. He has dealt with injuries through his NFL career and is coming off an Achilles injury as well.
Your backups will be second-year player Sam Jones, veteran Don Barclay, and the versatile Elijah Wilkinson. Jones will a center/guard guy while Barclay will likely serve as insurance for Leary(received first-team reps in his place during the spring) and Wilkinson will be your swing tackle who can shift inside as well.
Who makes it: Shelby Harris, Derek Wolfe, Adam Gotsis, Dre’Mont Jones, Zach Kerr, DeMarcus Walker
A talented group here that has veterans Shelby Harris, Adam Gotsis, and Derek Wolfe returning as your starters. All three should benefit from Vic Fangio’s presence on the team and will be a key part of the Broncos defense.
Wolfe and Gotsis will serve as your two run-stuffing defensive ends while the talented Shelby Harris will man the middle of the Broncos defensive line.
Behind those three you will have the versatile big man Zach Kerr who can play defensive end and nose tackle for the Broncos. He is the only real true nose tackle on the roster so I feel like we could see him in the middle of some certain packages. Rookie Dre’Mont Jones will serve as a situational pass rusher. Finally, you have former second-round pick DeMarcus Walker getting his last chance with the Broncos. If he cannot make it with Fangio and Kollar, he probably won’t make it at all. Walker’s roster spot is not safe at all and I could see someone added later if he disappoints this summer.
Who makes it: Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, Todd Davis, Josey Jewell, Justin Hollins, Jeff Holland, Dekoda Watson, Joesph Jones, and Alexander Johnson
Von Miller and Bradley Chubb will serve as the centerpieces of Vic Fangio’s defense. The two edge rushers both have 15 sack potential and should be a fearsome duo this upcoming season. Behind them, you will have two youngsters in Justin Hollins and Jeff Holland.
Hollins is very athletic with a high upside. He is someone I could see make a name for himself this summer. Jeff Holland somehow went undrafted last year but will serve as a key reserve for the Broncos defense this season.
In the middle, you have two run stuffers in Todd Davis and Josey Jewell. How both fair in coverage will be key this upcoming season, but in Fangio we trust.
Behind those two I have special teams ace Joseph Jones and hard-hitting linebacker Alexander Johnson. Despite a new Head Coach, they kept Special Teams coach Tom McMahon so I see them keeping some continuity there with Jones and Johnson.
Finally, you have another special teams ace in Dekoda Watson who the Broncos traded for during the draft. He can serve depth at outside linebacker and at edge rusher, but mostly play special teams.
Who makes it: Chris Harris Jr., Bryce Callahan, Isaac Yiadom, De’Vante Bausby, and Elijah Holder
The days of the “No Fly Zone” appear to be dead, but the Broncos did approve on their cornerback unit this offseason.
Chris Harris Jr. returns for what is likely his final season in Denver and will play outside now in Vic Fangio’s defense. Newly signed Bryce Callahan will take over at the slot position, a role he flourished in last season for Fangio in Chicago.
Second-year cornerback Isaac Yiadom will look to make a leap in his second season and a switch to a zone defense should fit his skill set even better. He’s the real x-factor for the Broncos secondary. He will likely be challenged weekly and will need to prove to opposing teams he can hold his own on the outside.
After those three, you have journeyman De’Vante Bausby and UDFA Elijah Holder rounding out the group. I honestly see another player added here before week one. Hell, even two, but as of now, I have these two making the squad.
Who makes it: Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson, Will Parks, Jamal Carter, and Dymonte Thomas
Justin Simmons has breakout potential in Fangio’s defense and will be your starting free safety. The Broncos other big free agent signing was Kareem Jackson. He flourished at safety for the Texans last season and I see him doing the same for the Broncos this upcoming season.
Will Parks is coming off a solid season and will have a role in this defense. He could play safety if Jackson plays some corner or he could play some dime backer in sub-packages. So his versatility will likely make him a crucial reserve for them this upcoming season.
I have special teams ace Jamal Carter and Dymonte Thomas rounding out the group. Carter is coming off a season-ending injury last season and if he returns to form, he should make this team. I have Dymonte Thomas who played his way on to the team last season making it over Su’a Cravens. I like both players and would love it if Cravens lived up to his potential, but it seems like both players are trending in opposite directions.
Who makes it: Kicker Brandon McManus, Punter Colby Wadman, and Long snapper Casey Kreiter.