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2020 Most Valuable Broncos #12-7

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Potential with a capital P.

Denver Broncos v Indianapolis Colts
Noah Fant isn’t just a tight end, he’s a weapon.
Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images

We’ve now reached that point on the MVB list where I have to try not to babble about potential for every player. Over the last three offseasons John Elway’s added a bunch of prospects at key positions. By saving money at quarterback, edge rusher, and wide receiver, the Broncos have been able to bolster their depth chart with talented veterans. So long as the younger players develop, the Broncos will be the envy of most of the NFL.

A quick reminder as to the guidelines I follow:

1. What do I expect them to bring to the roster going forward?

2. Positional value

3. Salary compared to both past and expected future performance

Players 48-43 can be found here.

Players 42-37 can be found here.

Players 36-31 can be found here.

Players 30-25 can be found here.

Players 24-19 can be found here.

Players 18-13 can be found here.

12. Kareem Jackson - Safety

Of all the Broncos’ 2019 free agents, Jackson was the one I was most nervous about. Big money to a 31-year old corner who may or may not switch to safety seemed like a risky gamble. Now health luck obviously played a role in derailing both JaWuan James and Bryce Callahan, but Jackson’s performance in 2019 serves as proof to me that Fangio knows how to project and fit defensive backs into his scheme better than I do.

The late season DUI suspension and all of the exciting young pieces have made it easy to forget how good Jackson was a year ago, but let there be no doubt: he was a very good beside Justin Simmons. So why is Jackson sitting on the outside of the top 10 of the MVB? He’s now a 32-year old safety with a contract that is very moveable in 2021. With the NFL’s salary cap all but certain to decline, we may be watching the last year of Jackson’s short orange and blue career.

11. Jurrell Casey - Defensive Lineman

Two of my favorite moves the Broncos made this offseason may look like one year rentals when it’s all said and done. Both A.J. Bouye and Casey were acquired by John Elway in savvy trades this offseason. If he can stay healthy, Casey is going to make Jon Robinson and the Tennessee Titans look really dumb for giving him away for just a 7th round pick.

Casey’s both quick and stout. He should be a standout.

What’s weird about Casey is he probably would have been cut or traded elsewhere if the Bengals hadn’t outbid Elway for Houston’s D.J. Reader during free agency. In the end, the Broncos got the better pass rusher and penetrator. Casey combines deft hand work with special lateral mobility. Don’t be surprised if Fangio dials up a slew of stunts featuring Casey, Bradley Chubb, and Von Miller this year.

Casey will draw extra attention as a pass rusher, which should free up other rushers.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to ignore a looming cap crunch when it comes to evaluating either Bouye or Casey’s value though. As Jeff Essary and I discussed for Cover 2 Broncos, acquiring them in a trade also means if the Broncos need to pull a rip cord to skirt the shrinking salary cap in 2021, Casey’s lack of guarantees make him a prime candidate for the chopping block.

10. Graham Glasgow – Right Guard or Center

I dug into Glasgow’s film back when the Broncos signed the former Lion in March. He should be an immediate upgrade over Ron Leary and improve both the pass protection in front of Drew Lock and help Munchak diversify the running game. I loved the signing. A+ grade loved it. This past week I studied Dalton Risner and how Mike Munchak used his guards a year ago I’m all sorts of jazzed all over again.

Glasgow will make the Broncos’ rushing attack even harder to stop, and he’s a strong pass protector.

9. Alexander Johnson – Linebacker

Until the day I die, I’ll wonder why Alexander Johnson did not play the first four games of the 2019 season. Even after a good preseason, Vic Fangio chose to play a just-signed Corey Nelson in week 1 against the Raiders.

When Johnson finally did hit the field, it looked like a ton of bricks to Philip Rivers’ back. The 255 lb linebacker was the key to shoring up a leaky run defense and came down with a clutch interception to boot. He kept it up over the remaining 11 games and now enters his first full season preparing to be a starter. If more time in the Fangio system can also help to better anticipate opponents in coverage? He’ll earn recognition as one of the best off-ball linebackers in the league.

There are two things working against the Dino’s placement on this list. Because he got such a late start to the NFL he’ll become 2021 a Restricted Free Agent at 29-years old in 2021. Johnson may have just two seasons left in orange and blue before Elway lets another team pay the 30-year old in free agency.

Johnson was one of the Broncos’ best players in 2019. 2020 should be even better.

8. Dalton Risner - Left Guard

Risner’s mobility is a central part of the Broncos’ blocking scheme under Mike Munchak. The Wiggins’ grad was the best player on the offensive line as a rookie. His hand work, anchor, and mental processing really impressed me when I studied his tape. Tightening up his footwork could help him become one of the best guards in the league.

Risner is a cornerstone type of guard. The kind of guy you draft and forget about his position for a decade because you know it’s locked down.

7. Noah Fant – Tight End

Noah Fant was never going to be George Kittle, but he can be an even better Evan Engram. He’s an athletic freak who’s bigger and faster than Courtland Sutton. Under Pat Shurmur Fant’s athletic gifts will lead to more reps as a big receiver and less snaps trying to block the Khalil Mack’s and Danielle Hunter’s of the NFL.

Back when Pat Shurmur was first hired I went and dug into target distributions in his offenses over the last three seasons. For perspective I added those numbers up and averaged them out and then compared it to what the 2019 Broncos’ target distribution was. Over the past three seasons Shurmur’s tight ends averaged seven touchdowns and 821 yards a season, and that’s with Evan Engram missing 13 contests.

A few weeks ago I dove into Noah Fant’s rookie season and Shurmur’s 2019 offense to project where things go from here. If he put in the necessary work this offseason, the sky’s the limit.

No player on the Broncos' offense benefits as much from the switch from Scangarello to Shurmur as much as Noah Fant does.
No player on the Broncos’ offense benefits as much from the switch from Scangarello to Shurmur as much as Noah Fant does.

Your Broncos’ Links

Which Broncos rookie will have the biggest impact? - Mile High Report

Adam and Ian debate.

Ten offensive linemen for the Broncos’ roster? - Mile High Report

Given uncertainties on the line plus planning for covid outbreaks makes this a good idea, The Athletic’s Nick Kosmider tells Broncos Country Tonight.

What camp battles matter most for the 2020 Denver Broncos? - Mile High Report

These 6 position battles intrigue.

Denver Broncos announce several roster moves - Mile High Report

The Denver Broncos have waived a rookie and put several other players on various lists. They are now at the 80-player roster limit.

Denver Broncos film breakdown: Dalton Risner - Mile High Report

How good can the second year guard become?

Here’s why you must expect a ‘slow build’ from the Broncos’ young offense

But the reality is that for a young offense that needed the repetitions more than most units around the NFL, the pandemic has already robbed it of growth opportunities with OTAs and team-organized practices being scrubbed. The fact that the team won’t don pads until three weeks after reporting for camp and won’t play the preseason at all further drains the reservoir of repetitions to a critical level.

Broncos Roster Review: Cornerback Isaac Yiadom - Mile High Report

As a third-year cornerback and one of the few with experience in Denver’s scheme, Yiadom should make the roster but will have to fight to be one of the top four.

Denver Broncos report no positive COVID-19 tests among players | 9news.com

Five days through COVID-19 testing of the Broncos’ 80 players, the team has not reported a positive case.

NFL Links

Lamar Jackson: I’m still hoping we get Antonio Brown - ProFootballTalk

Brown remains under league investigation for Personal Conduct Policy violations, although he recently asked the league to make a determination on his status.

49ers have agreed to extend John Lynch’s deal - ProFootballTalk

The deal will span five years, per Garafolo, keeping him under contract through 2024. The extension signed by coach Kyle Shanahan this offseason runs through 2025.

Report: Titans have heard nothing from absent Vic Beasley - ProFootballTalk

Beasley was supposed to report on Tuesday for COVID-19 testing but wasn’t there yesterday or today.

Sean Payton won’t be surprised if some games are suspended - ProFootballTalk

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Payton said that he won’t be surprised if some 2020 games are suspended. He pointed to the possibility that a team will have all players at a given position group unable to play, due to testing positive for COVID-19. A member of the Competition Committee, Payton didn’t address whether those games would be rescheduled or simply scrapped. It’s possible that some games simply won’t be played, and that some teams will have fewer than 16 games when the season ends. Playoff positioning, at that point, would hinge on winning percentage.

Damien Williams opts out for 2020 - ProFootballTalk

Williams was headed into the final year of his contract and was set to make $1.85 million. His contract will toll to the 2021 season and he’ll receive an $150,000 advance on his salary.