Value is a tricky word. It isn’t necessarily the same as best. It’s why fans of sports argue and debate the Most Valuable Player award every year. It’s also why the award always goes to a quarterback in the NFL.
At the end of the day, a team’s fortunes rise and fall with the play of their quarterback. Smart teams account for this and do everything in their power to help the franchise QB succeed. They also build their defenses to make it as difficult as possible for opposing passers.
Inevitably, the players who most impact the passing game on both sides of the ball are extremely valuable.
A quick reminder as to the guidelines I follow:
1. What do I expect the player 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.
Players 12-7 can be found here.
6. Bradley Chubb - Edge
I’m equal parts excited about the fact Chubb threatened the rookie sack record in 2018 and undeterred by his low sack total in four games last year. Getting to the quarterback is obviously the goal for any pass rusher, but Chubb’s ability to cause havoc, create pressure, and impact opposing game plans was clear as day when he played last year. So long as he can get back to that form, the Broncos’ pass defense is going to get a shot in the arm this season.
So why is Chubb only sixth? The ACL injury he suffered is the second to the same knee and robbed the Broncos and Chubb 12 games. The time lost hurts because Chubb could use the extra experience to solidify his run defense and get more comfortable in Fangio’s defense. It also means Chubb’s fifth year option and looming extension also gets closer.
5. Jerry Jeudy - Wide Receiver
Before the draft Jeff Essary and I discussed positional value on Cover 2 Broncos. After quarterback, I consider boundary receiver the most important position in football. I know for many that’s heresy, but if Jeudy and Sutton become the kind of duo it will make the whole offense better. Jeudy’s ability to separate combined with Sutton’s physicality and catch radius will help Drew Lock settle in and prevent defenses from selling out against the run, which will create space for Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay to operate.
It sounds too good to be true after the offensive drought that’s gone on since Peyton Manning retired, but Jeudy’s ceiling is all over his Alabama tape. I considered him my top receiver in a historically good 2020 class and he was a perfect scheme fit for Pat Shurmur’s offense. Fireworks are coming.
4. Justin Simmons - Safety
One of the harder things to find when you’re evaluating safeties is the ability to mirror a receiver like a cornerback. Justin Simmons is among the very best in the league at it, and Vic Fangio will use him to cover the #3 receiver when the Broncos are facing three wide to a side. This ability really shows up against teams like the Chiefs, who have the personnel to easily create issues by moving their receivers around to toy with matchups.
Simmons’ looming free agency over the last year somehow created a rather interesting knock on him I wanted to address here. Somehow, people came to this idea that he doesn’t create enough big plays.
"I don’t believe Justin Simmons should be highest paid at his position. Just doesn’t make enough game-changing plays."— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) July 9, 2020
Are you sure? pic.twitter.com/8SyWqEBis7
On top of Simmons’ elite skills in coverage, he’s one of the best run defenders on the team. The only knock I have on him is his contract situation. If Elway had signed him to an extension, he’d be higher on this list.
3. Von Miller - Edge
This feels blasphemous.
Von Miller has been the best player on the Broncos since Peyton Manning retired. At no point was it particularly close. In no way, shape, or form is Von Miller’s new rank an indictment of his play. I went back over his 2019 at length and the low sack total has caused too many people to fall asleep on him. Adding Casey and bringing Chubb back to this year’s defense will help him wreck the league again.
The reason he’s fallen is because the duo combo of Father time and the looming end of his $114.5 contract. With questions about COVID’s impact on the 2021 cap, it’s impossible to ignore how moving Miller would free up almost $20 million. John Elway just let Chris Harris Jr. go to the Los Angeles Chargers, and Miller admitted he was sweating at the deadline last year. There’s no guarantee Von will retire in orange and blue.
2. Courtland Sutton - Wide Receiver
It’s impossible to really focus on Sutton’s 2019 without shaking your head at some of the iffy throws in his direction. Drew Lock should look better in year two than Joe Flacco did in year twelve. That bodes well for Sutton in the here and now and looking ahead to future years.
What’s so exciting about Sutton and Lock is they’re a perfect match: My biggest question about Sutton going into this year is how he’ll improve at creating separation, but Lock is going to give his receivers chances on 50-50 plays. If he can continue to refine his route running and release in year three, Sutton’s going to be a superstar.
1. Drew Lock - Quarterback
If you somehow missed Cover 2 Broncos, Jeff and I went back over all of Drew Lock’s five games. I’m excited to see what he can do in the Pat Shurmur offense, especially if he can improve on his accuracy in the short to mid range. With the infusion of talent at receiver, there’s going to be places to throw the ball.
What’s a bit nerve wracking is how little the Broncos did to improve the edges this year. The hope has to be Dalton Risner and Graham Glasgow can help protect the rest of the line, even with Demar Dotson in the fold. Then again, maybe John Elway like Football Outsiders looked at Lock’s performance against the blitz and prioritized other upgrades.
Positional value and the potential cap flexibility his rookie contract creates gives Lock this spot in a landslide, which touches back on what value means. Quarterbacks drive the modern NFL, and the 2020 Denver Broncos will go as far as Lock can take them.
Every touchdown pass of Drew Lock's NFL career so far. pic.twitter.com/Gow78OjpYd— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) June 22, 2020
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