The Denver Broncos have their starting linebackers set for the upcoming season with Josey Jewell and Alex Singleton.
Additionally, they also drafted versatile defender Drew Sanders in the third-round of the 2023 NFL Draft. He should be one of the most exciting players to watch throughout camp and will be a unique chess piece for Vance Joseph’s defense. Sanders will get extensive looks on the inside as well as reps on the outside to make use of his pass rushing ability.
After those three players, it is anyone’s best guess to see who will round out their linebacking corps. One player fighting for a job is Justin Strnad, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal after being drafted in the fifth-round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
What are the odds he makes the team? Let’s take a deeper look.
Height: 6’3” | Weight: 235 pounds | Age: 26 years old
40-yard dash: 4.74 seconds | Broad Jump: 9’-5”
Arm Length: 31-3/4” inches | Hands: 9-1/8” | Vertical Jump: 29”
Short Shuttle: 4.49 seconds | 3-Cone Drill: N/A | Bench Press: N/A
Strnad was active for all 17 games last season. He saw no reps on defense, but was a core special teams player with 405 total reps—good enough for 84% of the team’s total snaps. However, he only logged five tackles for the entire year.
How does linebacker Strnad fit with the Denver Broncos?
When the Broncos drafted Strnad in the fifth-round of the 2020 NFL Draft, I thought they were getting a versatile player who eventually could carve himself a starting role in the National Football League.
Despite below-average workout numbers, Strnad’s collegiate film at Wake Forest showed an intelligence player who was quick to diagnose plays was routinely around the action for the Demon Deacons. He also boasted good coverage skills and blitzing capabilities. Quite simply—he was a really solid prospect. His injury history caused him to drop and that’s why the Broncos were able to get him in the middle of Day 3.
Alas, Strnad never developed as I had hoped. He missed his entire rookie season with the Broncos after suffering a wrist-injury toward the end of training camp. In his second year, he played in 16 games and started five at inside linebacker. He notched 36 total tackles, but struggled with consistency, being in the right place, and making the correct defensive reads.
In my opinion, the best Strnad can hope for in 2023 with Jewell, Singleton, and Sanders ahead of him is a reserve role similar to last season with a focus on special teams. That is really his only true path to making the final 53-man roster.
The Broncos kept four inside linebackers on their roster for the 2022 season. Three spots are secure with Jewell, Singleton, and Sanders—so the rest of those participating in camp will likely be fighting for one final spot.
Strnad’s biggest competition will come from Jonas Griffith, who started quite a few games last season before going on injured reserve in November. I believe the final and fourth spot will go to who shows out the most between the two of them. If I had to place a bet on it right now, I’d give the edge to Griffith.