I recently gave you five players who I believe could be breakout stars during training camp, but now, I am going in the opposite direction. I am going to give you five players who I think will be fighting an uphill battle during training camp to earn a roster spot on the Broncos' 53-man roster.
With newly hired head coach Sean Payton joining the team and looking to get the Broncos back into the postseason, we could see some roster turnover after training camp. He is an old-school coach who will not hesitate to move on from a player if he does not fit his vision of what he wants. So, that puts a lot of players in danger and I am going to give you five players who will be fighting for their roster spots this summer.
Wide receiver K.J. Hamler
The former second-round receiver has battled multiple injuries throughout his career and has missed more time than he has spent on the field during his career. Now, with the Broncos trading up and drafting Marvin Mims Jr. in the second round of the draft, it appears that Hamler could be on the outside looking in.
On top of all that, Hamler suffered a torn pec early in the offseason and has missed the entirety of the offseason thus far. So, Payton has yet to see what he can do in his offense and the time is ticking for Hamler to prove himself. He has recently said that he will be cleared for the start of training camp, but the oft-injured receiver will need to prove himself and most importantly, stay healthy.
The Broncos are VERY deep at receiver and have multiple players with similar skill sets to Hamler’s. Marvin Mims Jr. is the obvious one, but former fifth-round pick Montrell Washington and second-year player Jalen Virgil have similar skill sets and could be viewed as replacements.
Hamler will need to prove that he can stay healthy throughout camp and outperform his competition if he wants to make the team. He has flashed his potential throughout his career but has never been able to stay healthy. If he does all that, he will make a case, but even then, I am not sure that will be enough for Hamler to crack the Broncos' 53-man roster.
Wide receiver/returner Montrell Washington
Washington was a fifth-round pick of the Broncos last year and was viewed as a return specialist for them. He ended up being the training camp darling last season and entered the season with some high expectations. However, much like the rest of the Broncos offense, he disappointed and is now entering his second season with the team fighting for a roster spot,
Like Hamler, the addition of Marvin Mims Jr. puts his roster spot in danger. After the Broncos traded up to select Mims, head coach Sean Payton called him an “elite returner” which put Washington on notice. Also, the Broncos signed veteran cornerback/returner Tremon Smith during free agency to compete as well. So, things are currently looking bleak for the Broncos' former fifth-round pick.
Mims Jr. is obviously making the team and most likely, Smith is making the team as a special teamer, so I have a hard time finding a spot for Washington. If he wants to make the team, he will need to show he is better than both of those players as a returner AND show he can be a reliable receiver for them. The odds are stacked for him, but we shall see how it plays out during camp. Ultimately, I think he will be among the player's Payton parts ways with before the start of the season.
Tight end Albert Okwuegbunam
The big and athletic tight end was a player many thought would have a breakout season in 2022. He looked destined to start, but that quickly went off the rails and he found himself in Nathaniel Hackett’s dog house. He went from starting to being inactive on a weekly basis. After Hackett was fired, Okwuegbunam was active for the Broncos the following week and he caught three passes for 45 yards and 1 touchdown. Now, with Sean Payton running the offense, could he finally tap into Albert O’s potential?
HC Sean Payton on Albert Okwuegbunam: "I think he's made progress."— Aric DiLalla (@AricDiLalla) June 13, 2023
Said he can run and he's athletic — they're looking for consistency from him.
Made a couple nice deep catches during today's practice.
He is a 6’5”, 260-pound tight end who can run a 4.5 40-time, so the athletic ability is there. Albert O. has also flashed receiving potential throughout his career so it would make sense for Payton to boost his confidence and see what he has in him. He is a matchup nightmare for linebackers, cornerbacks, and safeties with that size and speed, so if there is something there, Payton would most likely utilize it.
However, the odds are stacked for Okwuegbunam to make this team. Greg Dulcich appears to be the “joker” for Payton, they signed free agent tight end/blocking specialist Chris Manhertz during free agency and traded for one of Payton’s guys, Adam Trautman during the draft. So, at best, Albert O. is the fourth tight end on this team. What also hurts him is that he is a one-dimensional player who struggles with blocking. If the Broncos do keep four tight ends, you would assume they would want a fourth one who could block, and not just another receiver. Especially with them fairly deep at that position already.
For Albert O. to make this team, he will need to show he is a weapon in the passing game and just too valuable to let go. I am not sure you are getting much from him as a blocker at this stage of his career, but any improvement there would be helpful as well.
At the end of the day, I think Okwuegbunam has a shot to make this team. He is a valuable piece in the passing game and I think he will be someone who can have a solid training camp and preseason.
Safety Delarrin Turner-Yell
Turner-Yell was selected in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos but now finds himself on the roster bubble. He was active for 14 games last season, but played mostly special teams for the Broncos and never truly stood out during the season.
What puts Turner-Yell on the bubble is the number of safeties the Broncos added to their roster this offseason. They brought back special teams ace P.J. Locke, re-signed veteran Kareem Jackson and drafted JL Skinner in the draft. They did that on top of having starter Justin Simmons and potential starter Caden Sterns already on the roster. So, Turner-Yell is facing a bunch of competition for his roster spot and currently appears to be on the outside looking in.
Right now, I think it is safe to assume that Justin Simmons, Caden Sterns, and Kareem Jackson are locked into a roster spot. I would assume P.J. Locke has the edge on a reserve role and rookie JL Skinner should be back for the start of camp and is probably making the roster. That is five safeties right there before I even mention Turner-Yell.
You have a brand new coaching staff in Denver and one that signed multiple safeties and drafted another after spending a fifth-round pick on Turner-Yell last season. The odds appear stacked for him and he will really need a strong summer to make this team. Right now, I have him out, but we shall see how everything goes this summer.
The backup offensive line(not including Cam Fleming)
The Broncos starting five along the offensive line appear to be set but the players backing them up is far from determined. Veteran offensive tackle Cam Fleming is your swing tackle and gives the Broncos their best-looking tackle group on paper in years. However, your interior depth and reserve tackles have more questions than answers.
Quinn Bailey, Luke Wattenberg, Kyle Fuller, and Isaiah Prince are your current projected backups at left guard, center, right guard, and right tackle. That is not a very exciting group and one that saw a few of these players struggle mightily last season when given playing time. It is not much better behind these guys either. You have a late seventh-round pick(some potential there) and then a host of undrafted rookies and a few journeyman players looking to make some noise.
I would say, all of the players not named Cameron Fleming are currently on the roster bubble. I think we could see a lot of changes here with potentially some veteran depth added and/or additions made after the cut-down period. Especially with it being such an inexperienced and young group of players. Hopefully, a few of them look good enough to crack the 53-man roster, but ultimately, I think we see a few outside additions being made to strengthen their offensive line depth.
Which player do you think has the best shot at making the team?
This poll is closed
WR K.J. Hamer
WR/KR Montrell Washington
TE Albert Okwuegbunam
S Delarrin Turner-Yell