Training camp and all three preseason games are in the books and now Sean Payton and the Denver Broncos will work on trimming their roster from 90 players to 53 players. The roster has to be at 53 players by Tuesday at 4 pm ET and the team has a bunch of tough decisions to make. Also, Sean Payton being an X-factor makes this a tougher process than it usually is. Will he make any surprise cuts or trades? Will he be active on the waiver wire? and which roster bubble players will he or won’t he keep? Those are all the tough questions we do not have answers to right now.
With all that said, I am going to do my best to predict the Broncos' 53-man roster after the cutdown period.
Starter: Russell Wilson
Backup: Jarrett Stidham
Thoughts: This one is pretty basic. Russell Wilson is your starter and is coming off a pretty solid training camp and preseason so hopefully he carries it over into the regular season. Stidham proved in the finale that he can be a pretty solid backup and has two good performances to end the preseason.
Starters: Javonte Williams, Samaje Perine, and Michael Burton
Backups: Jaleel McLaughlin and Dwayne Washington
Thoughts: Javonte Williams continues his miraculous recovery from a multi-ligament tear and will be your starting running back come week one. He is expected to be eased back into things so we should see a lot of veteran running back Samaje Perine this season as well. As for the starting fullback, Michael Burton will lead the way for the Broncos backs this season and hopefully open up some running lanes for them.
As for the reserve running backs, electric undrafted rookie Jaleel McLaughlin not only makes the team but figures to be a weapon for the Broncos this year. He proved he can run between the tackles as well as be a weapon in the passing game. For the final spot, I have Dwayne Washington making the team. Tony Jones Jr. looked solid as a runner, but head coach Sean Payton said he views Washington as a “four core” special teamer. That is the role this fourth running back plays and Washington may have the edge here over Jones Jr.
Starters: Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton
Backups: Marvin Mims, Brandon Johnson, and Lil Jordan Humphrey
Thoughts: Wide receiver Jerry Jeudy could start the year on the injured reserve, but during the game, 9NEWS Denver’s Mike Klis said he may not, so for now, I am projecting Jeudy to avoid the injured reserve. Courtland Sutton will be your other starting receiver and look to turn back the clocks a bit and look like the player he was back in 2019.
Rookie Marvin Mims Jr. likely will have a starting role come week one and be the Broncos' down field threat this season. It is what he did in college and it is what he did in the preseason finale. Second-year wide receiver Brandon Johnson figures to start as well and his run-blocking ability may give him the edge in two receiver threats. For my final spot, I have the Broncos keeping Lil’Jordan Humphrey. He had a solid preseason and would give the Broncos another big receiver who can block.
With that said, this could be a position we see the team add to via waivers or in a trade. So, keep an eye out for that.
Starter: Adam Trautman
Backups: Greg Dulcich, Chris Manhertz, and Albert Okwuegbunam
Thoughts: Adam Trautman was acquired during day three of the draft and now the former Saints tight end will be the Broncos starting tight end come week one. He showed he can be a solid receiver while also helping out as a blocker. Second-year tight end Greg Dulcich figures to see plenty of playing time as well and could be used in a “joker” role in this offense. Veteran Chris Manhertz will be your blocking specialist tight end who will come in during certain two tight end sets and run block, or assist in pass blocking at times.
The final spot has to go to Albert Okwuegbunam. He finished training camp strong and then finished the preseason strong. He has improved as a blocker and showcased his receiving ability. Unless the team was showcasing him for a trade, there is no way you can cut Albert O. after his play the past few weeks. Especially with the Broncos down multiple weapons in the passing game.
I had Nate Adkins making the team, but the undrafted rookie will likely be added to the Broncos' 16-man practice squad.
Starters: Garett Bolles and Mike McGlinchey
Backups: Cam Fleming and Alex Palczewski
Thoughts: Barring something surprising, Garett Bolles will be your starting left tackle while highly-paid right tackle Mike McGlinchey will be your right tackle.
Behind those two, you have veteran swing tackle Cam Fleming. Last year, Fleming was arguably the Broncos' best offensive lineman and now, he is a valuable swing tackle. In the final spot, I have the team keeping rookie Alex Palczewski. He has been hyped up all camp and preseason and has even seen some first-team reps in recent weeks, and makes sense to stick around as a developmental fourth tackle on the roster.
Starters: Ben Powers and Quinn Meinerz
Backup: Kyle Fuller
Thoughts: Highly paid guard Ben Powers will be your left guard while Quinn Meinerz will be your right guard. The team needs these two guys to play really well this season if they want to have success.
As for the backup, it is a dart throw. I have them keeping Kyle Fuller, but it could be a number of other players or someone not on the roster right now. I have zero confidence here.
Starter: Lloyd Cushenberry III
Backup: Alex Forsyth
Thoughts: Lloyd Cushenberry III has been your starting center all offseason, all camp, and all preseason and he will be that guy come week one. We shall see if he shows any noticeable improvement during the season.
For his backup, I have the Broncos keeping rookie Alex Forsyth. He gives them center/guard versatility and makes sense to keep him around as a backup. However, this could go to a few different players or someone not on the roster right now, so we shall see how it shakes out.
Starters: Zach Allen and Jonathan Harris
Backups: Matt Henningsen, Tyler Lancaster, and Elijah Garcia
Thoughts: Zach Allen is your starter while surprising breakout player Jonathan Harris emerged to be the other starter at defensive end. Hopefully, he turns into a solid player for the Broncos.
As for the backups, second-year player Matt Henningsen has proven to be a solid rotational player and veteran Tyler Lancaster gives them a depth piece who can be a solid run defender for them. The final spot goes to second-year player Elijah Garcia. He was impactful during the preseason and gives the Broncos some interior pass rush if needed.
Starter: D.J. Jones
Backup: Mike Purcell
Thoughts: This is fairly simple. D.J. Jones is your starting nose tackle who will look to clog up running lanes in the middle of the defense. Meanwhile, Mike Purcell is another run-stuffing nose tackle who can come in on certain packages and clog up the middle of the line and allow the Broncos linebackers to make plays.
Starters: Randy Gregory and Frank Clark
Backups: Jonathon Cooper and Nik Bonitto (Baron Browning on PUP)
Thoughts: Veterans Randy Gregory and Frank Clark figure to be your starters, but do not rule out Jonathon Cooper starting ahead of one of these guys after a strong offseason. Behind these three, we have second-year pass rusher Nik Bonitto who looked like the Broncos best pure pass rusher during the preseason. His explosiveness is there and he was making life difficult for offensive tackles. I think we could see him have a big year this year.
Baron Browning will start the year on the PUP as he works his way back from knee surgery he underwent in the offseason.
Starters: Josey Jewell and Alex Singleton
Backups: Drew Sanders and Justin Strnad
Thoughts: Josey Jewell and Alex Singleton will be your starting inside linebackers this season and hopefully be as impactful as they were last season. Behind these two is exciting rookie Drew Sanders. Look for him to get some playing time as a blitzer and likely in coverage where he can use his speed and athleticism to his advantage.
The final spot goes to special teams ace Justin Strnad. This could be a position where we see them add from the outside, but for now, I have them keeping Strnad for special teams purposes.
Starters: Patrick Surtain II and Damarri Mathis
Backups: K’Waun Williams, Essang Bassey, and Ja’Quan McMillian (Riley Moss starts the year on IR)
Thoughts: Things get tricky here at cornerback. Patrick Surtain II and Damarri Mathis are your starting corners, but after that, things get hard to predict. Rookie Riley Moss is still recovering from a core surgery and likely will start the year on the injured reserve since he missed a vast majority of camp and all of the preseason. That opens up one spot for someone, but veteran corner K’Waun Williams is injured as well. Will he be healthy come week one, or will the Broncos need to IR him as well, or be a corner short for the start of the season?
For now, I have them keeping Williams off the IR but placing Moss on the IR. This allows the Broncos to keep Essang Bassey to be your backup slot corner and Ja’Quan McMillian to stick around as a depth corner. I am not sure where Tremon Smith and his guaranteed money fit in here, but I do not see a spot for him on the roster currently.
Starters: Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson/Caden Sterns
Backups: P.J. Locke and JL Skinner
Thoughts: Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson, and Caden Sterns will be your main players at safety. Simmons is arguably the best safety in the league while Jackson is a feisty veteran who still has something in the tank. Sterns likely starts ahead of Jackson and gives the Broncos another athletic safety with ball-hawking skills to go with the All-Pro in Simmons.
The final two spots are tough to predict. P.J. Locke is hurt but he has proven to be a solid player for them in the past and I doubt we see the team waive rookie JL Skinner. So, I have them keeping those two while Delarrin Turner-Yell is likely added to the practice squad.
Kicker: Brett Maher
Punter: Riley Dixon
Long-snapper: Mitchell Fraboni
Thoughts: I believe Brett Maher has done enough to make the team, but we shall see who becomes available and if Sean Payton prefers them over Maher.
Riley Dixon has been booming punts and is locked in as your starting punter while Mitchell Fraboni sticks around as your starting long snapper.