Broncos final 53-man roster prediction

Los Angeles Rams tight end Johnny Mundt (82) is tackled by Denver Broncos safety Dymonte Thomas (35) and Denver Broncos safety Trey Marshall (36) after a catch during the first half at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Aug 24, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams tight end Johnny Mundt (82) is tackled by Denver Broncos safety Dymonte Thomas (35) and Denver Broncos safety Trey Marshall (36) after a catch during the first half at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Whatever the Broncos expected their 53-man roster to look like before their first preseason game has been turned on its head thanks to injuries, especially at less deep positions.

Now, the Broncos are a mere seven days away from cutting their roster down to 53 men and will have just one more preseason game to make their final decisions after a doozy of a game against the Rams. Here’s how the roster should turn out following the Broncos’ 10-6 loss to the Rams.

Quarterback

  • Joe Flacco
  • Kevin Hogan
  • Drew Lock

Zach Segars

If not for Lock spraining his thumb, there’s no way Hogan would have made the final roster. On Thursday, head coach Vic Fangio admitted to the media that Lock was trending towards the backup role prior to his injury. If that ended up happening, there would be no reason for Denver to carry three quarterbacks, and Hogan would be forced to battle Brett Rypien for the scout team job.

Rich Kurtzman

Considering Lock is a rookie who is quite rough around the edges, the Broncos should have gone with three quarterbacks whether he was injured or not. Now, they have to, which isn’t a bad thing necessarily.

Running Back/Fullback

  • Phillip Lindsay
  • Royce Freeman
  • Theo Riddick
  • Devontae Booker
  • Andy Janovich
  • Orson Charles

Zach Segars

Injuries will force Denver’s hand in the backfield, the same way it forced their hand at quarterback. Ideally, the Broncos would enter the season with just Lindsay, Freeman, Riddick, Janovich and potentially either Khalfani Muhammad or Devontae Jackson on the final roster. Instead, John Elway was forced to sign Charles and will have to keep Booker around to make up for the ailments of Janovich and Riddick respectively.

Wide Receiver

  • Emmanuel Sanders
  • Courtland Sutton
  • DaeSean Hamilton
  • Tim Patrick
  • Juwann Winfree
  • River Cracraft

Zach Segars

Juwann Winfree secured the job as Denver’s fifth receiver almost immediately this summer, with great performances in camp and a few flashes of his high-end potential in the preseason. The sixth spot is still up for grabs, though, and it has heavy implications on the Broncos’ return game as well. For that reason, the job will likely go to Cracraft, who’s not only the most experienced of the candidates but the best returner of the bunch as well.

Rich Kurtzman

The Broncos have to hope for two things with this group: They need to stay healthy and Cracraft has to find a way to produce on special teams. If Sanders is again injured, or if Sutton misses any significant time this season, Denver’s offense will struggle mightily.

Tight End

  • Noah Fant
  • Jeff Heuerman
  • Jake Butt

Zach Segars

At tight end, Fant and Heuerman are the only ones who should feel secure. Jake Butt has the talent to make the final roster, but his remaining abilities and his health are major concerns coming off his third ACL tear. Fumagalli was one of the best surprises of OTAs, and is still probably the best blocker of the bunch, but his less-than-substantial impact this preseason has landed him on the hot seat, especially now that fullback-tight-end-hybrid Orson Charles is on the team.

Rich Kurtzman

When the Broncos signed the hybrid man in Charles, it signaled they will only keep three tight ends. Fumagalli should find his way to the practice squad, though.

Offensive Line

  • Garrett Bolles
  • Dalton Risner
  • Connor McGovern
  • Ronald Leary
  • Ja’Wuan James
  • Elijah Wilkinson
  • Sam Jones
  • Austin Schlottmann
  • Jake Rodgers

Zach Segars

The top six offensive linemen for the Broncos are locked in, as all five starters along with Elijah Wilkinson are guaranteed a spot on the final roster, leaving just three left. Jones should be the odds-on favorite to win the sixth spot. He can help at both center and guard and versatility is a top priority for Fangio, especially in the trenches. Plus, he’s the only other linemen Denver has invested draft capital in.

Rich Kurtzman

The offensive line shows a definite lack of depth in terms of players who can start. The definite starting five is Bolles, Risner, McGovern, Leary and James. Behind them will be Wilkinson, Jones, as well as Rodgers and Schlottmann who can each play multiple positions in the trenches. How will Bolles perform this year? He has to limit penalties while Risner, next to him, has been thrown into the fire as a rookie.

Defensive Line

  • Derek Wolfe
  • Shelby Harris
  • Adam Gotsis
  • Dre’Mont Jones
  • Zach Kerr
  • Demarcus Walker

Zach Segars

With Deshawn Williams and Mike Purcell as the top contenders, the top six Broncos defensive linemen are set in place. The question is, how many defensive linemen will Denver keep? The answer depends on whether or not they want another interior pass-rushing specialist in Walker when they already have a third-round rookie in Jones in that role.

Rich Kurtzman

This is a great group of players and it’s possible Walker gets cut. But, he’ll make the active roster as a possible last chance to shine.

Outside Linebacker

  • Von Miller
  • Bradley Chubb
  • Malik Reed
  • Dekoda Watson
  • Justin Hollins

Zach Segars

As is the case on the defensive line, the question isn’t necessarily “which players are worthy of a roster spot?” Instead, it’s “how many players will the Broncos keep at the position?” Of course, Von Miller and Bradley Chubb will be on the roster, and it’d be a surprise if Hollins or “dream-killer” Malik Reed were cut considering their play and Hollins’ draft status. That leaves Watson as the man on the bubble, but as he’s been a terror this preseason, Denver will keep him.

Rich Kurtzman

Plenty of questions can be raised around how John Elway drafts and builds a team, but not when looking at the edge rushers; Denver is loaded with talent there. That includes Watson, who’s been a nice surprise this preseason.

Inside Linebacker

  • Todd Davis
  • Josey Jewell
  • Alexander Johnson
  • Joseph Jones

Zach Segars

Yet another injury-riddled position forcing John Elway’s hands. There’s no way the Broncos carry five linebackers into the season if not for the injury bug. As Davis and Jones are still recovering from injury, the Broncos are forced to carry extra linebackers to give them some semblance of depth. That being said, given the preseason showings of Johnson and Watson, Jones could find himself as the odd man out.

Rich Kurtzman

This is the position group fans should keep an eye on all season long. If they feel good about where Davis is and go with only four inside linebackers, expect Josh Watson to be cut but to make the practice squad.

Cornerback

  • Chris Harris Jr.
  • Bryce Callahan
  • Isaac Yiadom
  • De’Vante Bausby

Zach Segars

Fortunately for the Broncos, the versatility of their secondary saves them a roster spot, making up for one of the ones injury is demanding they carry. Often when the Broncos go into a nickel or dime look, Kareem Jackson will rotate down to cornerback and Will Parks or Su’a Cravens will take his place. That being said, Yiadom and Bausby have looked much improved and should offer tremendous depth. Denver’s other corners — Alijah Holder, Linden Stephens, Rashard Causey and Trey Johnson — have been four of the Broncos’ seven lowest-graded defenders per Pro Football Focus and should all be easy cuts.

Rich Kurtzman

Outside of the edge, this could be the most jam-packed position group. In fact, it could be more loaded than edge. Denver will have one of the best secondaries in the NFL.

Safety

  • Justin Simmons
  • Kareem Jackson
  • Will Parks
  • Su’a Cravens

Zach Segars

Safety is the biggest no-brainer position for the Broncos. Given needs elsewhere on the roster and the play of their other safeties, they shouldn’t keep more than four players at the position, and who those top four are is crystal clear. Shamarko Thomas will be a painful loss caused by the injuries elsewhere though he could be saved if the Broncos choose to place Lock on injured reserve as designated-to-return.

Special Teams

  • Brandon McManus
  • Colby Wadman
  • Casey Kreiter

Zach Segars

If it weren’t for the enigma at returner for the Broncos, special teams would be the most clear-cut as none of the other positions even have competition on the roster. Cracraft is the best bet at returner, as he already has experience with the team and has made the fewest mistakes back there this preseason.

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