One quarter of the way through the 2017 season, the Denver Broncos sit at a respectable 3-1, and at 2-0 in the AFC West. While the team has much to work on during their bye week, the team appears to be vastly improved from the 2016 season in multiple phases of the game.

A large part of the improvements from last season have been from offseason acquisitions — both through free agency and the draft — that have provided solid levels of play for the Broncos thus far.

After four games, here is a list of the top five new Broncos that have contributed to the team’s success as the race for the AFC West begins to heat up:

5. Isaiah McKenzie

One of the Broncos’ major flaws season last year was their inability to generate good starting field position due to a lack of explosiveness in the return game.

The Broncos made their special teams a high priority in the 2017 draft, selecting multiple players that had experience on special teams while in college. One of those players was Isaiah McKenzie, who was named the team’s starting punt returner early in training camp. So far, McKenzie has proven to be a dynamic returner, averaging 11.1 yards per punt return. McKenzie’s displayed electric playmaking ability; every time he touches the ball, he has the ability to take the ball into the end zone.

4. Ronald Leary

The Broncos’ biggest prize in free agency, the former Dallas Cowboys guard has helped shore up a struggling offensive line, while providing veteran leadership and consistency. Leary has started all four games for the Broncos and has played just as well with his new team as he did on the All-Pro offensive line of his former team. As the Broncos continue to improve along their line and mold a group who plays with a mean streak, Leary has fit the mold perfectly and stabilized the right guard position for the Broncos.


3. Jamaal Charles

Perhaps the NFL’s best bargain has been the one-year flyer the Broncos took on the former All-Pro running back. Coming off back-to-back season-ending knee injuries, most NFL analysts had written off Charles’ career. Early in the 2017 season, Charles has proven his doubters wrong, regaining some of the pre-injury magic he was famous for. Playing a limited role behind starting running back C.J. Anderson, Charles is averaging 5.3 yards per carry. While his days as a lead back are probably behind him, Charles has more than proven he can still be a solid playmaker in the backfield. Charles and Anderson have made a dynamic duo at running back, boosting the Broncos’ running game to a respectable 143 rushing yards per game.

2. Garett Bolles

While many wanted the Broncos to select a more “popular” prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft, team general manager John Elway stuck to the prospect he liked most and selected Bolles with their first-round pick. It didn’t take long for Bolles to earn the starting left tackle job, and he has proven himself to be an effective option at left tackle. Bolles had garnered offseason hype with his passion for the game and clever quips — touching his quarterback is “like touching my wife,” he said — and has complimented that offseason hype with a strong showing on the field. In what has been a critical position of need for the Broncos in recent seasons, Bolles has started all four games for the Broncos — and appears to be the answer at left tackle for years to come.

1. Domata Peko

While Peko’s name probably isn’t the first you’ll think of, his play for the Broncos can’t be overstated. An offseason signing from the Cincinnati Bengals, Peko was brought in to fill the void of nose tackle to help the Broncos’ 27th-ranked run defense from 2016. Since then, no position group has improved more from the previous season than the defensive line — The Broncos to have the no. 1 run defense though the first four games of the season. Peko’s impact on the defensive line as the Broncos’ primary nose tackle has been instrumental for the Broncos’ defense, swallowing up double-team blocks and penetrating offensive lines to disrupt opposing running backs. It’s apparent that the Peko’s power and drive are consistently problems for opposing offensive lines. If he continues to play at the high level he has through the first quarter of the season, the Broncos might finish 2017 with another historically great defense.