The Denver Broncos cornerback depth after NFL Free Agency leaves plenty of room to say that the group is sneakily underrated, but also enough to express potential concern.

State of the Denver Broncos cornerback position

Last year around this exact time, the outlook surrounding the Denver Broncos cornerback room was in a similar place, but under different circumstances. Patrick Surtain II and Ronald Darby headlined the group, but in 2023 it will be Surtain and second-year cornerback Damarri Mathis who headline the position group on the outside.

Patrick Surtain, K’Waun Williams, and Damarri Mathis headline the position
As Sean Payton leads the Broncos in his first season as the team’s head coach, the big names to watch at cornerback are Patrick Surtain, K’Waun Williams, and Damarri Mathis.

Surtain’s emergence as a rising superstar at the position has been exciting to watch. Williams’ demonstrated how balanced of a player he is inside of the nickel last season, while Mathis showcased reliability and extreme promise going forward.

It comes as no surprise that Surtain will headline the position room this upcoming season under Christian Parker, who returns as his position coach for another season. The All-Pro cornerback will continue to elevate the production of the secondary this upcoming season.

In 2022, Surtain demonstrated why he is a top-level cornerback in today’s NFL landscape which favors opposing offenses. While he had another stellar season, there were several moments this past year where an opposing wide receiver got the best of him.

How Surtain responded to some of those challenges is a clear example that showcases his maturity and elite-level mindset — which will help ensure he has an illustrious NFL career.

Williams was a bright spot in his first season in Denver despite struggling with several injuries. Even though he was banged up, he played in 14 out of 17 games with a broken hand, injured elbow, torn meniscus, and several other injuries throughout the year.

Mathis stepped up in a big way last season after Darby suffered a torn ACL. What’s even more impressive is that he appeared and played in 16 games in 2022 and started in 11 of them.

With a secondary that features a legitimate shutdown corner like Surtain, opposing teams tested Mathis and he responded in a big way.

He finished the season with 65 tackles and seven passes defensed — showing improvement every single week.

This group will be an integral part of the Broncos defensive success in 2023.

Broncos cornerback depth under the microscope
Behind the Denver Broncos starters at the position, the cornerback depth on this roster could be underrated — but it could also be an area of concern.

Aside from releasing Ronald Darby, the only roster move that Denver made in NFL Free Agency was bringing in sixth-year cornerback Tremon Smith. Smith spent all of 2022 as a member of the Houston Texans and started in just two games last year.

He appeared in all 17 games but hardly played much of a role on defense, playing 17% of the team’s snaps on that side of the ball. Smith played 78% of the Texans’ special teams snaps, which indicates his primary role with the Broncos will be on special teams.

If Denver were to lose a starter to injury at any point of the season, is their cornerback depth enough?

Players like Smith, Ja’Quan McMillian, Delonte Hood, Faion Hicks, and Essang Bassey make up the position’s depth ahead of the NFL Draft and OTAs, which is subject to change.

McMillian stepped up in a big way in the Broncos’ Week 18 regular-season finale against the Los Angeles Chargers, covering star wide receiver Mike Williams. The undrafted rookie finished the game with seven tackles and had several passes defensed with what should have been an interception that officials didn’t overturn after review.

He could be the underrated gem of the Broncos’ cornerback room going into training camp.

Bassey has the most experience of the group and is capable of playing on the outside, but stepped up inside of the nickel and dime last season. He is also one of Denver’s best special teams players.

Hood and Hicks are question marks considering their lack of experience. Both players will compete for a roster spot during training camp.

Perhaps one of the more difficult aspects of the Broncos’ cornerback depth is not having another experienced veteran at the position. As Denver prepares for the NFL Draft, they could still add a veteran option prior to the big event in April, but that player would have to be okay with potentially not starting opposite of Surtain.

Internally, the Broncos believe that Mathis is a starting cornerback in the NFL and they are entrusting him this season opposite of Surtain to be a big part of their defense under Vance Joseph.

Health will always be a factor for every position and every team, but the Denver Broncos could very well have an underrated group at cornerback as they head into training camp in July.