The Broncos had one of their most aggressive offseasons of the past decade, leading to an almost entirely rebuilt unit on the offensive side of the ball.
After five straight seasons of inadequacy though, the unit was overdue for an injection of talent. Now, we just have to wait and see if John Elway did enough to revitalize the group. Let’s evaluate the offense:
Projected starter: Drew Lock.
Depth: Jeff Driskel, Brett Rypien, Riley Neal.
Overview: For the first time since 2015, the Broncos are entering the season with a clear-cut starter at quarterback, who’s also an asset at the game’s most important position.
The national media is still doubtful of last year’s 42nd-overall draft selection, but Broncos Country saw enough in his five-game audition to have the utmost confidence in him.
Biggest question: Can Denver rely on Driskel as their backup quarterback?
The Broncos are set with Lock as their starter, but if he suffers another injury, Driskel might not be able to keep this playoff-caliber roster on track.
As an emergency starter, Driskel has a career record of 1-7. He’s also not that much cheaper than better options at the position, like Cam Newton, Andy Dalton and Jameis Winston, who are all set to be backups this season.
Projected starter: Melvin Gordon.
Depth: Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, Khalfani Muhammad, LeVante Bellamy, Jeremy Cox.
Overview: Denver’s running back room is incredibly deep. The duo of Gordon and Lindsay is just about as good as any in the league, and the stable doesn’t stop there.
Freeman has been a disappointment but is still much better than most teams’ third option at running back. Bellamy is an intriguing option as a short-yardage/power back and Muhammad has shown plenty of flashes in preseason play.
Biggest question: Who is running back 1A and who is running back 1B?
The Broncos have never put their faith in Lindsay as the workhorse in their backfield and Gordon’s contract seems to make him the clear No. 1. If John Elway really believed in Lindsay, one would think he’d use that money to re-sign the Colorado kid to a long-term extension, rather than spend it on bringing a competitor in.
That said, the Broncos’ front office wanted Freeman to be the lead back this time last year, but eventually, they couldn’t deny that Lindsay was clearly the more talented back, so don’t count him out yet.
Projected starters: Noah Fant, Nick Vannett.
Depth: Jeff Heuerman, Jake Butt, Albert Okwuegbunam, Troy Fumagalli, Andrew Beck, Austin Fort.
Overview: No position group is more crowded for the Broncos than their bunch of tight ends. Fant is clearly the top dog, but behind him, it’s a mess. The Broncos have a good deal of talent at the position, but none of it is high-end and a lot of it won’t even make the final roster.
Biggest question: Who makes the final roster to fill out Denver’s depth and who gets cut?
Including a fullback/tight end hybrid player, the Broncos will probably only carry four tight ends on the final roster. Fant, Vannett, and Okwuegbunam should be safe bets to make the final 53, which leaves five talented, rotational tight ends to battle it out for one roster spot.
Heuerman and Butt are the best talents of those final five, but they don’t offer a different skillset from what Fant, Vannett and Okwuegbunam provide. Also, the Broncos can’t count on Butt to stay healthy and they would save the most money by cutting Heuerman.
Surprisingly, that gives Fumagalli, Beck, and Fort the upper hand in the race for the fourth tight end spot, as they would each be better fits for the tight end/fullback role than either Heuerman or Butt.
Projected starters: Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, DaeSean Hamilton.
Depth: K.J. Hamler, Tim Patrick, Diontae Spencer, Tyrie Cleveland, Juwann Winfree, Fred Brown, Kelvin McKnight, Trinity Benson, Zimari Manning, Kendall Hinton.
Overview: The most improved position group on Denver’s roster is their receiving corps without much doubt. Elway added three players to the unit via the draft, two of which were selected with the Broncos’ first two picks.
If Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler have a smooth transition to the league, the Broncos will quickly have one of the league’s most talented wide receiver rooms.
Biggest question: Which former Penn State receiver is starting in the slot come Week 1?
Courtland Sutton is obviously Denver’s No. 1 receiver, and Jeudy is obviously their No. 2, but after that it gets murky.
DaeSean Hamilton was Denver’s slot receiver last season and showed signs of growth down the stretch, but has been disappointing for the most part.
Meanwhile, K.J. Hamler is a much better athlete and provides the Broncos’ offense a speed element it otherwise wouldn’t have. However, he needs quite a bit of development, which will be hard to come by in this year’s coronavirus-shortened offseason.
Projected starters (from left to right): Garett Bolles, Dalton Risner, Lloyd Cushenberry III, Graham Glasgow, Ja’Wuan James.
Depth: Elijah Wilkinson, Jake Rodgers, Quinn Bailey, Calvin Anderson, Hunter Watts, Netane Muti, Austin Schlottman, Tyler Jones, Nico Falah, Patrick Morris.
Overview: This offseason the Broncos elected to rebuild the interior of their offensive line rather than focusing on their much-maligned tackle tandem. In that quest, they were quite successful, as the trio of Dalton Risner, Lloyd Cushenberry and Graham Glasgow should be one of the better interior units in the league.
Unfortunately, that means the situation at tackle is still flimsy.
Biggest question: Will Garett Bolles and Ja’Wuan James measure up at tackle?
Every position group on the offensive side of the ball seems to be better off now than they were this time last year, outside of tackle, which hasn’t seen any changes.
Instead, Elway is banking on a healthier season from James and for Bolles to finally develop in Mike Munchak’s second year coaching the offensive line.
It’s a big gamble, and one that could see Drew Lock running for his life all season long if it doesn’t pay off.