This is the NFL offseason, the time between OTAs and training camp, when players flee to exotic landscapes for one last vacation before the hard work continues, and when fans hope and pray they don’t see their favorite player’s name and “arrested” in the same sentence.

We often say that the NFL season never stops, and that’s mostly true, but if it ever did, it would be during these few weeks in June and July.

Fortunately, that gives us some time to regroup, take stock of the Broncos’ draft and free agent class, and look forward to training camp. In the next few weeks, we’ll be publishing positional previews three times a week in preparation for the franchise’s run towards a fourth championship.

During the offseason, the Broncos let their top two running backs from last year, C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman, hit the market, and John Elway ended up having to shell out $8 million dollars just for next season to bring both players back. Then, during the NFL draft, they added talented rookie Devontae Booker in the fourth round. With a solid pair of running backs already in place, can Booker come in and shake up the group?

Projected Depth Chart:


C.J. Anderson; 5-foot-8, 224 pounds, 4th year


Ronnie Hillman; 5-foot-10, 195 pounds, 5th year


Devontae Booker; 5-foot-11, 219 pounds, rookie


Juwan Thompson; Kapri Bibbs; Cyrus Gray

Biggest Question: Can C.J. Anderson live up to his big contract and put together a full season?

The rhetoric on Anderson the past two years has been twofold: The first half of the season, he does relatively nothing, and then explodes the second half of the season. This was very much the case in 2014, when he only had 201 rushing yards through Week 10. Then, in the final six games, he racked up 648 yards.

Anderson’s inconsistency showed last year as well, only racking up two games of 100-plus yards rushing, along with three games of under 20 yards rushing.

After singing a four-year, $18 million contract with the Broncos in March, the Broncos expect a lot more out of Anderson this coming year.

“With the rise in pay also goes the rise in expectations,” Broncos general manager John Elway said after signing Anderson. “And I think C.J. understands that, and he’s ready to handle that.”

To be fair, Anderson did only receive just over 10 rushing attempts per game during the regular season last year. However, with the uncertainty at quarterback and Gary Kubiak’s run-heavy offense set to fully take over this year, expect that number to significantly increase.

If Anderson can live up his new this contract all season long, the entire Broncos offense will be just fine.

Most-Important Player: C.J. Anderson

After a fairly mediocre statistical season last year, Anderson needs to prove his worth this year. Anderson didn’t even lead the team in rushing yards during the regular season last season — falling 143 yards behind Ronnie Hillman.

Even though Anderson will be paid like a top-five running back in 2016, he will not be without help. Much like last season, the Broncos will use a two-back system — or potentially even three, depending on the growth of Devontae Booker — which will not only take some of the burden off of Anderson, but will allow him time to rest as well.

Saying that, however, if Anderson isn’t a major player this year, the Broncos’ running game could be in big trouble. If Anderson performs well, the offense has a chance to be very good, but if he doesn’t perform well, don’t expect the other running backs or the quarterback, whoever that may be, to pick up the slack.

Surprise Player: Devontae Booker

Although Booker is projected to be the third-string running back going into the season, don’t be surprised if he quickly rises in the depth chart early in the year.

After falling to the end of the fourth round, the Broncos quickly drafted Booker as he was their second highest ranked running back in the draft. Elway was ecstatic to add Booker, and with his familiarity with a pro style system, he could be ready to see significant playing time during his rookie season.

The most important time for Booker could be right now, during the six-week summer break. If Booker studies the playbook and comes to training camp prepared, it may be a very short time until he is the backup to Anderson.

In fact, Booker could even take playing time away from both Anderson and Hillman, as he is viewed as a true three-down back. Booker is known for his decisive, downhill running style, much like Anderson, and if the Broncos run the ball like expected, his running style will be coveted by the coaches.

While Booker certainly has the potential to be the Broncos running back of the future, he also has a chance to have a significant impact on the team this season, especially in an offense focused on the run.

Grade: B

The Broncos are paying the money for this to be an “A” grade, but with the inconsistency — Anderson — and the unknown — Booker — it is too early to grade this as an elite group, even though it has the potential.

With the questions at quarterback, the running backs will have to perform very well in order to make the offense above average. The Broncos are paying the fifth most money to their running backs, so it is perfectly okay to put high expectations on this group, especially the leader, Anderson.