By this time next week, the Denver Broncos will have their 53-man roster set in stone.
There is a multitude of players who will make up the Broncos offense, defense, and special teams units.
Projecting the Denver Broncos 53-man roster
The Broncos will conclude the NFL preseason tonight against the Minnesota Vikings at Empower Field at Mile High, with kickoff set for 7 p.m. MT.
For many players, tonight’s preseason game will be the final audition they receive to impress the Broncos coaching staff ahead of personnel decisions that approach.
The Broncos will be forced to trim the roster from 80 players to 53 by 2 p.m. MT on Aug. 30, but some roster decisions could begin on Sunday.
In this roster prediction piece, the Broncos keep 26 players on offense, 24 players on defense, and three total specialists.
Denver Broncos Quarterback Room
Russell Wilson sits on the throne as the Broncos starting quarterback, but the job for backup quarterback will be settled on Saturday.
For Brett Rypien and Josh Johnson, it boils down to consistency and operation.
“Consistency. Consistency is the big one,” Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett said on Thursday after practice. “You want to be sure that they’re going out there, executing the plan, understanding when we want to change plays or keep the same play on, understanding the progressions and all those things, and making good decisions. To this point, they have made some pretty good decisions, so we want them to continually take care of the ball, also.”
Throughout training camp, Rypien has showcased consistency in operating Hackett’s offensive system.
Johnson has made strides as well from camp through the preseason.
Rypien has a chance to solidify himself as the man behind Wilson if he has an efficient first half on Saturday.
Broncos Quarterback Prediction: Russell Wilson, Brett Rypien (2)
Denver Broncos Running Back Room
Javonte Williams, Melvin Gordon, and Mike Boone project to headline the Broncos rushing attack this upcoming season.
With Williams and Gordon expected to split reps this season, having established roles within the offense, Denver’s rushing attack should be balanced across the board in a new system.
Boone could sprinkle in from time to time as a pass-catching option out of the backfield, but is projected to be a backup to Gordon and Williams while contributing as a major player on special teams.
During the final week of training camp, the Broncos claimed RB Devine Ozigbo, a 6’0″ 225 lb. rusher who has the perfect size and speed combination. He’ll likely wind up on the Broncos practice squad after roster cuts.
Broncos Running Back Prediction: Javonte Williams, Melvin Gordon, and Mike Boone (3)
Broncos Wide Receiver Room
After Tim Patrick’s injury during training camp, the Broncos invested within their own positional depth to help keep the offense flowing.
With Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, and KJ Hamler headlining the top of the depth at wide receiver, the Broncos could project to keep seven total receivers.
Montrell Washington has demonstrated all throughout training camp why the team drafted him. Whether it be as a return specialist or contributor on offense, Washington has been one of the most consistent camp players at receiver.
Kendall Hinton has also proven to be a valuable commodity to Russell Wilson and this offense with his ability to get open.
If Denver keeps seven, two spots remain.
In this roster projection, the Broncos hang on to two undrafted rookie free agents who have been impressive throughout training camp.
Enter Brandon Johnson and Jalen Virgil.
Johnson has flashed quickly after Patrick’s injury and has gained trust from Wilson. His productive preseason projects him to be a crucial role player in 2022.
Virgil is the wildcard. In his first NFL action, he hauled in three receptions for 83 yards, showcasing his speed and ability to track the football vertically.
If Johnson and Virgil make the team if Denver carries seven wideouts, what does that mean for players like Tyrie Cleveland and Seth Williams?
Cleveland has a strong chance of clearing waivers and signing onto the practice squad after roster cuts simply due to not having played any preseason reps as he continues to recover from a throat injury.
He would be a key special teams player for Dwayne Stukes, but it’s unknown how much of a role he’d have within the offense with the emergence of Johnson and Virgil.
Williams is also a strong consideration for a practice squad role with his 6’3 size.
Broncos Wide Reciever Prediction: Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler, Montrell Washington, Kendall Hinton, Brandon Johnson, Jalen Virgil (7)
Broncos Tight End Room
The Broncos tight end room presents various dilemmas for George Paton, Nathaniel Hackett, and the personnel department to figure out.
Albert Okwuegbunam has emerged as the No. 1 option at the position with his ability to test defenses downfield vertically and in the short to intermediate passing game.
Third-round rookie draft selection Greg Dulcich has dealt with a hamstring issue from OTAs through training camp, however, when he’s been on the field he’s showcased flashes.
For Nathaniel Hackett, he’s hoping that rest and mental reps will help guide him to hopefully being ready by Week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks.
Eric Tomlinson came over on a one-year deal in the offseason and has showcased reliability as an in-line blocker on offense. He’s also demonstrated an underrated ability to catch various passes within this scheme at different field levels.
Eric Saubert is another name that adds value to the Broncos offense. He’s a hybrid-level player who offers versatility as a pass catcher with his size and deceptive speed and his physicality as a blocker.
That leaves fullback/tight end Andrew Beck on the outside looking in.
The hope is that Beck clears waivers allowing the Broncos to bring him back onto the practice squad.
For those wondering about the fullback role Beck played, the Broncos could utilize Saubert, Tomlinson, or Dulcich in this role if needed.
Broncos Tight End Prediction: Albert Okwuegbunam, Greg Dulcich, Eric Saubert, Eric Tomlinson (4)
Broncos Offensive Line Room
Projecting the offensive line usually is difficult, but considering the Broncos depth across the board, it wasn’t nearly as difficult this year.
At offensive tackle, the Broncos will rely on Garett Bolles, Calvin Anderson/Billy Turner to fulfill their starters on offense.
Whichever player wins between Anderson and Turner, the other projects to be the top backup option while veteran tackle Cam Fleming adds depth at tackle.
On the interior, Lloyd Cushenberry, Quinn Meinerz, and Dalton Risner project to start at center and guard positions.
Behind those three players, rookie draft pick Luke Wattenberg, veteran Graham Glasgow, and Netane Muti project to be the backups.
Broncos Offensive Line Prediction: Garrett Bolles, Dalton Risner, Lloyd Cushenberry, Quinn Meinerz, Billy Turner, Calvin Anderson, Cam Fleming, Luke Wattenberg, Netane Muti, Graham Glasgow (10)
Total players on offense for the Denver Broncos (26)
Denver Broncos Specialists
Luckily for the Broncos, projecting specialists is one of the easier tasks.
Brandon McManus maintains the undisputed role as the team’s kicker.
With Corliss Waitman’s strong training camp and preseason, he projects to beat out veteran punter Sam Martin.
Long snappers are people too. If the long snapper’s name is ever heard, something usually goes wrong.
That hasn’t been the case for Jacob Bobenmoyer who maintains his position.
Broncos Specialist Preview: Brandon McManus, Corliss Waitman, Jacob Bobenmoyer (3)
Broncos Cornerback Room
The Broncos cornerback room is headlined by Patrick Surtain II and Ronald Darby on the outside.
K’Waun Williams, one of the Broncos key free agent acquisitions will be the secondary’s nickel player.
Michael Ojemudia prepares for his third season in the NFL, and will likely make the roster as one of the backups to Surtain and Darby.
However, as Ojemudia deals with a dislocated elbow, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Broncos placed him on the Reserve/PUP list, keeping him on the roster, but holding him out for the first four games of the regular season.
Fourth-round rookie draft pick Damarri Mathis has emerged during training camp as a fearless, technically sound cornerback.
He’ll be another key backup and special teams player for Denver this season.
Behind Williams, Essang Bassey projects to be the backup nickel option in the event Williams were to ever miss any time.
Broncos Cornerback Prediction: Patrick Surtain II, Ronald Darby, K’Waun Williams, Damarri Mathis, Michael Ojemudia, Essang Bassey (6)
Broncos Safety Room
The top four depth spots for the backend of the Broncos secondary project to be easy locks.
Headlined by Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson, they’ll maintain their starting roles on defense.
Behind them, P.J. Locke and Caden Sterns will be their backups.
However, the fifth safety spot is up for grabs for Denver between Delarrin Turner-Yell and J.R. Reed.
Turner-Yell, a fifth-round draft pick by general manager George Paton has demonstrated some flashes this off-season, but Reed has been more consistent in practice and in the preseason.
Saturday’s preseason finale against the Vikings could determine who takes that final projected spot. Regardless of who gets the job, it would appear likely that the sixth option would be a practice squad target.
Broncos Safety Prediction: Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson, P.J. Locke, Caden Sterns, JR Reed (5)
Broncos Inside Linebacker Room
One hope the Broncos have this season for the inside linebacker position is that the unit can stay healthy.
Headlined by Josey Jewell and Jonas Griffith, the Broncos will likely carry four total linebackers based on the current roster construction.
While Griffith is still recovering from a dislocated elbow, the expectation is that he’ll be ready to go Week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks.
Behind Jewell and Griffith, Justin Strnad and Alex Singleton have taken noticeable strides throughout training camp that offer value at the position. Both Strnad and Singleton also play significant roles on special teams.
Earlier this week, the Broncos added rookie linebacker Jeremiah Gemmel who previously spent time with the San Francisco 49ers.
Gemmel is a practice squad consideration that could be called up during the season.
Barrington Wade, who was waived/injured to make room for Gemmel reverted to injured reserve, which keeps him in the fold down the road.
Broncos Linebacker Prediction: Josey Jewell, Jonas Griffith, Justin Strnad, Alex Singleton (4)
Broncos Outside Linebacker Room
The Broncos outside linebacker group features a group of players who possess both elite size, strength, and speed off the edge.
Bradley Chubb and Randy Gregory project to start for the Broncos on defense. Behind them, Baron Browning and second-round rookie draft selection Nik Bonitto will back them up.
This roster projection has Denver keeping four total edge rushers.
Aaron Patrick is another player who has the ability to contribute as a rotational player, but considering Denver’s personnel on offense, he’d be a consideration for the practice squad.
Malik Reed has been one of the most consistent and reliable role players the Denver Broncos have had defensively for the last three years.
With positional demand rising across the NFL, many assume Reed could be a Paton trade candidate prior to roster cuts.
Broncos Outside Linebacker Prediction: Randy Gregory, Bradley Chubb, Nik Bonitto, Baron Browning (4)
Broncos defensive line room
The Denver Broncos defensive line room has a lot of potential to dominate inside the trenches.
The room is headlined by Dre’Mont Jones, D.J. Jones, and DeShawn Williams as projected starters for Denver.
Behind them, veteran Mike Purcell and rookie draft pick Matt Henningsen project to be key rotational players on the defensive line.
Purcell and Jones complement each other extremely well with their size, projecting to be the key names to watch as zero and one-techniques.
Henningsen, a rookie, could see a rotational role amongst Dre’Mont and Williams with the ability to also play one technique, 2i (inside shade of the guard) on top of playing a three, 4i, and five-technique.
Broncos Defensive Line Prediction: Dre’Mont Jones, D.J. Jones, Deshawn Williams, Mike Purcell, Matt Henningsen (5)
Total Denver Broncos defensive players (24)
Stay tuned at MileHighSports.com for updates as the Broncos trim their roster from 80 players to 53 leading up to the 2 p.m. MT deadline on Aug. 30.