Ranking every Broncos’ player from safest to least safe ahead of roster cuts

Denver Broncos general manager John Elway during a ceremony inducting owner Pat Bowlen (not pictured) into the Broncos Ring of Fame during halftime between the Denver Broncos and the Green Bay Packers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos won 29-10.
Nov 1, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos general manager John Elway during a ceremony inducting owner Pat Bowlen (not pictured) into the Broncos Ring of Fame during halftime between the Denver Broncos and the Green Bay Packers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos won 29-10. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

With roster cutdowns just a day away, now is the perfect time to rank every Broncos’ player in regards to their chances of making the final team.

We’ve already had a few surprising moves, with the cuts of Zach Kerr, Dekoda Watson and Su’a Cravens, as well as the addition of cornerback Duke Dawson from the Patriots. Without further ado, here’s how every other Bronco stands:

Tier I: Starters and other players guaranteed a roster spot.

Players included: Joe Flacco (QB), Drew Lock (QB), Phillip Lindsay (RB), Royce Freeman (RB), Andy Janovich (FB), Noah Fant (TE), Jeff Heuerman (TE), Emmanuel Sanders (WR), Courtland Sutton (WR), DaeSean Hamilton (WR), Garrett Bolles (LT), Dalton Risner (LG), Connor McGovern (C), Ronald Leary (RG), Ja’Wuan James (RT), Elijah Wilkinson (OL), Adam Gotsis (DE), Shelby Harris (NT), Derek Wolfe (DE), Dre’Mont Jones (DE), Von Miller (OLB), Bradley Chubb (OLB), Justin Hollins (OLB), Todd Davis (ILB), Josey Jewell (ILB), Justin Simmons (S), Will Parks (S), Kareem Jackson (S), Chris Harris Jr. (CB), Bryce Callahan (CB), Brandon McManus (K), Colby Wadman (P), Casey Kreiter (LS).

It would be shocking for any of these players to be cut Saturday. Almost all of them are either entrenched in a starting position, rookies with a decent amount of draft capital invested in them or players that might not be starting technically, but are co-starters for all intents and purposes like Royce Freeman or Jeff Heuerman.

Elijah Wilkinson is the lone exception to this rule, but he’s separated himself as the team’s sixth lineman as he’s clearly so much better than linemen seven through 18.

Tier II: Shouldn’t be cut but crazier things have happened.

Players included: Kevin Hogan (QB), Devontae Booker (RB), Theo Riddick (RB), Troy Fumagalli (TE), Tim Patrick (WR), Juwann Winfree (WR), Sam Jones (OL), Mike Purcell (NT), Demarcus Walker (DE), Malik Reed (OLB), De’Vante Bausby (CB).

As the only backup left on the roster, Kevin Hogan could be considered a lock with the rest of tier one but the Broncos are likely to target a different backup if a decent one hits the waiver wire.

In the backfield, Devontae Booker and Theo Riddick have turned the heat up on each other’s seats. Riddick by signing with the team, Booker by playing solid in the preseason following Riddick’s injury. Troy Fumagalli likely starts the season off as Denver’s Andy Janovich replacement but could miss the team if the Broncos prefer George Aston or Orson Charles.

Mike Purcell, Demarcus Walker and De’Vante Bausby have all played themselves onto the roster with great preseason play, but injuries could lead to them being surprise cuts.

Tier III: Roster Bubble players.

Players included: Jake Butt (TE), River Cracraft (WR), Kelvin McKnight (WR), Fred Brown (WR), Don Barclay (OL), John Leglue (G), Jake Rodgers (OL), Alexander Johnson (ILB), Josh Watson (ILB), Joe Jones (ILB), Dymonte Thomas (S), Shamarko Thomas (CB).

Jake Butt’s talent would be enough to earn him a roster spot if it weren’t for the injuries that have plagued his career. He’s already had three ACL tears and after playing just 11 snaps in the preseason he needs another surgery.

River Cracraft, Kelvin McKnight and Fred Brown are all battling for the final receiver job. Then, even the winner of that job could be cut soon after Saturday if a solid returner hits the waiver wire.

Alexander Johnson and Josh Watson have been studs this preseason, but the Broncos have made it clear they aren’t happy with their current linebacker depth. Joe Jones meanwhile has been injured this preseason but was one of Denver’s most reliable special-teamers a season ago.

Tier IV: Longshots to make the final squad and Practice Squad guys.

Players included: Brett Rypien (QB), Devontae Jackson (RB), Khalfani Muhammad (RB), George Aston (FB), Orson Charles (FB/TE), Trinity Benson (WR), Brendan Langley (WR), Steven Dunbar Jr. (WR), Adam Bisnowaty (T), Ryan Crozier (G), Quinn Bailey (T), Deshawn Williams (DT), Deyon Sizer (DT), Keishawn Bierria (ILB), Joe Dineen Jr. (ILB), Jamal Carter (S), Trey Marshall (S).

Brett Rypien has the talent to be a solid scout team quarterback and could eventually develop into a backup down the line. Devontae Jackson and Khalfani Muhammad should make the final roster, but the Broncos are likely to keep “King of Milk-Toast and Oatmeal”, Devontae Booker instead.

Trinity Benson might be kept around on the practice squad as a young, raw receiver/returner given his physical gifts, but didn’t show enough in the preseason to warrant a roster spot.

Keishawn Bierria and Joe Dineen weren’t impressive when on the field and the Broncos are near-certain to add a linebacker in the coming days. The experiment moving Jamal Carter to linebacker wasn’t a success, leaving his roster spot in limbo.

Tier V: Easy cuts

Players included: Moral Stephens (TE), Jake Brendal (C), Chaz Green (G), Tyler Jones (G), Andreas Knappe (T), Austin Schlottmann (OL), Dadi Nicolas (DE), Ahmad Gooden (LB), Rashard Causey (CB), Alijah Holder (CB), Trey Johnson (CB), Linden Stephens (CB).

These players were all towards the backend of the Broncos’ roster and they didn’t do themselves any favors with their preseason play.

Jake Brendal, Chaz Green, and Austin Schlottmann were Denver’s three worst-performing linemen per PFF, and Andreas Knappe didn’t even play a snap this preseason.

Tyler Jones, Dadi Nicolas, and Rashard Causey were all late additions that didn’t show enough to earn a roster spot, and the three other cornerbacks were arguably the Broncos’ worst defenders.

Tier VI: Already cut

Players included: Zach Kerr (DE), Dekoda Watson (LB), Su’a Cravens (S), David Williams (RB), Brendan Langley (WR), Steven Dunbar (WR).

All of these players were cut early to give them a chance to find a spot on another team, but the Su’a Cravens move is confusing.

Kerr and Watson were beat out by players that played excellently during the preseason (Mike Purcell and Demarcus Walker for Kerr. Malik Reed and Justin Hollins for Dekoda Watson), but that isn’t the case with Cravens, who appeared to finally be turning the corner. It seems silly for the Broncos to cut bait now especially given how much they’ve invested in him and how well he’s played this preseason.

The cuts of David Williams, Brendan Langley and Steven Dunbar were less surprising. Williams was clearly the least talented of the running backs, and Langley and Dunbar had to win the returner job to warrant a roster spot.

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