With a bevy of young stars and an upgrade across the board in the coaching staff, the Broncos and many of their young stars are primed to take a huge step forward in 2019.

For many of these talented stars, like Courtland Sutton, Royce Freeman and Noah Fant, that leap could even include a trip to Orlando for the Pro Bowl.

After already diving into the players who could right the ship on the offensive side of the ball for the Mile-High franchise, let’s see which players could star on the other side under the defensively-minded Vic Fangio.

Bradley Chubb

Chubb’s inclusion on this list is truly a no-brainer given his talent and unbelievable rookie campaign that saw him wrap up the quarterback for 12 sacks, the second-most ever by a first-year player.

Much has been said about how much Von Miller stands to gain from the hiring of Fangio and implementation of his defense, but Chubb will benefit just as much, if not more so. While his development means Miller won’t face as many double and triple teams, Chubb will face even fewer as Miller is already established as an All-Pro edge rusher.

Fangio is going to force opponents to pick their poison with his tandem of world-class pass rushers, and often times opposing lines will choose to go after the veteran. This means that Chubb should have even more opportunities than he did last year, with the improved consistency you expect from a second-year player.

Consistency was Chubb’s greatest bugaboo in 2018. He was unblockable for some stretches of the season and wasn’t impactful for others. Over an eight-game span, from Week 6 to Week 14, Chubb recorded 10.5 of his 12 sacks on the season. Replicating that pace over an entire season would give him 21 sacksjust 1.5 shy of the all-time single-season record as only a rookie.

If he even sniffs that level of consistency in Year 2, he’s a sure-fire Pro Bowler.

Justin Simmons

As is the case with all of the Broncos’ defensive players, Simmons has a lot to gain from the addition of coach Fangio and his defensive scheme.

The combination of the legendary scheme and coach turned fourth-round safety Eddie Jackson into a solid starter his rookie season. And then that combo. pushed him to become quite possibly the best safety in the league in his second year, as he was Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded safety regardless of snap count (93.2).

Now Broncos safety Justin Simmons will look to replicate Jackson’s success, and he’s off to a good start.


For many days throughout training camp, Simmons has looked like the best player on the field, making him the breakout candidate for all Broncos’ fans to keep an eye on this year. While huge leaps should be anticipated and expected for players like Chubb and Courtland Sutton, Simmons has the best chance to shock the football world with an incredible, ball-hawking season.

When all is said and done, Simmons should have the most playing time of any member of the secondary as the rest of the unit will rotate. Add that with the number of opportunities Fangio’s defense gives the free safety, and how productive he’s been in camp when given those opportunities, and Simmons could be a household name this time next year.

Shelby Harris

In 2018, Pro Football Focus surprisingly didn’t grade Von Miller as the Broncos’ best defender, an honor he earned in every season of his career so far outside of 2014.

Instead, Shelby Harris became Denver’s highest-graded defender, putting him an exclusive club with Miller, Champ Bailey, and Chris Harris Jr. as the only other members this decade. Now, with Fangio and the rest of the defensive staff coaching him up, Harris is ready to announce his arrival to the rest of the league.

Similarly to how Justin Simmons is being asked to fill the Eddie Jackson role in Fangio’s defense, Shelby Harris will be asked to fill the Akiem Hicks role which is a tall order. A season ago, you could count on one hand how often Hicks was mentioned in the media outside the Windy City, and now he’s widely viewed as the most versatile and dominant defensive linemen in the league.

The same could happen with Harris who had a nose for splash plays in 2018. He pressured the quarterback 19 times last season, the fourth-most on the team and the second-most on the defensive line, and his three sacks were the most along the line. Most notably though, he was the straw that broke the back of Pittsburgh’s Killer Bees when he intercepted Ben Roethlisberger‘s throw to Antonio Brown at the goal line.

Harris will look to once again terrorize Antonio Brown this season, in Week 1 against the Raiders.