Denver Broncos 2019 NFL Season Preview

Quarterback

The Broncos won Super Bowl 50 at the end of the 2015 season, in Peyton Manning’s final season with the team, but Manning really struggled that season, as did backup Brock Osweiler, who made 7 starts while Manning was out with a foot injury. Manning and Osweiler finished the regular season with a combined 76.3 QB rating and Manning wasn’t much better in the post-season after he returned from injury, but their defense was so dominant that it was able to carry the Broncos to a Super Bowl victory. 

In 3 seasons since, the Broncos have started four different quarterbacks, Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, Brock Osweiler, and Case Keenum, none of whom have had much success. Their defense has remained strong, finishing in the top-10 in first down rate allowed in all 3 seasons since their Super Bowl appearance, but it hasn’t been as good as it was in 2015 and, as a result, the Broncos have missed the post-season in all 3 seasons. That might not seem like that long, but 24 of 32 NFL teams have made the post-season in the past 3 years, with the Broncos joining the Bengals, Buccaneers, Browns, Jets, Redskins, Cardinals, and 49ers as the only teams that have not made the post-season in the past 3 seasons. 

The Broncos’ quarterback problems have not been for lack of trying. When Manning retired after the Super Bowl, the Broncos traded up in the first round to select Paxton Lynch 26th overall to be his long-term replacement. Due to a combination of injury and ineffectiveness, Lynch made just 4 underwhelming starts in 2 seasons in Denver and was sent packing last off-season when he continued not to make any progress. The Broncos then turned to the free agent market, signing veteran journeyman Case Keenum to a 2-year, 36 million dollar deal, following a career best year in which he had a 98.3 QB rating and led the Vikings to the NFC Championship as a backup quarterback.

Keenum started all 16 games in 2018, but he much more closely resembled the quarterback he was prior to his surprise 2017 season, when he had a 77.8 QB rating in the first 5 seasons of his career (24 starts). Keenum completed just 62.3% of his passes for an average of 6.64 YPA, 18 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions, while finishing 26th out of 39 qualifying quarterbacks on Pro Football Focus. That lead the Broncos to give up on him after 1 year and 22 million, sending him to the Redskins for a swap of late round picks.

Now the Broncos are moving forward with off-season acquisition Joe Flacco as the starter. The Broncos only had to give up a 4th round pick to acquire Flacco, but he has a salary of 18.5 million in 2019 and would be owed 20.25 million in 2020 and 24.25 million in 2021 if the Broncos keep him on the roster, so they’re paying a significant price to bring in the ex-Raven. Flacco might have been worth that salary in his prime, but he’s been a pretty underwhelming starter in the past 4 seasons, completing just 63.9% of his passes for an average of 6.32 YPA, 64 touchdowns, and 46 interceptions. 

Part of his statistical struggles can be blamed on his lack of offensive supporting cast in Baltimore, but Flacco has also finished below average among quarterbacks on PFF in all 4 seasons, with his last above average season coming in 2014, when he finished 10th among quarterbacks. His decline led to the Ravens using a first round pick on Lamar Jackson in the 2018 NFL Draft, who took over as the starter midway through last season, after Flacco completed 61.2% of his passes for an average of 6.50 YPA, 12 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions in 9 starts. Now going into his age 34 season, it’s unlikely Flacco suddenly finds his old form with the Broncos. 

The Broncos also used a second round pick on Missouri quarterback Drew Lock. Lock was seen by some as a potential first round pick and has the upside to develop into a long-term starter. He’s unlikely to see much action as a rookie, but his contract (about 6.8 million over 4 years) is much more cap friendly than Flacco and if he shows well behind the scenes it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Broncos move on from Flacco next off-season, in favor of starting the cheaper Lock. Lock also could be a solid backup option in case Flacco gets hurt this season. Neither he nor Flacco are unlikely to be an average or better starting quarterback in 2019 though, so this figures to be a position of weakness again.

Grade: C+

Running Backs

Even with mediocre quarterback play, the Broncos were better than their 6-10 record suggested last season. They had one of the toughest schedules in the league to start the season (7 of their first 10 games were against eventual playoff teams) and, when their schedule got easier down the stretch, they lost a bunch of players for the season due to injury and were not nearly the same team they were at the beginning of the season. They lost right guard Ronald Leary in week 6, center Matt Paradis in week 9, and both cornerback Chris Harris and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders in week 13. Those four were among their best players and were seriously missed. Earlier in the year they beat the Chargers and Seahawks and came within a touchdown against the Chiefs (twice), Rams, and Texans, but down the stretch they lost games to the Raiders and 49ers. 

All things considered, the Broncos didn’t have that bad of a season in 2018 and they finished better than their record would suggest in first down differential at +0.47%, 15th in the NFL. Their defense, which ranked 9th in first down rate allowed, was their best unit, but their offense wasn’t that bad, finishing 19th in first down rate. The biggest reason for that was probably the play of lead running back Philip Lindsay, who averaged 5.40 yards per carry on 192 carries, the 3rd highest YPC average of any running back in the league (minimum 100 carries). Lindsay also ended up suffering a serious injury, but because it happened during week 16 he only ended up missing one game. He’s missed a lot of this off-season as his wrist healed, but is fully expected to be ready for training camp and shouldn’t have any long-term complications.

Lindsay’s strong season really came out of nowhere. He was not one of the 20 running backs drafted in 2018 and his size at 5-8 190 does not suggest he’s lead back material, but he had a strong off-season, won a rotational role at the running back position to start the season, and ran so well that they had to keep giving him more and more action. He topped 15 carries just 3 times on the season and at his size he could probably never be a true feature back, but he’s one of the fastest running backs in the NFL and he’s not a bad receiver either, adding a 35/241/1 slash line through the air. He was Pro Football Focus’ 10th ranked running back and was the first undrafted offensive player ever to make the Pro Bowl as a rookie.

It’s unlikely Lindsay will be quite as effective as a runner in 2019 though, for a few reasons. For one, it’s very tough to average 5+ yards per carry in back-to-back seasons. 63 of the last 69 running backs to top 5 yards per carry on 150+ carries did not repeat the feat the following season, including much more proven runners than Lindsay. Two, his average was kind of distorted by a few long runs. He finished just 22nd in running back carry success rate at 49%, which isn’t bad, but it’s not as good as his average would suggest. The final reason is simply that he was passed on by the entire league a year ago (including the Broncos) and, while the NFL certainly isn’t 100% with these things, I’ve seen plenty of former late round picks and undrafted free agents have strong seasons early in their career and eventually regress. Lindsay should still have a strong year, but I wouldn’t expect him to have the same average per carry as he did last season.

Number two running back Royce Freeman was also a rookie last season. Drafted in the 3rd round, Freeman was expected to have a bigger rookie year role, but it was hard for the Broncos to take Lindsay off the field and Freeman ended up finishing with just 130 carries in 14 games. He only averaged 4.01 yards per carry, but he didn’t finish much behind Lindsay in carry success rate, ranking 29th at 46%, and he has the size at 6-0 228 to be an effective complement for the smaller, speedier Lindsay. 

These two backs should continue working in tandem in 2019 and could see a more even carry split if Lindsay’s average regresses and Freeman takes a step forward. The Broncos also had a pretty uneven pass/run split last season (622 pass plays to 393 run plays) and will probably run the ball more with a new coaching staff coming in, led by defensive minded head coach Vic Fangio. Lindsay and Freeman could both have productive seasons on the ground.

Freeman doesn’t do much in the passing game (14 catches for 72 yards), but the Broncos still have passing down specialist Devontae Booker, who lead this team with 38 catches by a running back last season. A 4th round pick by the Broncos in 2016, Booker hasn’t been that effective as a runner in his career, averaging 3.81 yards per carry on 87 career carries, but he’s topped 30 catches in all 3 seasons in the league and should continue having a role as a passing down specialist. As long as Freeman and Lindsay are healthy, he won’t be needed much as a runner (34 carries in 2018). 

Grade: A-

Receiving Corps

Not only did the Broncos lose Emmanuel Sanders to injury down the stretch, but they also had already traded away veteran wide receiver Demaryius Thomas at that point, leaving them with a really thin receiving corps. Down the stretch, the Broncos’ top-3 receivers were second round rookie Courtland Sutton, fourth round rookie DaeSean Hamtilon, and 2017 undrafted free agent Tim Patrick, who might as well have been a rookie, since he didn’t play a single snap in 2017.

Sanders’ injury was an Achilles tear and he suffered it in December, making him very questionable for the start of the season (roughly 9 months from the injury). The Broncos had the opportunity to move on from him this off-season, rather than pay him 10.25 million non-guaranteed in the final year of his contract, but without him they wouldn’t have another veteran wide receiver. He was on pace for a 95/1157/5 slash line when he got hurt last season, which would have been his fourth 1000+ yard season in the past 5 seasons, but, not only is he coming off of a serious injury, he’s also going into his age 32 season, making his 2019 projection murky even if he can return for week 1. 

Even with Sanders still on the team, the Broncos will still need their young receivers to play a big role in 2019. Courtland Sutton was their top target down the stretch last season and is likely to be a starter regardless of whether or not Sanders is healthy. He only caught 50% of the passes thrown to him as a rookie, but he showed his deep ball ability with 16.8 yards per catch, 7th most in the NFL (minimum 30 catches). He finished with a 42/704/4 slash line and could easily take a step forward in his 2nd season in the league. Depending on Sanders’ health, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Sutton lead this team in receiving.

DaeSean Hamilton and Tim Patrick are likely to compete for reserve roles and would likely need Sanders to miss time to lock down a significant role. Neither showed much last season, averaging 0.88 and 1.29 yards per route run respectively and managing just 30/243/2 and 23/315/1 slash lines respectively, but Hamilton has the higher upside and is the more natural fit on the slot, so he should be considered the favorite for the third receiver job. Patrick could still see a rotational role, but his playing time is probably going to be dependant on Sanders’ availability.

In order to mask their issues at wide receiver, the Broncos will probably try to emphasize the tight end in the passing game more this season, after completing just 68 passes to tight ends in 2018. 31 of those 68 completions were to Jeff Heuerman, who lead Bronco tight ends with a 31/281/2 slash line, despite being limited to 11 games by injury. Heuerman returns this season and the Broncos also used the 20th overall pick on Iowa tight end Noah Fant (after trading down from 10). Fant isn’t much of a blocker, but he is incredibly athletic and should play ahead of Heuerman as a pass catcher. Heuerman will still be their primary run blocker and could see some balls in two-tight end sets, though pass catching is not as strength for him, as he has just 49 catches in 37 career games, since being drafted in the 3rd round in 2015. 

The Broncos also have Jake Butt in the mix as the third tight end. Butt was seen as a likely second round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft before tearing his ACL in a bowl game and falling to the Broncos in the 5th round. He didn’t play as a rookie because of the injury and right as he seemed to be rounding into form in 2018 he tore his ACL again, his 3rd ACL tear dating back to college. He’s caught just 8 passes on 97 snaps in 3 career games, but still potentially has upside and, even with a pair of tight ends currently ahead of him on the depth chart, he could carve out a role in an unsettled receiving corps.

Grade: C+

Offensive Line

The Broncos’ offensive line was probably their most injury plagued unit. Not only did they lose guard Ron Leary and center Matt Paradis for the final 10 games and 7 games of the season respectively, but right tackle Jared Veldheer also missed 4 games during the season. Veldheer isn’t as valuable as Leary or Paradis, but he was still a capable starter. Leary returns for 2019, but Paradis and Veldheer are both no longer with the team, so the Broncos are reworking their offensive line.

The Broncos made a pair of big additions this off-season, signing ex-Dolphins right tackle Ja’Wuan James to a 4-year, 51 million dollar deal and using a second round pick on Kansas State’s Dalton Risner. James will replace Veldheer at right tackle. He’s overpaid as the second highest paid right tackle in the league, as he’s never finished higher than 27th among offensive tackles on Pro Football Focus, but he’s younger and better than Veldheer. The former first round pick is only going into his age 27 season and has earned an average or better grade from PFF in all 5 seasons in the league (62 starts). He should remain a solid starter in 2019, but the Broncos could have gotten a comparable player at a cheaper price.

Risner, meanwhile, played both right tackle and center in college, but is expected to play right guard for the Broncos. Connor McGovern started last season at right guard, but moved to center down the stretch with Paradis out and that appears to be where the Broncos want to leave him. McGovern was a 5th round pick in 2016 and he made all 16 starts last season, but he wasn’t particularly good at either position and he was even worse in the first 5 starts of his career in 2017, when he finished the season as the starter at right guard. McGovern will likely struggle as a 16-game starter at center, but, aside from flipping Risner and McGovern, the Broncos don’t have another good option at center and McGovern wouldn’t necessarily be better at guard. Both players would be clear downgrades from Paradis, who was PFF’s 2nd ranked center last season before getting hurt. 

Ron Leary is expected to return from injury week 1, but, like Emmanuel Sanders, he’s coming off of a torn Achilles. That’s not as serious of an injury for an offensive lineman and his injury came two months earlier, but Leary is also getting up there in age, going into his age 30 season, and he didn’t play all that well before getting hurt last season. He was PFF’s 16th ranked guard in 2016 and their 15th ranked guard in 2017, so he has some bounce back potential, but his best days could be behind him. Even still, he should be a solid starter and an upgrade on his injury replacement Elijah Wilkinson, a 2017 undrafted free agent who was underwhelming in his first 7 career starts last season. 

Left tackle Garett Bolles finishes off this offensive line. The 20th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Bolles has made all 32 starts in 2 seasons in the league and there’s been a lot to like, as he’s allowed just 10 sacks and 16 hits total and is a solid run blocker as well, but he’s also committed a position leading 28 penalties. Bolles was an older rookie and is already going into his age 27 season, so it’s unclear if he’ll ever be able to get his penalty problem under control, but even with 13 penalties he was PFF’s 33rd ranked offensive tackle last season and he still has a high ceiling if he can learn to play more under control and still be effective. Even with a few off-season additions, this is an underwhelming group upfront.

Grade: B-

Edge Defenders

As mentioned, the Broncos had a strong defense once again in 2018, finishing 9th in first down rate allowed at 34.70%. The strength of their defense was the edge defender position. Not only were starting edge defenders Von Miller and Bradley Chubb the only edge defender duo in the NFL to both have double digit sacks, but the Broncos also had good depth at the position, as Shaq Barrett has the talent to start for a lot of teams and Shane Ray is a former first round pick. Those two were limited to just 276 snaps and 253 snaps respectively last season because of how good the duo of Miller and Chubb were. Barrett and Ray are no longer with the team, making depth a problem, but Miller and Chubb remain as the starters, which is obviously more important.

Miller is the better and more proven of the two and is one of the top defensive players in the entire NFL. Since being drafted 2nd overall in 2011, Miller has made 120 starts in 8 seasons in the league, totalling 98 sacks, 111 hits, and a 15.9% pressure rate, and he has finished in the top-4 at his position on Pro Football Focus in all 8 seasons. His 98 sacks over the past 8 seasons lead the league over that time period. He’s now going into his age 30 season and could start to decline over the next few seasons, but he showed no signs of decline in 2018, finishing 4th among edge defenders on PFF and totalling 14.5 sacks, 11 hits, and a 12.6% pressure rate. Even if he’s not quite at his best in 2019, he should still be one of the top edge defenders in the league.

Chubb also had a strong pass rushing season last year with 12 sacks, 9 hits, and a 12.5% pressure rate, but he only finished slightly above average on PFF, as much of his pass rush production came as a result of having Miller opposite him taking on double teams and forcing the quarterback off of his spot frequently. Chubb was the 5th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft though, so he still has a sky high upside and he showed a lot of promise as a rookie. He could easily take a step forward in 2019, even if that doesn’t necessarily lead to more pass rush production. He also needs to improve his tackling, as his 11 missed tackles were 4th most at his position last season.

Depth is now a serious concern with Barrett and Ray gone and no obvious replacements added. Jeff Holland, who played 43 snaps as an undrafted rookie last season, is the only other returning edge defender who played a snap last season. He’ll likely have a bigger role in his second season in the league, whether he’s ready for a bigger role or not. Fifth round rookie Justin Hollins could also be in the mix. Miller and Chubb won’t come off the field often (13th and 14th respectively in snaps played among edge defenders last season), but when they do their absence will be missed and they’ll be in big trouble if either one suffered a significant injury.

Grade: A-

Interior Defenders

Even with Miller and Chubb combining for 26.5 sacks, the Broncos still ranked just 8th in the NFL with 44 sacks last season, as a result of their inability to get pass rush from the interior. No interior defender topped 3 sacks on the season and their peripheral pass rush stats are not much better. While Miller and Chubb both topped 50 pressures on the season, no other Bronco had more than 27 and those were from Derek Wolfe, who only reached that total because he was an every down player who played 710 snaps on the season. He had an underwhelming pressure rate at 6.1% and only added 1.5 sacks and 5 hits in 16 games. 

A 7-year veteran, Wolfe had a solid pass rushing stretch from 2015-2016, with 11 sacks, 19 hits, and a 9.8% pressure rate, but his pressure rate in his other 5 seasons is a combined 6.4% and he’s finished below average as a pass rusher on Pro Football Focus in all 5 of those other seasons. He’s always been a strong player against the run, but he can’t be depended on for consistent pass rush. He’d be best as a pure base package player, but he’ll likely continue playing an every down role, for lack of a better option. He’s owed 9 million non-guaranteed in 2019 and the Broncos likely would have let him go if they weren’t planning on continuing to use him in a similar role. 

In order to boost their interior pass rush, the Broncos used their 3rd round pick on Ohio State’s Dre’Mont Jones. Jones was part of a deep defensive line class and easily could have gone in the top-50 picks, so he was a great value in the third round. The 6-3 281 pounder lacks ideal size against the run, but he was one of the most productive interior pass rushers in college football last season and could contribute immediately as a situational interior rusher. 

Adam Gotsis will likely remain the starter opposite Wolfe in base packages. He played 513 snaps last season and 555 snaps in 2017, but ideally he’d be a pure base package player this season. A 2016 2nd round pick, Gotsis has developed into a solid run stuffer and he did lead the interior with 3 sacks last season, but he also had just a 5.7% pressure rate and he has a 4.5% pressure rate for his career. Already going into his age 27 season, it’s unlikely he suddenly develops into a strong pass rusher, but he’s a solid base package starter.

The one loss on this defensive line is nose tackle Domata Peko, who gave them strong play against the run on 523 snaps as the starter last season. With Peko gone, Shelby Harris and Zach Kerr will compete for the nose tackle job. Harris doesn’t have traditional nose tackle size at 6-3 300, but he has experience at the position and is the better player, both as a run stuffer and also as a pass rusher. He was just a 7th round pick in 2014, but he’s shown a lot of promise over the past 2 seasons on a combined 907 snaps and could easily prove to be a late bloomer. He’s totalled 7 sacks, 12 hits, and a 7.3% pressure rate, while earning an above average grade from PFF as a run stopper in both seasons, including an 18th ranked finish in 2018. He’s deserving of a bigger role and could stay on the field even in sub packages.

Kerr, meanwhile, has traditional nose tackle size at 6-2 334, but is not as good against the run and only has a 5.6% career pressure rate. He’s also never topped 394 snaps in a season in 5 seasons in the league. He has a shot to win the starting nose tackle job, but Harris seems like the better option. The loser of that position battle will remain as a rotational reserve. This is a solid group of interior defenders, but they lack a standout player and could struggle to get consistent pass rush again.

Grade: B

Linebackers

The Broncos didn’t have as many injuries on defense as they had on offense last season, but they were without middle linebacker Brandon Marshall for 5 games. Marshall made 63 starts for the Broncos over the past 5 seasons and was an above average starter in his prime, but he was only an adequate starter even when on the field last season and the Broncos opted not to bring him back for his age 30 season in 2019 at a 7 million dollar non-guaranteed salary. Even though Marshall wasn’t great last season, he’ll still be missed, as the Broncos did nothing to replace him. 

Todd Davis was the other starting linebacker opposite Marshall in the middle of the Broncos’ 3-4 defense last season. He was arguably their best linebacker and will remain in the same role. Davis has made 45 starts over the past 3 seasons, but had struggled in coverage until last season. Always a solid run stuffer, Davis seemed to put it all together in 2018, finishing 24th on Pro Football Focus among off ball linebackers on a career high 842 snaps. A 2014 undrafted free agent, it’s possible Davis regresses a little bit this season, but he’s still only in his age 27 season and should remain an adequate starter at the very least for the next few seasons. 

The other middle linebacker spot is the bigger question mark. The Broncos will probably start 2018 4th round pick Josey Jewell in base packages. He played 460 rookie year snaps and was a solid player against the run, but struggled in coverage and was limited mostly to base packages even when Marshall got hurt. In the 5 games Marshall missed last season, the Broncos used safety Su’a Cravens as a coverage linebacker. A 2nd round pick by the Redskins back in 2016, Cravens hasn’t shown much in 3 seasons in the league, limited to 411 snaps total, in part due to injury, but he’s still only going into his age 24 season and has the potential to develop into a good coverage linebacker. 

Cravens played 23.4 snaps per game when Marshall was out last season and will likely see a similar role in 2019. Jewell, meanwhile, played 25.3 snaps per game with Marshall in the lineup and 36.4 snaps per game with Marshall out of the lineup last season and should be much closer to the latter number now in his second season in the league. This group should be solid against the run, but covering tight ends and running backs over the middle may be a problem unless Cravens has a breakout year. 

Grade: C+

Secondary

The other big injury the Broncos had on defense was losing Chris Harris to a broken leg week 13. Behind Von Miller, he’s probably their best defensive player, so he was a huge loss and his absence was a big part of the reason why they ended the season on a 4 game losing streak. As consistent year in and year out as any cornerback in the league, Harris has finished in the top-18 among cornerbacks on Pro Football Focus in all 8 seasons in the league, including 5 seasons in the top-5 (5th in 2018), and he plays equally well on the slot and outside. 

Despite that, Harris could be entering the end of his time in Denver. Harris is going into the final year of his contract in his age 30 season and the Broncos did not give him the long-term extension he was looking for this off-season. They did give him a well deserved raise for 2019 from 8.76 million to 12.05 million, in order to avoid a holdout, but the Broncos also made a couple of other big long-term investments at the cornerback position this off-season, rather than extending Harris, so it looks likely he’ll be playing elsewhere in 2020 and he could be moved at the trade deadline if the Broncos get off to a slow start.

Not only did the Broncos make a pair of big additions at cornerback this off-season, but both cornerbacks they added can also play the slot, which has traditionally been where Harris plays in 3+ cornerback sets. Harris was 4th among cornerbacks last season, only allowing 0.75 yards allowed per slot coverage snap, but the Broncos still added ex-Bear Bryce Callahan on a 3-year, 21 million dollar deal. Callahan ranked 2nd last season among cornerbacks with 0.69 yards allowed per slot coverage snap. Kareem Jackson, meanwhile, wasn’t far behind them at 1.14 and signed a 3-year, 33 million dollar deal. 

Callahan is the best of three on the slot and doesn’t have the size to play outside at 5-9 185, so he’ll likely be their primary slot cornerback. Undrafted in 2015, Callahan has gotten better in every season in the league and finished 2018 as PFF’s 11th ranked cornerback on 676 snaps. In addition to his coverage ability, he also is a good blitzer off the edge, with 4 sacks and 4 hits on just 56 career blitzes. He’s arguably the best pure slot cornerback in the entire NFL and is paid like it. 

Jackson has experience at outside cornerback and safety as well as on the slot. He’ll likely start outside opposite Harris, but the Broncos have already discussed moving him to safety long-term and, going into his age 31 season, he could see some action at safety in obvious passing situations this season. Jackson has been a solid starter for years (124 starts in 9 seasons in the league) and finished last season 14th in coverage grade on PFF, but he could begin to decline over the next couple seasons. On the occasions Jackson plays safety, they’ll likely play Isaac Yiadom outside. Yiadom struggled mightily on 264 snaps as a rookie last season, but the Broncos are still high on the 2018 3rd round pick’s upside.

Part of the reason why Jackson could see some action at safety in 2019 is that they got rid of Darian Stewart, a 14-game starter in 2018, rather than paying him 5 million non-guaranteed for his age 31 season. Stewart struggled, but the Broncos didn’t do much to replace him and instead will turn to 2016 6th round pick Will Parks. Parks has shown potential in 3 seasons in the league, but has never been an every down safety, seeing action at both slot cornerback and linebacker throughout his career. He should be close to an every down player in 2019, but if he struggles Jackson could see more action at safety. 

Justin Simmons, a 16-game starter at safety in 2018, returns and will continue to start. A 3rd round pick by the Broncos in 2016, Simmons is a strong run stuffer, but has some struggles in coverage, especially last season, which led to him finishing 77th out of 101 qualifying safeties on PFF. He ranked 30th overall among safeties as a 13-game starter in 2017 and, still only in his age 26 season, Simmons obviously has bounce back potential. With some needed additions made at cornerback in Kareem Jackson and Bryce Callahan, the Broncos should have an improved secondary in 2019.

Grade: A-

Conclusion

The Broncos are banking on Joe Flacco being a significant upgrade on Case Keenum and leading this team back to the post-season. Based in his play over the past few seasons, that seems unlikely. This team was better than their 6-10 record in 2018, but if they’re going to get back into the post-season it’s going to be because of the players at other positions besides quarterback. Their defense should be strong again, but they have issues in the receiving corps and on the offensive line and might not be quite as effective on the ground. They won’t be a bad team, but there are other more talented teams in the AFC with a better shot of securing a wild card spot. 

Prediction: 5-11, 3rd in AFC West

Team Score: 72.94 (25th in NFL)

Offensive Score: 70.68

Defensive Score: 75.20

Team score is based on a weighted average of individual player grades (certain positions valued higher than others, score out of 100)

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