Denver Broncos (Last Year: 7-9)
2020 NFL Season Preview:
QB Jeff Driskel, RB Melvin Gordon, TE Nick Vannett, OT Demar Dotson, G/C Graham Glasgow, DT Jurrell Casey, CB A.J. Bouye, P Sam Martin.
Early Draft Picks:
WR Jerry Jeudy, WR K.J. Hamler, CB Michael Ojemudia, C Lloyd Cushenberry, DE/DT McTelvin Agim, TE Albert Okwuegbunam. Broncos Rookie Forecast
QB Joe Flacco, RB Theo Riddick, G Ronald Leary, C/G Connor McGovern, DE/DT Derek Wolfe, CB Chris Harris.
2020 Denver Broncos Offense:
Drew Lock may not have much NFL experience, but the Broncos will discover how good he is in a hurry. That's because John Elway spent lots of energy this offseason adding loads of talent to support his second-year quarterback who is raw, but has tons of upside.
Elway used his first two selections in the 2020 NFL Draft to bolster the receiving corps. Jerry Jeudy was chosen with the 15th-overall pick, which was a steal considering his high football IQ and great route-running ability. Speedster K.J. Hamler was selected in the following round. He and Jeudy will join Courtland Sutton, who is on the verge of establishing himself as one of the top receivers in the NFL. The trio of receivers, plus second-year tight end Noah Fant, will give Lock a healthy arsenal of receivers at his disposal.
Elway also used resources in free agency to help Lock. It was clear that the Denver coaching staff wasn't thrilled with either Phillip Lindsay or Royce Freeman handling the full workload, so the team signed former Charger running back Melvin Gordon to serve as an upgrade in the backfield. Gordon is coming off a down year, but never seemed like 100 percent in the wake of his holdout. Gordon should be at full strength in 2020, so defenses will have to respect both him and Lindsay as threats emerging from the backfield.
The primary concern with Denver's scoring unit, aside from Lock potentially not improving upon an inconsistent, albeit brief rookie campaign, is the offensive line. Left tackle Garett Bolles can block well, but he's a penalty machine. This may be his final chance to prove himself as a capable starting blind-side protector. The jury is also still out on right tackle Ja'Wuan James, who barely played last year after signing a big contract. He was on the field for just three games because of a knee injury. It sounds as though he'll be ready for the opener, but it remains to be seen if he can stay healthy.
The Broncos had another injury-prone player in the interior of their offensive line last year. Ronald Leary is gone, and he's been replaced by former Lion Graham Glasgow. That should prove to be an upgrade, and not just by default with Graham being able to take the field, unlike Leary. Meanwhile, a third-round choice was used on LSU center Lloyd Cushenberry. He and Glasgow will join 2019 second-rounder Dalton Risner in an interior blocking group that has plenty of upside.
2020 Denver Broncos Defense:
Elway made some very promising moves to upgrade the defense as well. He brought in two talented players, both via trade, as he acquired Jurrell Casey and A.J. Bouye for a pair of third-day picks.
Both were steals. Casey just turned 30, but he's still one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL. The Broncos have a spectacular edge rush with Von Miller and Bradley Chubb making life extremely difficult for opposing quarterbacks, but the team's ability to generate pressure in the interior was lacking. That likely won't be the case anymore in the wake of this trade. The development of last year's third-round pick, Dre'Mont Jones, will help, too.
While Denver's defensive line didn't harass quarterbacks very frequently last year, it did a good job of clamping down on the run. Casey will also help in that regard. He'll start next to Mike Purcell and Shelby Harris. Purcell is stout against the run, while Harris is a jack of all trades. Third-round rookie McTelvin Agim will also be in the mix of what appears to be a very deep rotation.
Bouye, meanwhile, was brought in to help a secondary that lost talented cornerback Chris Harris to free agency. Bouye is not as good as Harris, but he'll ease the pain of the departure, especially when considering the state of the rest of the cornerback group. It's in bad shape, as the oft-torched Isaac Yiadom played far too many snaps last year. Perhaps third-round rookie Michael Ojemudia will help. Either way, Denver will get a boost if last year's free agent addition, Bryce Callahan, stays healthy. Callahan signed a $21 million contract, but didn't log a single snap for Denver because of a nagging foot injury.
The Broncos are at least better at safety, and not only by default. Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson formed a prolific tandem last year, and there's no reason to believe that either will be worse in 2020. Simmons, in particular, has emerged as one of the top players at his position in the entire league.
Speaking of emerging players, Alexander Johnson came out of nowhere to have a terrific 2019 campaign. The stud inside linebacker was just an undrafted free agent following the 2018 NFL Draft, and yet he provided a big upgrade for the Broncos at the position, which the team had needed ever since Danny Trevathan departed for the Bears following the team's Super Bowl win. The Broncos still need a second linebacker to play next to Johnson; they expressed interest in upgrading Todd Davis or Josey Jewell this offseason, but the bext they did was use a fifth-round selection on Justin Strnad.
2020 Denver Broncos Schedule and Intangibles:
The thin Denver air creates a hostile environment for opponents, which explains why it had an NFL-best 77-18 home record from 1995 to 2005. The team tailed off after that, but has since reestablished its great home-field advantage. In the Peyton Manning era, the Broncos were 32-6 as hosts, including the playoffs. We'll see if Denver can stay dominant at home in the post-Manning era; it has been just 17-15 the past four years.
Brandon McManus hit 29-of-34 field goals last year. All but two of his misses came from beyond 50 yards (4-of-7). He missed just one extra point.
The Broncos had one of the worst punters in the NFL last year, so they brought in Sam Martin to be a nice upgrade.
Denver once again had a poor special-teams unit last year, scoring no touchdowns and surrendering two to the opposition. The team was outgained on both punts and kickoffs.
The Broncos have a difficult schedule to begin the year, with four of their first seven opponents (Titans, Buccaneers, Patriots, Chiefs) being those that either made the playoffs last year or acquired the best quarterback in NFL history. Things get easier after that, but Denver still has to battle the Saints, Bills and Chiefs again.
2020 Denver Broncos Rookies:
Go here for the Broncos Rookie Forecast
, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.
2020 Denver Broncos Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
2020 Denver Broncos Analysis:
It's all up to Drew Lock. He's the key to the Broncos' fortunes in 2020. If he develops well in his second year, the team has enough talent on both sides of the ball to reach the playoffs. Conversely, if Lock struggles and continues to be inconsistent, it'll be difficult for Denver to qualify for the postseason despite all of the great work John Elway did to improve the roster this spring.
8-8 (Tied 2nd in AFC West)
2019 Projection: 7-9. 2019 Actual Result: 7-9.
2018 Projection: 8-8. 2018 Actual Result: 6-10.
2017 Projection: 7-9. 2017 Actual Result: 5-11.
2016 Projection: 7-9. 2016 Actual Result: 9-7.
2020 Fantasy Football Rankings
More 2020 NFL Season Previews
NFL Draft Team Grade: A- Grade
Goals Entering the 2020 NFL Draft: The Broncos have an inexperienced quarterback at the helm in Drew Lock, so they must make sure that he has plenty of talent around him. The pass protection must improve, and a speed receiver to complement Courtland Sutton must be added as well. Defensively, the Broncos have to find a replacement at cornerback for the departed Chris Harris.
2020 NFL Draft Accomplishments: I'm pretty sure John Elway read the goal mock draft I posted prior to the weekend because he certainly took it to heart. He spent numerous selections making sure Drew Lock has plenty of talent at his disposal.
The headliner was the Jerry Jeudy selection. A strong case can be made that Jeudy was the top receiver in the 2020 NFL Draft, and yet he was taken at No. 15 overall. The Broncos continued to add talent at the position, selecting K.J. Hamler as the speed threat they needed to complement Courtland Sutton and now Jeudy. Albert Okwuegbunam was a nice bonus in the fourth round as a second tight end for Lock.
The Broncos didn't spend as much energy on pass protection, but they added two quality linemen, Lloyd Cushenberry and Netane Muti. Cushenberry could start right away at center, while Muti was a steal in the sixth round. He has second-round talent, but injuries pushed him toward the end of the draft.
I didn't like some of the defensive picks the Broncos made -Michael Ojemudia, McTelvin Agum, Justin Strnad - but the Broncos did a great job of accomplishing their goal of allowing Lock to have the best chance of succeeding.
NFL Draft Individual Grades:
15. Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama - A+ Grade
Ask three different people whom they believe to be the best receiver in the 2020 NFL Draft class, and you might get three different answers. The Broncos' answer was Jerry Jeudy all along, and I agree with that. Jeudy's football IQ is off the charts, and he's a great route runner. He'll be an excellent weapon for Drew Lock, and he's a steal here at No. 15 overall.
46. K.J. Hamler, WR, Penn State - B Grade
Another receiver this early? I knew the Broncos would select another wideout on Day 3, but I figured that would come with one of the three third-round selections. Back-to-back picks on wideouts is a bit dubious with Courtland Sutton already there to pair with Jerry Jeudy. I suppose the run on receivers had a bit to do with that, so I don't hate this decision. The Broncos needed a third receiver, and they now potentially have three studs at the position. If Drew Lock can progress, Denver will have a dynamic offense.
77. Michael Ojemudia, CB, Iowa - D Grade
The Broncos were desperate for a cornerback, but that doesn't excuse this reach. Michael Ojemudia is someone I've constantly mocked in the fifth round area, so I don't understand why Denver would select him at this juncture. But hey, at least they didn't trade up for a reach like some of the other teams
83. Lloyd Cushenberry, C, LSU - A- Grade
It doesn't matter how many talented receivers the Broncos have. If they can't block for Drew Lock, they won't win football games. Lloyd Cushenberry fills a big need in this regard, as the Broncos wanted to get better at center. Cushenberry could've gone a bit earlier than this without any complaints, so I think this is a very solid choice.
95. McTelvin Agim, DE/DT, Arkansas - C- Grade
I think this is about two rounds early for McTelvin Agim. He could potentially fill a need as a long-term replacement for Derek Wolfe, but he's a raw player who should've been chosen around the fifth round. I like what the Broncos have done for the most part in this draft, but that doesn't include this pick.
118. Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, Missouri - B+ Grade
Yet another weapon for Drew Lock! This is a fine one, as Albert Okwuegbunam was once projected to be a first-round pick. This was obviously wrong, and he was eventually corrected to be a third- or fourth-round prospect, but there's no doubt the potential is there for Okwuegbunam to be a solid starter in the NFL.
178. Justin Strnad, LB, Wake Forest - D Grade
I didn't have Justin Strnad in my mock draft. There are some injury issues, and his instincts aren't very good. The Broncos could've drafted a better player.
181. Netane Muti, G, Fresno State - A+ Grade
Netane Muti is a medical nightmare. He would've been a second- or third-round pick if healthy, but he has some major health issues. Let's hope he can play in the NFL. Either way, this is a swing-for-the-fences pick, which I love in the sixth round.
252. Tyrie Cleveland, WR, Florida - B+ Grade
Tyrie Cleveland had a ton of acclaim coming out of high school, but never lived up to it at Florida. He's a great athlete, however, so why not take a shot on him with one of the final few picks in the draft?
254. Derrek Tuszka, DE/OLB, North Dakota State - B+ Grade
Derrek Tuszka got himself drafted with a stellar combine. He performed very well in the on-field drills. He could've been taken a round earlier, so I think the Broncos got a nice value pick with a player who could contribute defensively at some point. Tuszka will have to do well on special teams in the meantime.
The Broncos were hosed in two early-season home games when a pair of bogus roughing-the-passer penalties ruined potential victories. These wins would've translated to a 9-7 record, which would've gotten Denver into the playoffs via a tie-breaker over Tennessee.
Broncos sign P Sam Martin
Broncos sign TE Nick Vannett
Broncos sign RB Melvin Gordon
Broncos cut QB Joe Flacco
Broncos acquire DT Jurrell Casey from Titans
Broncos acquire CB A.J. Bouye from Jaguars
- Guard: Denver's top priority is protecting Drew Lock. Guard is a major weakness, as Ronald Leary hasn't been able to stay healthy. (Update: Leary has been released.) Signed Graham Glasgow
- Wide Receiver: Courtland Sutton is the only proven option the Broncos have at receiver, so a new No. 2 target should be obtained.
- Two Cornerbacks: It'll only be one cornerback if the Broncos re-sign Chris Harris. Corner was a position of weakness last year, outside of Harris.
- Offensive Tackle Depth: The Broncos got into trouble when Ja'Wuan James wasn't able to play last year. A better swing tackle is needed.
- Safety: Justin Simmons became one of the best safeties in the NFL last year, but he's an impending free agent. I assume Denver will franchise him if it can't sign him to a long-term deal. Franchised Justin Simmons
- Punter: Colby Wadman was one of the worst punters in the NFL in 2019. Broncos sign Sam Martin
Follow me @walterfootball for updates.
2020 NFL Free Agent Signings:
Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers. Age: 27.
Signed with Broncos (2 years, $16 million)
Melvin Gordon is coming off a down year, but that can be attributed to his decision to hold out. Gordon is usually one of the better runners in the NFL, and he's pretty solid as a receiver out of the backfield.
Graham Glasgow, G/C, Lions. Age: 28.
Signed with Broncos (4 years, $44 million)
Graham Glasgow improved markedly in 2019, becoming a stout blocker for the Lions' interior offensive line. Glasgow can play both center and guard very well, so he'll be highly sought after on the open market.
Demar Dotson, OT, Buccaneers. Age: 34.
Signed with Broncos
Demar Dotson has been a steady right tackle for the Buccaneers for the entire previous decade, but he turns 35 in October.
- Nick Vannett, TE, Steelers. Age: 27. -- Signed with Broncos (2 years)
- Jeff Driskel, QB, Lions. Age: 27. -- Signed with Broncos
Denver Broncos Free Agents:
Salary Cap: TBA.
Justin Simmons, S, Broncos. Age: 26.
Franchised by Broncos
Justin Simmons has blossomed into one of the best safeties in the NFL. He was stellar this past season. He won't even turn 27 until November, so he could get even better in the next year or two.
Chris Harris, CB, Broncos. Age: 31.
Signed with Chargers
Chris Harris is still one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL, but age is starting to become a concern; he turns 31 in June. Harris should still be able to play on a very high level for the next two years, but regression is coming soon.
Connor McGovern, C/G, Broncos. Age: 27.
Signed with Jets (3 years, $27 million)
Connor McGovern did a great job of taking over for departed center Matt Paradis. McGovern can play both center and guard.
Shelby Harris, DT, Broncos. Age: 29.
Re-signed with Broncos (1 year, $2.5 million)
Shelby Harris has always played the run well, but he improved his pass-rushing ability this past season. He logged six sacks in 2019.
Derek Wolfe, DE/DT, Broncos. Age: 30.
Signed with Ravens (1 year, $3 million)
Derek Wolfe would be ranked higher than this if it weren't for his very dubious injury history. Wolfe always seems to be hurt, which is especially scary, considering that he just turned 30.
Ronald Leary, G, Broncos. Age: 31.
Ronald Leary is a talented blocker, but he always seems to be injured. He hasn't played a full season since his rookie campaign, and he's missed 19 of the previous 48 games.
Joe Flacco, QB, Broncos. Age: 35.
Signed with Jets (1 year, $1.5 million)
The Broncos waived Joe Flacco with a failed injury designation. His neck is the apparent issue, but it sounds like he'll be ready for 2020. Flacco struggled last year - six touchdowns, five interceptions - but he was stuck behind a miserable offensive line.
- Tim Patrick (RFA), WR, Broncos. Age: 26. -- Re-signed with Broncos (1 year)
- Theo Riddick, RB, Broncos. Age: 29.
- Elijah Wilkinson (RFA), OT, Broncos. Age: 25. -- Tendered by Broncos (2nd)
- Adam Gotsis, DE/DT, Broncos. Age: 27.
- Will Parks, S, Broncos. Age: 26. -- Signed with Eagles
- Jerry Attaochu, DE/OLB, Broncos. Age: 27. -- Re-signed with Broncos
- Devontae Booker, RB, Broncos. Age: 28.
- Joe Jones (RFA), LB, Broncos. Age: 26.
NFL Free Agent Tracker:
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