Predicting Denver Broncos' Depth Chart, Post OTAs
The Denver Broncos have completed organized team activities, and a mandatory three-day minicamp starts on Tuesday.
The coaching staff has been given its first look at the new members of the team, including the 2013 draft class. The wheels are beginning to turn as to how it will use each of these players going forward.
Though a lot can and will change between now and the time the season kicks off on September 5, we can start to picture how the team's depth chart may look following OTAs. Of course, none of this is set in stone, but here is how the depth chart should look right now.
Starter: Peyton Manning
2nd String: Brock Osweiler
3rd String: Zac Dysert
4th String: Ryan Katz
Obviously, there is no quarterback controversy in Denver. Peyton Manning will have the job for as long as he wants it. He is coming off one of his most productive years statistically and having more time with his teammates and surroundings is only going to make him even more potent.
One of training camp's best stories may be the progression of Brock Osweiler. He was used very sparingly in games last season but what has he learned behind the scenes?
The team had high hopes when it drafted him, and although he won't be starting unless there is an emergency this year, it would still be nice to see him settling into the role.
Will the Broncos keep three quarterbacks? When Zac Dysert was sitting on the board still in the seventh round of the draft, the team pulled the trigger on him.
Dysert is the all-time leading passer at Miami of Ohio and will be an intriguing player for the team. If the Broncos elect to keep three quarterbacks (they only kept two last year), he should land the spot.
Ryan Katz was brought in as an undrafted free agent after spending time at both Oregon State and San Diego State in college.
Despite having a 132.6 passer rating as a college quarterback, he is a long shot to make the final roster.
Starter: Willis McGahee
2nd String: Knowshon Moreno
3rd String: Ronnie Hillman
4th String: Montee Ball
The Rest (in order): Lance Ball, Jacob Hester, C.J. Anderson, Jeremiah Johnson
The running back position is probably the hardest to diagnose on this team. Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno would get the top two spots on the depth chart for their experience in Denver, if nothing else. However, by the time the season rolls around, it could easily be Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball in those two spots.
The team will almost certainly use the increasingly popular running back-by-committee approach. Just who will get the most work will be the question.
McGahee chose to skip OTAs, via The Denver Post, but fans shouldn't read too much into that. After all, he skipped them last year as well.
McGahee isn't far removed from the 1,199 rushing yards he posted in 2011, one of the best seasons ever for a Denver running back and the most since Reuben Droughns ran for 1,240 yards in 2004.
But last season, McGahee exhibited a fumbling problem before being shelved with a knee injury for the final two months of the year. How long can McGahee hold onto the top spot?
Knowshon Moreno certainly filled in well for McGahee during his absence, but he was knocked out of the divisional round playoff loss to Baltimore with an injury of his own. Moreno has been his own worst enemy during his now four-year career.
Hillman and Ball, the rookie drafted in the second round out of Wisconsin, are clearly the future of this team. How they progress in camp will determine how far up the depth chart they'll go. By the time the season starts, expect to see them at the top.
If you're looking for an unknown player to emerge in camp, look no further than C.J. Anderson. He is a patient runner who is tough to bring down but it also very inexperienced. After transferring to California from Laney College, he ran for 1,135 yards in two seasons.
Starters: Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker
4th Receiver: Gerell Robinson
5th Receiver: Tavarres King
The Rest (in order): Trindon Holliday, Andre Caldwell, Greg Orton, Kemonte' Bateman, Quincy McDuffie, Lamaar Thomas
Denver has one of the league's best wide receiving corps following the addition of Wes Welker, who could be the piece on offense that makes the Broncos incredibly hard to stop.
Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are coming off career years and both are firmly set in the starting lineup.
Gerell Robinson is the player who will turn heads in camp this year. The former Arizona State product was in camp last year and nearly made the team. This year, he will.
He will provide a big target for Manning to look for down the field, and his ability to run deep patterns will make him a solid weapon at the right time.
Trindon Holliday will make the team for his ability as a return man, and fifth-round selection Tavarres King is a player the Broncos will want to develop.
That leaves the rest of the players to battle for spots on the practice squad. Quincy McDuffie and Kemonte' Bateman could easily be placed there so the team can work with them for a possible future role.
Starter: Jacob Tamme
2nd String: Joel Dreessen
3rd String: Julius Thomas
4th String: Virgil Green
5th String: Lucas Reed
The Broncos will have some tough decisions to make at the tight end position, and none of these five players are a lock to be on the final roster.
Joel Dreessen could easily be the team's starter based on his blocking abilities, but Jacob Tamme used his experience playing with Manning to haul in 52 passes for 555 yards.
The wild card of the group will be Julius Thomas, a player who has been all but forgotten during his two-year tenure in Denver, but he came alive during OTAs. If Thomas could turn into a player similar to Antonio Gates, the one Denver envisioned when it drafted him, he could easily emerge as the best of the bunch.
Starter: Ryan Clady
Backup: Chris Clark
Ryan Clady is one of the best left tackles in the entire league, but his contract talks will be one of the biggest storylines this offseason.
Clady has made it clear he wants a long-term deal and will skip the upcoming minicamp due to the fact that he has yet to sign his franchise tender. Clady told radio hosts, via Lindsay Jones of USA Today, that he would "more than likely" be at training camp later this summer.
Starter: Zane Beadles
Backup: Manny Ramirez
3rd String: Manase Foketi
Much like Clady, Zane Beadles is entrenched at the starter and is becoming one of the league's better guards. It would not be a surprise at all to see the 6'5", 325-pound Manase Foketi beat out Ramirez for the backup job.
Starter: J.D. Walton
2nd String: Philip Blake
The Rest (in order): C.J. Davis, Quentin Saulsberry, Justin Boren
The Broncos have five players who can play center, but in the cases of C.J. Davis, Quentin Saulsberry and Justin Boren, they will need to show they could help out at another position along the line if they want to make the team.
The main competition will be between J.D. Walton and Philip Blake, and that could go either way. Walton started the year last season but sat out most of it with a broken ankle.
Starter: Lou Vasquez
Backup: Chris Kuper
This will be a very interesting battle in camp, but Lou Vasquez was brought in simply because Chris Kuper can't stay on the field. After being knocked out of the season finale in 2011 with a gruesome ankle injury, Kuper appeared in just seven games last year.
Vasquez is the insurance policy, but if Kuper loses the job to him, it's hard to envision the Broncos keeping him around.
Starter: Orlando Franklin
Backup: Vinston Painter
3rd String: Paul Cornick
Orlando Franklin will be the starter in 2013 without much doubt, but Vinston Painter is an intriguing prospect. Painter (6'4", 306 pounds) can play multiple positions along the line, and that is why the Broncos selected him in the sixth round of the draft.
He will serve as a backup in 2013 but will soak up as much as he can, especially when you throw in the fact that Alex Gibbs is working as an offensive line consultant with the team. Painter could challenge for a starting role as soon as next season.
Left Defensive End
Starter: Derek Wolfe
2nd String: Jeremy Beal
3rd String: Malik Jackson
4th String: John Youboty
Derek Wolfe will be coming off a very strong rookie season in which he racked up six sacks. As good as his rookie season was, even more will be expected of him this year.
Malik Jackson and Jeremy Beal will have an interesting battle to see who can be Wolfe's primary backup. Both men have plenty of untapped potential. Jackson had just five tackles as a rookie while Beal has never played a snap in the NFL.
Starters: Sylvester Williams and Terrance Knighton
2nd String: Kevin Vickerson and Mitch Unrein
3rd String: Sealver Siliga and Romney Fuga
Sylvester Williams could easily turn into one of the better values of the entire 2013 draft. Denver came up at No.28 in the first round and found the powerful, yet surprisingly athletic Williams sitting on the board.
Williams can be a dominant force in the middle of the line and pairing him with Terrance Knighton, who is a solid run defender who can put pressure on the quarterback, will give the Broncos an upgrade over what they had at the position last season.
The interior of the defensive line could even become a strength of the team .
Right Defensive End
Starter: Robert Ayers
2nd String: Quanterus Smith
3rd String: Ben Garland
4th String: Lanston Tanyi
This will be a very key spot for the team this year due to Elvis Dumervil leaving for Baltimore. The team will likely use multiple players to make up for what Dumervil gave it, but it has the pieces to do it.
Robert Ayers will get the first chance and with it the ability to shed the belief that he is a draft bust. Quanterus Smith stands right behind him, a player the team got in the fifth round after a 12.5-sack performance during his senior year at Western Kentucky.
Between Ayers and Smith, Denver won't miss Dumervil.
Starter: Von Miller
2nd String: Shaun Phillips
3rd String: Lerentee McCray
Von Miller has become one of the NFL's best individual players and will have opponents game-planning around him all season. The interesting player here is Shaun Phillips.
Phillips can play all over the field and is good against the run while being able to drop back in pass coverage. He will also be used quite frequently as a pass-rushing defensive end coming off the edge.
Opponents will have their hands full on obvious passing downs.
Starter: Nate Irving
2nd String: Joe Mays
3rd String: Steven Johnson
4th String: Stewart Bradley
5th String: Uona Kaveinga
The Broncos have several players who can play the middle linebacker spot, but none of them seem like great options at the moment.
Nate Irving probably has the inside track, via The Denver Post, to secure the starting spot at the moment, but it's wide open. He will have to fend off Stewart Bradley and Joe Mays, two veterans who have produced much more than Irving's 17 career tackles.
Starter: Wesley Woodyard
2nd String: Danny Trevathan
3rd String: Damien Holmes
Wesley Woodyard had a terrific 2012 campaign in which he led the team with 117 tackles and won't be giving up his starting role anytime soon. He will be one of the team leaders on defense this coming season.
Starters: Champ Bailey and Chris Harris
2nd String: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Tony Carter
3rd String: Omar Bolden and Kayvon Webster
4th String: Mario Butler
Despite his struggles in the playoff loss to Baltimore, Champ Bailey had another good season in 2012 and will be one of the starting cornerbacks again. Chris Harris and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will both get plenty of playing time and will both be on the field when the team goes into a nickel package.
Beyond those three, the team has some questions. Kayvon Webster, the team's third-round draft choice, shows plenty of promise. He is an aggressive player who is very good at coming up in run support, something that fits well with players like Harris and Bailey.
Tony Carter and Omar Bolden round out what is a very deep position for the Broncos. Everyone on this list aside from Mario Butler should make the team.
Starters: Rahim Moore and Mike Adams
2nd String: David Bruton and Quinton Carter
3rd String: Quentin Jammer
4th String: Duke Ihenacho
5th String: Ross Rasner
The safety position is another spot that will be very fun to watch as training camp progresses. The team has a great mixture of youth and potential as well as veteran experience at the position.
Rahim Moore, despite making a terrible blunder in the playoff loss to Baltimore, had a solid 2012 season and was third on the team with 72 tackles. Mike Adams was second on the team with 80 tackles but struggled mightily in pass coverage.
David Bruton, generally the team's best special teams player, has been getting a look, via The Denver Post, as a potential starter himself. That makes things very interesting, especially when you throw in Quentin Jammer, who the team just signed and will be moving to safety, according to NFL.com.
Starter: Matt Prater
The Broncos have not brought in another kicker, not even to give Matt Prater a rest in camp, showing they are confident in him.
Prater has one of the strongest legs in the NFL, making four kicks from over 50 yards a year ago. He was 26-of-32 for field goals and has made 79 percent of his career attempts, most of which has been in the thin air of Denver.
Starter: Britton Colquitt
Backup: Ryan Doerr
The Broncos brought in Ryan Doerr as an undrafted rookie from Kansas State, but the odds of him taking the job from Britton Colquitt are not very good.
Colquitt's 42.1-yard net average was good for third best in the league last year, and over the course of his three-year career with the Broncos, he has a very good 46.2-yard average per punt while placing 31 percent of his kicks inside the 20-yard line.
Doerr will be looking to catch the eye of another team, essentially auditioning through the Broncos.
Starter: Trindon Holliday
Backup: Omar Bolden
If there is a knock on Trindon Holliday, it is his ball security. But once he has the ball in his hands, he is electric, just ask Baltimore.
Holliday transformed the Denver return game after he was brought in last season after being released by Houston. Holliday returned a punt for a touchdown and a 105-yard kickoff during the regular season before breaking off one of each in the playoff loss to the Ravens.
Omar Bolden and Quincy McDuffie are players who the team may also give the opportunity to return kicks, but it isn't likely that anyone other than Holliday will handle the duties once the season starts.