Projected Denver Broncos Final 53-Man Roster, Pre-Training Camp Edition
The Denver Broncos are just a week away from the start of training camp at Dove Valley. The pads will come on, and players will be fighting for a roster spot from Day 1.
With so much talent, the Broncos will have several tough decisions to make when trimming down the roster. Every rep, every day in camp will be critical for players who are trying to make their mark.
The Broncos are in a Super Bowl window, and they want only the best on the final roster. They will carefully craft this roster with the hopes of getting back to the Big Game in 2015.
Here’s a projection of what the 53-man roster could look like at the end of training camp.
Starter: Peyton Manning
Backups: Brock Osweiler, Bryn Renner
Peyton Manning proved last year that he’s still at the top of his game. In fact he proved last year that he was better than ever before. He posted NFL single-season records of 55 touchdown passes and 5,477 passing yards in 2013 as the Broncos made their way to a 13-3 record for the second year in a row.
What does Manning do for an encore this year?
It’s foolish to think that he could best those amazing numbers, but he might get close. Manning has improved weapons in the passing game like Emmanuel Sanders and should still throw for 45 touchdowns or more. He might also surpass 5,000 yards passing for only the second time in his career.
The Broncos are happy with Brock Osweiler as the primary backup and quarterback of the future. He struggled a bit during minicamp, and he’ll have to perform well in the preseason for the team to maintain its confidence in him.
Bryn Renner is a talented pocket passer who fell undrafted this year. He'll beat out second-year quarterback Zac Dysert because he’s more accurate and throws with better touch. This competition will play out in the preseason.
Starter: Montee Ball
Backups: C.J. Anderson, Ronnie Hillman, Kapri Bibbs
Montee Ball is going to be the lead back for the Broncos this year. Last year he started off his rookie season slowly as a backup behind Knowshon Moreno. As the year went on, Ball began to get more comfortable with the pro game.
In anticipation of a larger role, Ball has bulked up a bit this offseason. The Broncos let Moreno go in free agency, so Ball is likely to be a bellcow for them this season. He has the size and determination to be a strong runner who can grind down defenses as the game goes on. He may not catch 60 passes like Moreno did last year, but Ball has worked hard to improve his ability as a receiver out of the backfield.
Behind Ball, C.J. Anderson should be the primary backup. He has the starter’s ability and power that nobody else on the roster has. Anderson has slimmed down to 213 pounds and arguably has the fastest 10-yard burst of any back on the roster. If something happens to Ball, the Broncos won’t miss a beat with Anderson.
Ronnie Hillman was the starter last year entering training camp. He fumbled the job away in the preseason and then fumbled his backup job away during the regular season.
He might still be the fastest player on the roster, and he’ll get a chance to earn a roster spot as the team’s change-of-pace back.
Kapri Bibbs rushed for more than 1,700 yards with 31 rushing touchdowns last year at Colorado State, but he fell undrafted earlier this year. He’s a fine value for the Broncos and should make the team. Bibbs could eventually develop into a quality backup and spot starter for Denver.
Backups: Cody Latimer, Andre “Bubba” Caldwell, Isaiah Burse
The Broncos have arguably the best starting trio of wide receivers in the entire league. Opposing defenses are going to find it difficult to slow down Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Wes Welker.
Thomas has become the favorite target for Peyton Manning. He’s big, fast and physical at the point of the catch. Thomas can run short routes and turn them quickly into long gains. He can also run deep routes and smoothly look in passes over his shoulder.
Oh yeah, he’s a fantastic red-zone threat too.
Sanders is the new guy in town. The Broncos added him in free agency earlier this year, and his speed gives the offense a different look it didn’t have last year. Sanders is going to be used in multiple ways by offensive coordinator Adam Gase. He described Denver as “wide receiver heaven” after being added to the roster, and Sanders should have a career year in 2014.
Welker battled concussion issues last year, but he was still able to post a career-high 10 touchdowns in 2014. He’ll once again serve as the team’s biggest threat from the slot. His jerk routes are still as crisp as ever, and Welker could help pick up some of the slack in the red zone after the team lost Eric Decker in free agency.
Cody Latimer should have been a first-round pick. Instead, the Broncos traded up in the second round to secure his services earlier this year.
Latimer has a fine size/speed combination, and he rarely drops a pass. He can get downfield in a hurry also is a standout player in the red zone because of his wingspan and leaping ability. He could begin his pro career as a “red-zone specialist” for the Broncos.
Andre “Bubba” Caldwell did a fine job last year when injuries hit the depth chart. The Broncos kept him around in free agency, and he gives the team quality veteran depth at the position.
Isaiah Burse could make the final roster. He caught 100 passes last year at Fresno State, but he fell undrafted in 2014. He is a fantastic return man with the speed and quickness to score any time he touches the ball. He gives the Broncos an interesting developmental slot receiver.
Starter: Julius Thomas
Backups: Virgil Green, Jacob Tamme, Gerell Robinson
Julius Thomas proved that he could be a star in the league with his 2013 breakout performance. The Broncos waited for him to emerge after two seasons lost due to an ankle injury. Thomas rewarded their patience by becoming one of the best in the game.
We should see more from him this year. He has one year of high school experience, one year of college experience and one year (essentially) of professional experience playing football. The best may be yet to come with this talented young player.
Virgil Green has transformed his game. He was just a receiver during his time as Colin Kaepernick’s favorite target in college at Nevada. Since he was drafted in 2011, Green has worked hard to become a great blocker. Now, he is the best all-purpose tight end on the roster.
Jacob Tamme proved in 2013 that he was a team-first guy. The Broncos asked him to play special teams in addition to being a reserve tight end—and he was fantastic at both jobs. His long-established chemistry with Peyton Manning makes him a virtual lock for the final roster.
Gerell Robinson converted to tight end earlier this year. His game is a bit like that of Julius Thomas, and he gives the team a fine developmental talent at the position.
Starters: Ryan Clady (LT), Orlando Franklin (LG), Manny Ramirez (C), Louis Vasquez (RG), Chris Clark (RT)
Backups: Winston Justice, Will Montgomery, Michael Schofield, Vinston Painter
The Broncos are going to have a different look up front this year. They lost left guard Zane Beadles in free agency to the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier this year, so they had to reshuffle some things on the offensive line.
Ryan Clady returns from the Lisfranc injury he suffered in Week 2 against the New York Giants. Having him protecting Peyton Manning’s blind side is a huge upgrade from Chris Clark. Clady is near full strength at this time and one of the best at his position when healthy.
Orlando Franklin has been moved from right tackle to left guard this year. He’s larger and more powerful than Beadles, and Franklin should boost the blocking for the ground game. He won’t get exposed by pass-rushers now that he’s playing in the middle.
Manny Ramirez won the starting center job last year and played well in most games. He’ll face a bit of competition from Will Montgomery in training camp, but Ramirez should win the starting job again in 2014.
Louis Vasquez is one of the best guards in football. He’s big, strong, athletic and agile. Having him on the line gives the Broncos a huge asset in both the running and passing game.
Clark should win the right tackle position. He split time in minicamp this year with veteran Winston Justice. Clark did a good job most weeks at left tackle last year, and he should be a decent right tackle this year.
Michael Schofield and Vinston Painter are two tackles with the versatility to play on either side. Schofield even has experience from his days with the Michigan Wolverines at left guard. Both are quality reserve players.
Starters: Terrance Knighton, Sylvester Williams
Backups: Kevin Vickerson, Mitch Unrein
Terrance Knighton was a stud in the middle of the defensive line last year. He’s a mountain of a man who can eat up space and regularly take on double-teams. He can also give the team some interior push as a pass-rusher as well.
Sylvester Williams was a first-round pick last year and got plenty of experience in 2013 after Kevin Vickerson went down with a hip injury. Williams learned better technique as the season went on, and he could be even better this year. He has good strength at the point of attack and multiple moves to get after the passer.
Vickerson is still recovering from his hip injury, but he’s a strong veteran presence in the locker room and a must-have player on the final roster. Unrein also has great value to the team as a reserve defensive tackle and part-time fullback.
Starters: DeMarcus Ware, Derek Wolfe
Backups: Malik Jackson, Quanterus Smith
The Broncos made one of the biggest moves in free agency when they signed DeMarcus Ware earlier this offseason. He fought through an elbow injury last year, and he’s coming off a disappointing six-sack season.
At minicamps and OTAs, Ware showed that he still had his trademark explosiveness off the snap. There’s a strong chance that he could get at least 10 sacks for the Broncos in 2014.
Derek Wolfe has returned from the neck injury that caused seizure-like symptoms last year. He’s regained the weight that he lost during his recovery and could pick up where he left off.
Malik Jackson has improved every year he’s been in the league. He could push Wolfe for the starting job opposite Ware. Even as a part-time player, Jackson could total five or more sacks in 2014.
Quanterus Smith missed all of his rookie season in 2013 as he recovered from the knee injury that cut his final season short at Western Kentucky. At minicamp and OTAs, he looked like his explosiveness had returned. He gives the team a great option as a part-time pass-rusher.
Starters: Von Miller (SLB), Nate Irving (MLB), Danny Trevathan (WLB)
Backups: Lamin Barrow, Lerentee McCray, Steven Johnson, Shaquil Barrett
So long as Von Miller is at full strength, the Broncos have a fantastic group of starting linebackers. Miller is coming back from an ACL injury he suffered in the Week 16 game against the Houston Texans last year. He seems to be ahead in the recovery process and could be able to start in Week 1.
If healthy, Miller is one of the best pass-rushers in the game today. He could easily rack up 10-plus sacks in 2014.
Nate Irving gets his chance to be the starting middle linebacker this year. He gained valuable experience last year as a reserve strong-side linebacker, and he’s improved his play in coverage. Irving has a nose for the ball and arrives at the ball-carrier with natural violence.
Danny Trevathan is one of the best weak-side linebackers in the game. He will regularly bait opposing quarterbacks into bad throws, and he can return interceptions for touchdowns. Trevathan is a sound tackler who arrives at the ball quickly.
Lamin Barrow was the team’s fifth-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft. He’s great in coverage, but he needs to work on his ability as a run defender. Barrow is going to play middle linebacker for the Broncos and could be a quality starter someday.
Lerentee McCray will get the role that Irving filled last year—reserve strong-side linebacker. He’s a talented but oft-injured player who needs to stay healthy in order to play up to his enormous potential.
Steven Johnson is a good special teams player. Shaquil Barrett could make the final roster because of his ability as a pass-rusher.
Starters: Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr.
Backups: Bradley Roby, Kayvon Webster, Tony Carter
Adding aggressive talent to the defense was the plan for the Broncos in free agency. That’s one of the main reasons they added Aqib Talib earlier this year.
Talib is a true shutdown corner who can take away an opponent's best weapon. He’s physical at the line of scrimmage and at the point of the catch.
Chris Harris Jr. is coming back from the partially torn ACL he suffered in the playoff victory over the Chargers last year. He should be near full strength by the start of the regular season, and he gives the team a versatile corner who can excel covering outside or slot receivers.
Bradley Roby was the team’s first-round pick this year. He has excellent straight-line speed, and he’s aggressive as the pass comes in. He has the upside to be a shutdown starter someday.
Kayvon Webster struggled at times last year. He gained valuable experience in 2013, and that should help him as a sub-package corner this season.
Tony Carter plays bigger than his 5'9" size. He’s aggressive and fast but has been known to be an inconsistent player.
Starters: T.J. Ward, Rahim Moore
Backups: Quinton Carter, David Bruton
The first move the Broncos made in free agency was to add strong safety T.J. Ward. His nickname is “Boss” and for good reason. Ward is an intimidator who will serve as an enforcer for the Broncos defense. He can play close to the line of scrimmage, and the Broncos may even move him to middle linebacker in certain passing situations.
Moore has regained his confidence and looked good last year before a rare lower-leg injury caused him to miss about half the season. If he could get back to being the ball hawk he was in college at UCLA, it would greatly benefit the third level of the Broncos defense.
Quinton Carter is finally healthy after missing most of the last two seasons with a knee injury. Having him available gives the Broncos more versatility in the secondary. He can star at both strong and free safety.
David Bruton is a specials teams standout. He also gives the Broncos quality depth and experience at the safety position.
Kicker: Matt Prater
Punter: Britton Colquitt
Long Snapper: Aaron Brewer
The Broncos have one of the best collections of specialists in the league today. Matt Prater is a clutch kicker who can be counted on to make crucial kicks with the game on the line. Britton Colquitt is a weapon at punter who can regularly pin an opponent deep in its own territory. Aaron Brewer is a good, young long snapper who has consistent technique.
- QB, Peyton Manning
- QB, Brock Osweiler
- QB, Bryn Renner
- RB, Montee Ball
- RB, C.J. Anderson
- RB, Ronnie Hillman
- RB, Kapri Bibbs
- WR, Demaryius Thomas
- WR, Emmanuel Sanders
- WR, Wes Welker
- WR, Cody Latimer
- WR, Andre “Bubba” Caldwell
- WR, Isaiah Burse
- TE, Julius Thomas
- TE, Virgil Green
- TE, Jacob Tamme
- TE, Gerell Robinson
- OT, Ryan Clady
- OG, Orlando Franklin
- OC, Manny Ramirez
- OG, Louis Vasquez
- OT, Chris Clark
- OG, Will Montgomery
- OT, Winston Justice
- OT, Vinston Painter
- OT, Michael Schofield
- DT, Terrance Knighton
- DT, Sylvester Williams
- DT, Mitch Unrein
- DT, Kevin Vickerson
- DE, DeMarcus Ware
- DE, Derek Wolfe
- DE, Malik Jackson
- DE, Quanterus Smith
- LB, Von Miller
- LB, Nate Irving
- LB, Danny Trevathan
- LB, Lerentee McCray
- LB, Steven Johnson
- LB, Lamin Barrow
- LB, Shaquil Barrett
- CB, Aqib Talib
- CB, Chris Harris Jr.
- CB, Bradley Roby
- CB, Kayvon Webster
- CB, Tony Carter
- SS, T.J. Ward
- FS, Rahim Moore
- FS, David Bruton
- SS, Quinton Carter
- K, Matt Prater
- P, Britton Colquitt
- LS, Aaron Brewer
All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record/statistical information provided via email from the Denver Broncos. Contract and salary-cap information provided by Spotrac.com. Transaction history provided by ProSportsTransactions.com.
Cecil Lammey can be followed on Twitter @CecilLammey.