Updated 53-Man Roster Projections for Denver Broncos Post Week 3 of Preseason
The Denver Broncos—like every team in the NFL—are facing some tough decisions when putting together the final roster. The Broncos have a talent-rich roster at multiple positions, so this will make roster cuts even more difficult.
The first round of cuts have already begun in Denver and across the league. The Broncos aren’t done yet, as they still need to release about 20 more players at the end of this week.
Here’s the updated 53-man roster projection for the Broncos after Week 3 of the preseason.
Starter: Peyton Manning
Backups: Brock Osweiler, Zac Dysert
The Broncos are likely to keep three quarterbacks on the roster again this year. Peyton Manning set records last year for the most passing yards (5,477) and passing touchdowns (55) in a single season. This year, Manning should continue his dominance with an upgraded group of weapons around him.
Brock Osweiler is still considered the quarterback of the future. He’s had his ups and downs during the preseason, but general manager John Elway has been happy with Osweiler’s progress. Osweiler is only under contract for two more years, while Manning is under contract for three more years. It’s entirely possible that Osweiler leaves Denver before Manning is done playing.
Zac Dysert is the developmental third-string quarterback. He’s no threat to Osweiler, but the team probably keeps him around to see if he can continue to refine his game. Dysert is athletic and has a rocket arm, but he’s still showed problems playing under pressure and throwing accurately.
Starter: Montee Ball
Backups: Ronnie Hillman, C.J. Anderson, Juwan Thompson
Montee Ball has missed most of training camp and the preseason due to an appendectomy he had earlier in August. Now, Ball is healthy and ready to take over as the lead back for the Broncos. The second-year runner looked great over the final six games of his rookie season. Ball should be able to carry that momentum over to this year.
Ronnie Hillman is the team’s change-of-pace back. He’s been featured more while Ball has been out, but Hillman has not produced like a lead back should. At least he’s held on to the rock. His speed will be utilized from time to time this season.
C.J. Anderson has the ability to be a quality starter in the NFL. He’s a power back with a quick 10-yard burst. Anderson is also a fine receiver out of the backfield. He studies hard and knows the offense like the back of his hand. If something happens to Ball, then Anderson is most likely to get most of the touches.
Juwan Thompson makes the team as an undrafted rookie out of Duke. He’s a running back/fullback ‘tweener who is a good all-purpose talent. Thompson is strong between the tackles, he has strong hands and he’s arguably the best back on the roster in terms of pass protection.
Backups: Andre “Bubba” Caldwell, Cody Latimer
The best trio of starting wide receivers in the league resides in Denver. Peyton Manning is the best quarterback in the game, and these receivers are helping him stay at the top of the mountain.
Demaryius Thomas is nearly on the same level as Calvin Johnson. He’s big, fast and a physical receiver who can work well in the red zone. Thomas is versatile enough to run the entire route tree, and he’s incredibly dangerous after the catch.
Emmanuel Sanders was added by the team in free agency earlier this year. He’s got the speed and quickness to attack an opponent vertically. Sanders can get off the line of scrimmage cleanly, and, like Thomas, he’s dangerous after the catch.
Wes Welker is still one of the best slot receivers in the game. He was concussed in Week 3 of the preseason, but early reports seem to indicate that he’ll be ready for the start of the regular season.
Andre “Bubba” Caldwell is a seasoned veteran, and he may be the fastest player on the team. He can fill multiple positions, and he’s worked hard to earn the trust of Manning.
Cody Latimer is an intriguing rookie prospect. He should be a breakout player in 2015, but Latimer can make plays as a rookie—specifically in the red zone. Latimer has the size and leaping ability to play “above the rim.”
Starter: Julius Thomas
Backups: Virgil Green, Jacob Tamme
Julius Thomas had a breakout year in 2013, and he’s just shown the tip of the iceberg in terms of upside as a pro. He’s improved his physique this offseason, and Thomas worked out with future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez to learn as much as possible.
Thomas is a mismatch nightmare because he’s too fast for linebackers to cover, and he’s too big for safeties to handle. Without Eric Decker, the Broncos may turn to Thomas more in the red zone.
Virgil Green has worked hard to develop a good all-around skill set. Coming out of Nevada, Green was mostly known as a receiver. Now, Green is a strong blocker, and he can also line up in the backfield if need be. His versatility is an important part of this offense.
Jacob Tamme still has strong chemistry with Peyton Manning. He can play in-line tight end, move tight end or even line up in the slot. Tamme is a team-first guy, and he’s also a plus-player on special teams.
Starters: Ryan Clady (LT), Orlando Franklin (LG), Manny Ramirez (C), Louis Vasquez (RG), Chris Clark (RT)
Backups: Michael Schofield, Vinston Painter, Matt Paradis
There’s been some shuffling of the Broncos offensive line this year. Zane Beadles, last year’s starting left guard, was allowed to move on in free agency to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Broncos were looking for (they found it!) more beef up front on the interior of the line.
All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady is back, healthy and ready to dominate once again. He missed most of last year after going down in Week 2 against the New York Giants with a season-ending Lisfranc injury. Clady’s return is huge for the offense. He’s one of the best left tackles in the game today, and he’ll drastically improve the protection for Peyton Manning.
Orlando Franklin moves from right tackle to left guard as the replacement for Beadles. He’s huge, strong and ferocious as a run-blocker. Having Franklin inside means the Broncos should be able to push the pile more effectively in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
Manny Ramirez is the starter once again this year. He is strong at the point of attack, and Ramirez can effectively blast open holes for the ground game. Ramirez struggles against agile defensive tackles like J.J. Watt (who doesn’t?), but he’s not a bad player.
Right guard is manned by Louis Vasquez. He’s mean, nasty, agile and capable of being an outstanding run- or pass-blocker.
Chris Clark played left tackle for 14 regular-season games last year as he filled in for an injured Clady. This season, the team is counting on him as the right tackle to replace Franklin. Clark struggles against elite edge-rushers, but he should see less of those matchups now that he’s on the right side.
In the third round of the 2014 NFL draft, the Broncos selected OT/OG Michael Schofield out of Michigan. His agility and versatility give something the Broncos to develop. Vinston Painter sticks around from last year to play swing tackle for the Broncos. Matt Paradis is a developmental center who might make the practice squad. In this scenario, I have him making the final roster.
Starters: Terrance Knighton, Sylvester Williams
Backups: Marvin Austin, Mitch Unrein, Kevin Vickerson
The interior of the Broncos defensive line if chock full of talented players. The way the roster is shaking out this preseason, it looks like Denver will be able to keep five defensive tackles.
Terrance Knighton, aka PotRoast, has turned his career around in only one season. After getting benched in Jacksonville, Knighton came to the Broncos last year and started to play up to his enormous potential. He’s now a fan favorite, and Knighton can stuff the run or get interior pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Sylvester Williams was the team’s first-round pick in 2013. He struggled early in his rookie season, but he started to play better about halfway through last year. Now, Williams is using his natural talent combined with improved technique to be a dominant player in the middle.
Marvin Austin was added in free agency earlier this year, but nobody knew what to expect. Talent has never been a question with Austin, but durability and motivation were constant question marks for the 2011 second-round pick. Like Knighton, Austin could finally start flourishing now that he’s under defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio.
Mitch Unrein is a versatile veteran who can work well as a rotational player on the defensive line. He can also play fullback on offense if need be.
Vickerson was a solid starter for the Broncos last year before a hip injury in the Week 12 game against the New England Patriots knocked him out for the rest of the regular season and the playoffs. He’s working his way back to full strength and can still provide the team with solid veteran depth.
Starters: Derek Wolfe, DeMarcus Ware
Backups: Malik Jackson, Quanterus Smith
The Broncos have an interesting mix of pass-rushing defensive ends. They should help the team get after the quarterback early and often in 2014.
DeMarcus Ware was arguably the biggest signing in free agency for any team. Ware is going to team with linebacker Von Miller to give the Broncos an incredible one-two punch. He’s looking to bounce back from a disappointing six-sack season he had in 2013. Ware is back at his natural position of defensive end, and he should be able to get at least double-digit sacks for the Broncos this year.
Derek Wolfe is back after a scary injury—and seizure-like symptoms—that knocked him out of action last year. He’s regained the lost weight, and currently Wolfe checks in at 295 pounds. Wolfe is ready to get his career back on track, and all indications point to him picking up where he left off in 2013.
Malik Jackson just keeps getting better and better. He’s got the length and strength to be a force on the edge as a pass-rusher. Jackson can even move inside to defensive tackle in certain packages. There’s a chance that Jackson could get near double-digit sacks as well this season.
Quanterus Smith missed all of the 2013 season due to a 2012 knee injury that ended his final college season at Western Kentucky. The second-year pro has great burst around the corner, and he should be able to fill in admirably as a part-time pass-rusher this season. Smith has been taken under Ware’s wing, and he’s learning the best techniques for rushing the quarterback.
Starters: Von Miller (SLB), Nate Irving (MLB), Danny Trevathan (WLB)
Backups: Lerentee McCray, Steven Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Lamin Barrow
When the starters are healthy, the Broncos have a trio of linebackers who measure up well to any combination of other teams across the league.
The return of Von Miller is going to be huge for the Broncos. Miller was knocked out of action last year with an ACL injury in the Week 16 game against the Houston Texans. Ahead in his recovery, Miller was able to get some preseason work in the game on Saturday—ironically against the Texans. He’s trimmed down from his inflated size last year, and Miller looks like he’ll be a beast on the edge.
Nate Irving is finally playing like the middle linebacker the team envisioned when it selected him in the third round of the 2011 NFL draft. He’s still a strong tackler when defending the run, but now Irving is a good coverage player.
Danny Trevathan is currently injured with a broken bone in his leg, but he should be able to return some time after the team’s Week 4 bye. He’s a fantastic weak-side linebacker who excels in coverage. Trevathan is a defensive leader, and he wears the helmet with the speaker in it to call the defensive plays.
Lerentee McCray is a quality reserve strong-side linebacker. He’s an aggressive player who arrives at the ball with natural violence. McCray is also fast and quick enough to create pressure from the edge.
Steven Johnson is a valuable special teams player and reserve linebacker. Brandon Marshall is going to fill in for Trevathan, and he’s a good depth player. Lamin Barrow is a talented rookie who can play middle linebacker or line up as a weak-side linebacker. He’s great in coverage and has the instincts to develop into a quality starter.
Starters: Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr.
Backups: Kayvon Webster, Bradley Roby, Omar Bolden, Tony Carter
The Broncos made a big splash in free agency when they added Aqib Talib. His size and physical presence is going to upgrade the secondary in ways that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie could not. Talib can be a shutdown corner, and he also has the ability to cover move tight ends if called upon.
Chris Harris Jr. is coming back from the partially torn ACL he suffered in the playoff win over the San Diego Chargers. He’s become one of the best young corners in the game today. Harris can play outside at right or left corner; plus he can move inside to cover the slot.
Last year in the third round of the draft, the Broncos added Kayvon Webster. He got plenty of experience last year filling in for an injured Harris and an injured Champ Bailey. Webster worked out under the guidance of Harris this offseason, and he’ll use his speed and physicality to make plays for the Broncos.
In the first round of the 2014 NFL draft, the Broncos added Bradley Roby out of Ohio State. Speed is the name of his game, and he can easily stay with receivers on downfield routes. Roby also has a nose for the football and the ability to click and close quickly on run plays.
Omar Bolden can play cornerback or safety for the Broncos. His ability as a return man keep him around on the final roster. Tony Carter loves to take chances, but he can make plays when he’s on.
Starters: T.J. Ward (SS), Rahim Moore (FS)
Backups: David Bruton, Quinton Carter
The first move the Broncos made in free agency was to add strong safety T.J. Ward. He’s an enforcer who brings a take-no-prisoners attitude to the football field. Ward can fly to the football, and he’ll get pressure as a blitzer when asked to. He can cover, hit and move into the middle linebacker spot when the Broncos are in their nickel package.
Rahim Moore missed about half of last season due to a lower leg injury. He’s healthy now and ready to pick up where he left off. His confidence has returned, and Moore should be able to show off his ability in coverage.
David Bruton is a special teams ace with some starting experience at safety. Quinton Carter is finally healthy after missing most of the last two years due to a knee injury that required microfracture surgery. Now that Carter is back, this team can use him at strong or free safety—and he’s a quality player who can make an impact as a run or pass defender.
Kicker: Matt Prater (suspended), Brandon McManus
Punter: Britton Colquitt
Long Snapper: Aaron Brewer
The suspension of Matt Prater forced the Broncos to make a trade with the New York Giants to acquire Brandon McManus. He’ll start for the team while Prater serves his four-game suspension.
Britton Colquitt is a fantastic punter who can pin an opponent deep.
Aaron Brewer does a good job long-snapping for the Broncos.
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.