The Denver Top Five: Preseason Edition
Looking at an NFL preseason roster, one can get lost in the sea of names, numbers, experience levels, and statistics. A preseason roster is full of guys vying for a roster spot come the regular season. It has superstars, career backups, and rookie prospects hoping to make a name for themselves.
I have decided to sort through the plethora of orange names on the Broncos' online roster and pick the five best players.
"Best" can be a very subjective word. I wanted to choose the five players that I think, a) have the most raw talent, b) have lived up to their potential so far in their careers, and c) are likely to have outstanding seasons in 2009.
While the players who made the list may not surprise a Bronco fan, the order might. So, without further ado, the top five Broncos in 2009.
Honorable Mention: Eddie Royal, WR
Although Eddie Royal is not yet in the top five, he will be soon enough. This second-year receiver out of Virginia Tech took the Raiders by storm in week one of 2008, his rookie season, and never looked back.
He became one of Jay Cutler's most reliable targets, and made several huge plays during the season, including a 93-yard touchdown reception in a critical prime time game against the Cleveland Browns.
Royal will be one of the starters at wide receiver for the Broncos this season. His speed makes him a constant deep threat, and although Kyle Orton is not known for arm strength, look for Royal to make a lot of big plays.
5: D.J. Williams, LB
Although Philip Rivers is in the foreground of this photo, linebacker D.J. Williams is the one putting a monster hit on the big-mouthed player Bronco fans love to hate.
Williams has seen time at both middle linebacker and weak side linebacker in the 4-3, but now that Mike Nolan has transitioned the team to a 3-4 base, Williams will play beside veteran Andra Davis as an inside linebacker.
Williams, despite suffering minor injuries, has consistently been one of the best tacklers in the NFL. He often was forced to clean up after missed tackles by the defensive line or one of the other linebackers in the old defense.
Despite being a part of a very poor unit over the past few seasons, Williams has always held his own. He should have a very good season now that he has some better talent around him.
4: Brandon Marshall, WR
Ahh, Brandon Marshall.
The big wide receiver is undoubtedly one of the best in the NFL today. Two consecutive 100+ reception seasons back up that claim.
Marshall is one of the hardest players in football to bring down, as he uses his size extremely effectively. Although his offseason has been marred by legal issues and rumors of discontent with the medical staff in Denver, Marshall is still one of the more feared wideouts.
He is currently behind Jabar Gaffney on the Broncos depth chart, but most fans see this simply as incentive to work hard and earn his position. There is little doubt that he will be a starter come week one. Paired with Eddie Royal, Gaffney, and Brandon Stokley, Marshall figures to have another great season in Josh McDaniels' spread offense.
3: Brian Dawkins, S
The biggest offseason acquisition for McDaniels and the Broncos was veteran safety Brian Dawkins. This man has a reputation as one of the best safeties in NFL history, and was a true fan favorite in Philadelphia.
Known for his leadership and intensity as well as his skills, Dawkins will bring much-needed leadership to the Denver locker room, and excitement for the fans as he makes his much anticipated entrances onto the field.
2: Champ Bailey, CB
What? Champ Bailey is not the best player on the Broncos?
It was very close, but I decided to give Champ second place on my list.
Like most Bronco fans, Champ is my personal favorite player. When healthy, he is the best cornerback in the NFL. Yes, better than Nnamdi Asomughua, better than Al Harris, and better than Asante Samuel.
Bailey can shut down any receiver that an opponent might throw at him, and very rarely gets burned by anyone.
Now that he has safeties that are able to back him up, and a more competent fellow corner in Andre' Goodman (Dre' Bly was never able to handle the role), Champ should be back to his 2006 form, when he picked off 10 balls.
1: Ryan Clady, LT
Yes, Ryan Clady is my pick for number one player on the Denver Broncos.
It was extremely close between him and Bailey, but Clady's young age gives him the edge.
He was the most dominant left tackle in football in 2008. The left tackle is especially important because he typically protects the quarterback's blind side and is usually matched up against the best pass rusher for the opponent.
Clady handled the role beautifully. The Broncos attempted over 600 passes in 2008 and Clady allowed a mere half sack.
He shut down some of the best defensive ends during 2008, including the likes of Julius Peppers, John Abraham, and Luis Castillo.
His job will include more run protection in 2009, but with Josh McDaniels running the offense, there will be plenty of passing opportunities, and Kyle Orton will undoubtedly have much more decision time than he ever did in Chicago.