Denver Broncos: Projecting the 2011 Depth Chart
Going into the 2011 draft the Denver Broncos were adamant about the fact that they needed to find four starters with their first four picks.
There is no doubt that they found one in Von MIller, but how did they with the rest?
Without free agency, off season workouts and basically any sort of football business whatsoever, it is hard to forecast what the Broncos roster (let alone depth chart) is going to look like with any certainty.
However, some interesting questions are raised right off the bat when it comes to where the newly drafted players are going to fit on this team.
Some of these questions have been answered by coaches and management and require no speculation at all. Still, others are very much in question as the addition of free agents and finalization of the roster looms.
The following takes into account only those players who are currently on the roster.
Based on comments from Broncos brass there are some predictions about players whose official status with the team is yet to be determined, although this projection is predominantly an attempt to slot in those we know we have.
Also, positions like Wide Receiver and Cornerback which don't appear to be any different from last season will not be mentioned.
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There was a lot of rumor about the Broncos potentially drafting some competition for Knowshon Moreno but it never came about.
The safer bet is that the Broncos look to bring in an un-drafted free agent or potentially a big name like Deangelo Williams to fill that spot.
For now it looks like:
1. Knowshon Moreno
2. Correll Buckhalter
3. Lendale White
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Yes, that is a picture of one of the Broncos newest tight ends on the hard court. The big question is how long until that player finds his way to the Broncos starting line up?
The current line up at tight end for the Broncos is a pretty sad and unaccomplished one with the release of Daniel Graham. There is reason for hope though as the Broncos are very high on the two young players they picked in 2011.
Dan Gronkowski will get the nod as the number one to start training camp but the Broncos will really, REALLY want one of the two rookies to make a compelling case to jump over him.
Because of his actual football experience look for Virgil Green to do that first and maybe get significant playing time as a rookie. J
ulius Thomas has the bigger upside though and even though he will be third on the chart he has the potential to steal time from Gronkowski as well.
1. Dan Gronkowski
2. Virgil Green
3. Julius Thomas
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This is one of the situations where the roster might not indicate it yet, but the incumbent at right tackle will not pose a threat to the newly acquired Orlando Franklin.
Ryan Harris is free to move on as soon as the CBA allows him to and even if he isn't able to be signed away, there isn't much he can do to get his spot back.
Beyond that the offensive is going to closely resemble its line up from last season and the depth chart is tricky because of the flexibility of players like Zane Beadles and Russ Hochstein who can play multiple positions.
Don't be surprised however if there isn't depth added via free agency here as well, mainly to back up Franklin.
LT Ryan Clady Chris Clark
LG Zane Beadles Eric Olsen
C JD Walton Russ Hochstein
RG Chris Kuper Stanley Daniels
RT Orlando Franklin Ryan Harris?
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The switch back to the 4-3 defense will also mean a switch for some players on the defense.
For players like Elvis Dumervil it will be a happy return to rushing off the end but for players like Jason Hunter and Mario Haggan it will mean another forced move in an attempt to stay on the roster.
Obviously the Broncos are devoid of talent on the interior defensive line and therefore prior to free agency there is no sense in listing anyone but Kevin Vickerson and Marcus Thomas (who the Broncos have said they would like to re-sign.)
The X-Factor is Jeremy Beal who had a very productive career at Oklahoma and despite his low draft position shouldn't be facing too steep a climb to at least make the roster.
From there he will be behind a guy who has underperformed and a guy who was just moved in an effort to make room in the line backing corps.
LDE Elvis Dumervil Jason Hunter
DT Marcus Thomas
DT Kevin Vickerson
RDE Robert Ayers Mario Haggan Jeremy Beal
This is another position where the Broncos have come and out and said exactly how they want this position to play out going into training camp and beyond.
In a recent radio interview Brian Xanders laid out his vision (and presumably John Fox's as well) for the linebacking depth chart. This makes sense based on the amount of linebackers taken in the 2011 draft.
Keep in kind that this is also another position where guys have versatility and can play in a few spots.
However, the surprise mentioning of Joe Mays as the number one guy inside means that the team was impressed with what he was able to show last season and he will be the guy until Nate Irving is ready.
SAM Von Miller Mike Mohamed
MIKE Joe Mays Nate Irving
WILL DJ Williams Wesley Woodyard
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The drafting of Rahim Moore has certainly been touted as a shrewd draft pick for the Broncos. Yet it calls into question how serious the Broncos were about drafting four starters right off the bat.
Brian Dawkins will be impossible to replace as the symbolic starter at free safety and so the real tough call for the Broncos will be how and when to get Moore playing time in place of Dawkins.
So, if Moore is not penciled in as the starter right away then there will be those who question the Broncos draft strategy.
However, there is no guarantee that Dawkins will be healthy enough to play every game and therefore this pick was perfectly timed and placed.
FS Brian Dawkins Rahim Moore Darcel McBath
SS Renaldo Hill David Bruton Quinton Carter