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2011 Denver Broncos' 53-Man Roster: The Comprehensive Guide

James BrooksContributor IIIJune 12, 2011

2011 Denver Broncos' 53-Man Roster: The Comprehensive Guide

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    DENVER - NOVEMBER 14:  Wide receiver Eddie Royal #19 of the Denver Broncos gathers his thoughts while stretching before taking on the Kansas City Chiefs at INVESCO Field at Mile High on November 14, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. The Denver Broncos defeated th
    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    This comprehensive guide on the 2011 Denver Broncos includes:

    • 1. An Opening Day Depth Chart Prediction
    • 2. Analysis on All Positions (w/ Grade)
    • 3. Potential Free Agent Signings (w/ explanations)
    • 4. 2011 Season Predictions

    The Denver Broncos enter 2011 after ending the previous year on a head-scratching note. As you very well remember, Tim Tebow started the final 3 games and played better than expected. Tebow himself is a microcosm of the entire squad. He definitely has the talent and the will to win, but questions still remain.

    Without a doubt, this upcoming year appears to be the most urgent in recent memory, with more is at stake than any year since 1998. The reputation of the organization is in jeopardy, the team is in danger of being labeled the league's worst, and most importantly, the sanity of the local fans is fading.

    In years past, there was at least chance that the squad could crack 8-8. This time around, Denver will be lucky if it can walk away with 6 wins. Sad as it may be, it may take this squad another few years to return to playoff contention. 

    Most experts agree that the Broncos are in a rebuilding phase. This isn't something I cared to admit, and it's not something fans want to think about, but it is a harsh reality. Thankfully, the front office made some key additions in the 2011 NFL draft. It seems as if the metaphorical train that derailed at the end of the Shanahan era may have been placed back on its track. 

    Now, if Denver needs just one thing this year, it is a few players to step up on defense, which ranked dead last in 2011. The squad will lose its best player to old age in the forseeable future. After Champ, who can the team lean on? Somebody needs to step up, and my guess is that one of the following players will raise himself to Pro-Bowl status by the end of this year.

    CB Perrish Cox

    DE Robert Ayers

    SLB Von Miller

    Take a good look at those 3 names. One, if not several of those players is going to raise their game this year. Von appears to be the likeliest candidate, but do not rule out the other two. 

    In the next few slides, position grades will be dealt to each position.

    The Position grade scale will go as follows.

    A: Top 20% of the league

    B: Top 21-40% of league

    C- Middle 41-60% of the league

    D- Bottom 61-80%

    F- Last 81-100%

    For example, a quarterback who receives a C is right in the middle of the league in terms of talent.

Opening Day Depth Chart After Cuts and Free Agency Losses

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    DENVER - JANUARY 02:  Quarterback Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos gets back on his feet after being knocked down against the San Diego Chargers at INVESCO Field at Mile High on January 2, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Image
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Players are ranked not necessarily by talent level, but by the likelihood that they will start week one. Keep in mind that free agent signings are not simply a matter of "signing the best player available at a position of need."

    You can bank on Bowlen taking a chance and signing one of the following two players: Brandon Mebane, DeAngelo Williams.


    +DENOTES INJURY+

    DENOTES FA SIGNING 

    QB

    RB

    • 1. DeAngelo Williams
    • 2. Knowshon Moreno
    • 3. Lendale White

    FB

    • 1. Spencer Larsen

    WR

    • 1. Brandon Lloyd
    • 2. Jabar Gaffney
    • 3. Eric Decker
    • 4. Eddie Royal (PR)
    • 5. Matt Willis (KR)
    • + Demaryius Thomas +

    TE

    • 1. Richard Quinn
    • 2. Dan Gronkowski
    • 3. Julius Thomas
    • 4. Virgil Green

    T

    • 1. Ryan Clady
    • 2. Orlando Franklin
    • 3. Khalif Barnes
    • 4. Chris Clark

    G

    • 1. Chris Kuper
    • 2. Zane Beadles
    • 3. Eric Olsen
    • 4. Richie Incognito

    C

    • 1. JD Walton
    • 2. Russ Hochstein

    DE

    • 1. Elvis Dumervil
    • 2. Robert Ayers
    • 2B. Von Miller (Subs in for Ayers in Nickel package/3rd down)
    • 3. Turk McBride
    • 4. Jeremy Beal

    DT

    • 1. Brandon Mebane
    • 2. Kevin Vickerson
    • 3. Marcus Thomas

    WLB

    • 1. DJ Williams
    • 2. Wesley Woodyard
    • 3. Jamar Williams

    MLB

    • 1. Joe Mays
    • 2. Nate Irving
    • 3. Mike Mohammed

    SLB

    • 1. Von Miller
    • 1B. Mario Haggan (Shifts into vacant spot left by DE Von Miller on 3rd down)
    • 2. Lee Robinson

    CB

    • 1. Champ Bailey
    • 2. Perrish Cox
    • 3. Andre Goodman
    • 4. Sydquan Thompson

    FS

    • 1. Brian Dawkins
    • 2. Rahim Moore
    • 3. Darcel McBath

    SS

    • 1. Renaldo Hill
    • 2. Quinton Carter

    K

    • 1. Matt Prater

    P

    • 1. Britton Colquitt


    LS

    1. Lonnie Paxton

    Notable Losses:

    T Ryan Harris

    RB Lendale White

    DE Jason Hunter

    S David Bruton

Quarterback

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    "I'm telling you man, it's only a matter of time..."
    "I'm telling you man, it's only a matter of time..."Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Grade: C

    Denver gets a C because no quarterback on this roster will carry the team to the Superbowl. Quite frankly, the Orton/Tebow combination is average. While Denver has more depth than most teams at the position, there are certainly at least 12-15 other quarterbacks that are better than both players.

    As for head coach John Fox, you can believe just about everything that comes out of his mouth, except for the statement he made recently in which he claimed Brady Quinn had a shot at starting. 

    That's a very good effort on his part to encourage the entire team to put in as much work as possible, but we see right through it. This is Kyle Orton's job until week 3 or 4, when he will get benched for Tebow.

    There is a decent chance Tebow takes over before that period of time. Regardless, this is not Quinn's spot to win or lose; it is No. 15's. Orton is the more refined, talented player at this stage, so he gets the starting nod. Tebow, on the other hand, obviously has greater potential and some serious leadership skills. He will be tested sooner rather than later.

    Rather than beat a dead horse in a debate that you can simply Google for yourself, this topic will be left like this:

    1. Kyle Orton 

    2. Tim Tebow 

    3. Brady Quinn

Running Back

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    GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 12:  Runningback Knowshon Moreno #27 of the Denver Broncos runs with the football during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 12, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Cardinals defe
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Grade: B

    Grade (No D. Williams): D+

    Denver is going to sign DeAngelo Williams the day the lockout is lifted. Don't believe it? Read here: http://ow.ly/5frxQ

    Since Miami drafted Kansas State RB Daniel Thomas in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, Denver is surely the leading candidate to land WIlliams, who would be an obvious upgrade over Knowshon Moreno.

    This is a squad that, with a Williams signing, would be right on the verge of cracking into A-Grade stuff at running back. The biggest issue is the injury that ended Williams' 2010 season. If the 6th year player out of Memphis can live up to his 2008-2009 form and shake the foot problem, Denver will certainly be in great shape offensively. 

    Knowshon Moreno, for better or for worse, is one of the least effective starting backs in recent Denver Broncos history. Anyone who regularly watches games knows that Moreno has neither the speed nor the power to be a successful running back. This is his last year to prove his worth, and likely his last year on the squad if he can't produce.

    After all, Knowshon is a player who has as many career fumbles as he does 20+ yard runs. He shouldn't be given more than 20% of the carries, but he will likely still get 30-40% of them to give DeAngelo a breather.

    Last on the depth chart is Lendale White (personal favorite), perhaps a feasible second option at running back. White fits the mold of a John Fox back, and would essentially be the Jonathan Stewart of the squad if he were to surpass Moreno on the depth chart. Correll Buckhalter is a subpar No. 2 option, and does not have what John Fox looks for, so look for him to be gone.

    1. DeAngelo Williams 

    2. Knowshon Moreno

    3. Lendale White

Fullback

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    JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 12:  Spencer Larsen #46 of the Denver Broncos is tackled by Justin Durant #56 of the Jacksonville Jaguars during the NFL season opener game at EverBank Field on September 12, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Green
    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Grade: D-

    Fullbacks and gong farmers. Both are crappy jobs that warrant little recognition. But somebody has to do the dirty work.

    Spencer Larsen gets absolutely no recognition, and rightfully so; he hasn't been playing up to the level an NFL fullback should. He isn't used much either, and when he is, the backs he paves the way for are sub-par. I'm a firm believer that Spencer Larsen will record more missed blocking assignments than he will rushing yards in 2011.

Wide Receiver

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    Emerging WR?
    Emerging WR?Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Grade: C

    What if Brandon Lloyd puts up another season with league leading statistics? Where would he be ranked on the top 100 players list? Certainly a strange thing to think about.

    If he does put together those numbers, this position rating would skyrocket. Realistically, Lloyd will probably catch between 55-70 balls for around 900 yards. The Broncos are supposedly transitioning to a run-heavy offense, so don't expect a 2010 repeat. Sadly, even if Lloyd repeats last year's season, he may have only another 3-4 years before his body gives out due to age.

    Thomas, perhaps the future of the WR corps, is last on the depth chart for the sake of injury. Thomas tore his Achilles tendon during a February 2011 workout. That tendon is estimated to be healed in 6-8 months, but could take as long as 18 months. There is a fair chance he won't be ready for the season opener, and even if he is, there is a very good chance the 23-year-old will never have the same speed he once did. He would be higher on the list, but regardless of his first round label, he simply hasn't proven himself yet. Keep your fingers crossed on this one.

    Eric Decker is rumored to be in contention for a starting spot opposite Brandon Lloyd, but at the end of the day, Jabar Gaffney will likely resume his role until Decker steps in a third of the way through the season. Gaffney definitely benefits from Thomas' injury as well as that of Eddie Royal, which will likely have healed 100% by late August.

    Speaking of Royal, the 5'9" speedster once had the potential to be a great No. 2 option for years to come. Unfortunately, he never returned to his old form. One has to wonder how many under-performing years he has left before he's reached his maximum potential. Royal is only 25, but his chances are running out. Barring a stellar off-season, he will likely be relegated to put returner and a slot option on 3rd and long situations, assuming Decker beats him out.

    Matt Willis is a player who is on the cusp of not even making the roster. The UCLA track star benefits more from the aforementioned injury to Thomas than any other player. Willis is said to be the fastest Bronco on the squad, and had quite an impressive 2010 pre-season before being placed on the IR. Willis has a very good shot at being the Week 1 kick returner and will likely haul in 10-20 catches next year.

    1. Brandon Lloyd

    2. Jabar Gaffney 

    3. Eric Decker

    4. Eddie Royal 

    5. Matt Willis

    6. Demaryuis Thomas

Tight End

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    Grade: F

    Richard Quinn, the professor shown in the video to your left, is not the starting tight end for the Denver Broncos, although he does share the same name. However, he does have a killer instinct, and completely goes off on his entire class in the video. Academic integrity!

    Where this stops being a joke is that if Richard Quinn, the professor, were to catch just one NFL pass, he would have as many catches as third-year tight end Richard Quinn, who is slated to start for Denver in 2011. 

    Right behind Quinn, the Broncos have a similar lack of pass-catching talent in Dan Gronkowski. Gronkowski came over to Denver in the Alphonso Smith trade, so effectively, a non-producer for a non-producer. At least Smith has improved statistically. Gronkowski or Quinn will have to shatter career highs in 2011 for the Denver Broncos tight end position in order to NOT grade out at the bottom of the league. The F grade is absolutely deserved, as Denver tight ends caught 27 balls last year, good for 30th in the league in TE production.

    Fortunately, Denver drafted 2 TE's that offer quite a bit of pass-catching ability, if not run-blocking ability. Julius Thomas hopes to take his career further than Wesley Duke took his. Duke was a tight-end on the 2005 Broncos, who actually looked promising before he blew out his knee. Similar to Thomas, Duke was a basketball player-turned-football player, simply looking to follow the career path of Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez.

    Virgil Green is another athletic player who could contribute immediately, but likely won't get his shot for a year or two. Barring injury, you will not be seeing Green, though he will likely be on the practice squad

    1. Richard Quinn 

    2. Dan Gronkowski

    3. Julius Thomas 

Offensive Tackle

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    DENVER - AUGUST 16:  Offensive tackle Ryan Clady #78 of the Denver Broncos blocks defensive end Stephen Bowen #72 of the Dallas Cowboys during preseason NFL action at Invesco Field at Mile High on August 16, 2008 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Grade: B-

    Ryan Clady is still one of the best left tackles in football, but his level of play has diminished ever since his rookie year, in which he held his match-ups to half a sack, and had only 3 penalties called against him. 

    After Clady, all bets are off. Guard Zane Beadles could kick out to right tackle, or second round draft pick Orlando Franklin could start from the day he steps onto an NFL field.

    Right tackle Ryan Harris is expected to leave town next season, and not a lot of experience is to be found behind Clady. For that matter, the only other tackles on the active roster are Taylor Herb and Chris Clark.

    Denver will have to add one, if not two or three tackles through free agency. Don't look for that player to be particularly known or skilled. Instead, look for a player with experience; someone who simply provides depth. Khalif Barnes is that guy.

    As for Clark and Herb, I'd have to guess that one is on their way out. Preference goes to Chris Clark. 

    T

    1. Ryan Clady

    2. Orlando Franklin

    3. Khalif Barnes

    4. Chris Clark

Offensive Guard

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    DENVER - SEPTEMBER 14:  Guard Chris Kuper #73 of the Denver Broncos lines up against the San Diego Chargers during NFL action at Invesco Field at Mile High on September 14, 2008 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Chargers 39-38.  (Photo by Doug
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Grade: C+

    Chris Kuper does not get the recognition he deserves, and he certainly isn't the issue on the Denver offensive line. There is a reason he was signed to a 6-year deal in 2010. He has been playing just below a pro-bowl level for the past two years. Kuper is clearly the 2nd best player on the Broncos O-line, and with a DeAngelo Williams 1,300 yard season, you can be sure he will be headed to Hawaii.

    Now, if he lacks anything, it is a counterpart at left guard. Zane Beadles was far from spectacular in his rookie campaign. Beadles started 14 games, and was a major reason why Denver had a 26th-ranked rushing attack in 2010.

    Behind Beadles sits Eric Olsen. The second-year player out of Notre Dame lacks experience as well, having only appeared in one game in 2010. The Broncos now expect Olsen to compete for either the starting left guard or center position, although he will likely win neither. 

    An extra guard certainly needs to be added through free agency to fit John Fox's ideal lineman mold—fierce, tough, and relentless. Fox went ahead and drafted Orlando Franklin for that very reason. Richie Incognito is not only nasty; he's a dirty player. While I certainly don't respect that type of play, it's better to have a player like that on your team than play against him. Incognitio would likely beat out Olsen for that No. 3 spot, but Olsen has the advantage of already knowing the system.   

    G

    1. Chris Kuper

    2. Zane Beadles

    3. Eric Olsen

    4. Richie Incognito


Center

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    ENGLEWOOD, CO - AUGUST 05:  Lonie Paxton #66 hoses down offensive lineman J.D. Walton #50 of the Denver Broncos as dives into the mud as rookies partake in the slip and slide fumble drill during training camp at Dove Valley on August 5, 2010 in Englewood,
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Rating: D+

    As a rookie, J.D. Walton started all 16 games for the Broncos. That sounds impressive until you consider that he was going up against practically no competition.

    Despite Walton's underwhelming performance, you have to consider the amount of pressure he and fellow rookie Zane Beadles must have felt last season. Being asked to come in to the NFL and start 14 (or in Walton's case, 16) games is no breeze, even if you're extremely talented. There is a huge learning curve.

    It's clear from Walton's play that he has yet to master that curve. It would be unfair to say that Walton is an average NFL center. He is however, on his way up, and certainly has the potential to be an above-average NFL center.

    C

    1. JD Walton

    2. Russ Hochstein

Defensive End

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    Grade: B-

    Grade (No Dumervil Production): D

    Elvis Dumervil is among the best in the game when he is healthy, no questions asked. Dumervil is, however, coming off a very serious injury. Nobody is too sure he'll be able to return to 2009 form. 

    Robert Ayers is moving back to his collegiate position at DE, so perhaps he will have the breakout year everyone has been expecting out of this first-round pick. Take a look at some Highlights of Ayers at DE while at Tennessee. He had an absolutely phenomenal senior year with the Vols. The name Robert Ayers doesn't exactly strike fear into opposing teammates and fans, but his return to his original position should definitely be a concern for Denver's AFC West opponents. Ayers is no Larry English. He is a top candidate to have a breakout year. 

    "The Vonster," Denver's strong side linebacker, will get into the 3-point stance on 3rd downs. It is extremely likely that he or Ayers will lead this team in sacks if Dumervil does not step up.

    After Ayers and Miller, there is not much to speak of, outside of later round pickup Jeremy Beal. Beal lacks speed and strength, but he gets the game. Nonetheless, he will not see much of the field. Turk was a former second round pick and former college teammate of Ayers.  He will also see very little playing time, but regardless, he is a good pickup. 

    DE

    1. Elvis Dumervil

    2. Robert Ayers

    2B. Von Miller (Subs in for Ayers in Nickel package/3rd down)

    3. Turk McBride

    4. Jeremy Beal

Defensive Tackle

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    Grade: C-

    Grade (No Mebane): F

    Denver still has one of the weaker defensive tackle units in the NFL, even if they do sign Brandon Mebane.

    I really had no clue about Mebane's talent until I did some research.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that many people who have had the privilege to see him play call him one of the most underrated DT's in the league.

    It will take a pretty penny to sign this guy, and a third round pick as well, as the Seahawks used an original round tender on him. Practically every 4-3 team in the NFL is likely to put in an offer for him this off-season. Some will be low-balls; some will be legitimate attempts to land him. Any which-way, Mebane has a decent shot at ending up being a Bronco. Pat Bowlen will shell out money to improve the weakest spot on the entire team.

    After Mebane, the Broncos are extremely frail. Kevin Vickerson and Marcus Thomas have been sub-par, and that's taking it easy on them. 

    DT

    1. Brandon Mebane

    2. Kevin Vickerson

    3. Marcus Thomas

Will Linebacker

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    TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 3:  Linebacker D.J. Williams #52 of the Denver Broncos reacts during the play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on October 3, 2004 in Tampa, Florida. Tampa Bay won 16-13. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Rating: B-

    See the young man in the picture to your left? That's D.J. Williams playing his natural position, weak-side linebacker (known as WILL) back in 2004. He was actually a really solid player back then. Now? Not as much.

    Today, D.J. Williams is sorely overrated; he's like that annoying roommate that uses your conditioner without asking, but who you can never catch in the act. You want to say something, but you can't prove it.

    In my humble opinion, Williams has been caught. The only reason he racks up the tackle numbers he has is because the Denver front 3 or 4 has been Swiss cheese since 2005. Every ball carrier gets funneled directly to him.

    Furthermore, all of his tackles are 5-10 yards down the field. Williams rarely makes a stop near the line of scrimmage. Still, for whatever reason, he is vaunted as one of the best players on the Bronco defense.

    Good news is to be had: Williams now moves back to his rookie year position for the first time since the 2004-2005 season. That year, Williams was narrowly beaten out by former college teammate Jonathan Vilma for Defensive Rookie of the Year. DJ will turn 29 this July, so he is no longer a youngster. That doesn't mean he can't reach his prime this year. He still has at least 4 years left in the tank, and he gets to play those 4 years at his natural position, his forté.

    Get excited, for while DJ has been overrated for years, there is a very realistic possibility that 2011 will be the first year since 2005 that he finally buys his own conditioner.

    Wesley Woodyard, Williams' back-up, has been extremely underrated for a few years now. When given a chance, he is very productive and flies around the field with his undersized frame. His numbers have slowly improved each year as well. Gotta love his motor, and gotta love the idea of Woodyard playing with Joe Mays, another LB with no regard for safety.

    Jamar Williams will be one of the inevitable John Fox carry-overs from his old Carolina team. Expect him to sit behind Woodyard.

    • 1. D.J. Williams
    • 2. Wesley Woodyard
    • 3. Jamar Williams

Mike Linebacker

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    DENVER - JANUARY 14:  Al Wilson #56 of the Denver Broncos stands on the field before a game against the New England Patriots during the AFC Divisional Playoff game on January 14, 2006 at Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos won the
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Grade: D+

    God, I miss Al Wilson. If I could have any player other than Champ from that 2006 roster, I'd take Al in a heartbeat. He was the epitome of a defensive leader. He played injured. He flew everywhere. He had that Ray Lewis mean-streak. 

    Maybe, just maybe... Nate Irving can be that player. Irving is just a rookie who enters with a very realistic opportunity to start for a Broncos team that is seriously lacking at the Mike position.

    Denver certainly has an opportunity to develop Irving into a great talent, but unless the NFL lockout is lifted soon, Irving simply will not have enough time to beat out the much more experienced Joe Mays. Mays is an undersized (from a height standpoint) thumper who can lay a big hit, but is a liability in coverage. So, while Irving is hopefully the starter for the future, Mays will start the season on the field.

    Mike Mohammed comes to Denver not particularly great at one thing, but is solid at almost everything. Nearly every report that has been written on him has him listed as an intelligent, football-smart guy who can simply do his job. That's the type of guy you need as a backup.

    MLB

    • 1. Joe Mays
    • 2. Nate Irving
    • 3. Mike Mohammed

Sam Linebacker

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    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28:  Von Miller, #2 overall pick by the Denver Broncos holds up a jersey on stage during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    Grade: B-

    Von Miller was the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft for a reason. He will start from day one, and if he is what the front office expects him to be, he will be a terror to block from the very first practice. Funny enough, Miller will wear No. 58 as a tribute to KC Chiefs great Derrick Thomas, who had a similar skill set. If Von Miller can be half the player and human Derrick Thomas was, then the Broncos have really lucked out with Miller at No. 2.

    Miller will step down to DE on passing third downs, which means there is a vacant spot to be filled. That spot would likely be filled by veteran Mario Haggan, who has seen his fair share of playing time as a Bronco. Haggan is massive at 6'3", 267 lbs., but likely will not make a switch to DE. This makes him one of the biggest linebackers in football, stepping in during pass situations. Haggan will need to prove himself in coverage to maintain a spot on this roster.

    Last on the depth chart at SLB is Lee Robinson. Robinson managed to rack up two tackles last year in three games. Robinson is a former Alcorn State stud who put up absolutely huge numbers during his time at the small school. He figures to see limited time on the field, mostly at special teams.

    Despite being relatively frail at SLB, Denver grades out with a B- because of a future Pro Bowl-caliber player.

    SLB

    • 1. Von Miller
    • 1B. Mario Haggan (Shifts into vacant spot left by DE Von Miller on 3rd down)
    • 2. Lee Robinson

Cornerback

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 05:  Champ Bailey #24 of the Denver Broncos during warm-ups prior to the start of the game against the Kansas City Chiefs on December 5, 2010 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Grade: B-

    People seem to think Champ Bailey has lost a step. While he may have lost some of his quick twitch ability, he certainly is as cerebral and intelligent in coverage as ever. Having a player of Champ's level at corner instantly makes teammates better. The down side is that they do get picked on a considerable amount more. Bailey is easily a top 5 corner in football and will prove it in 2011.

    Starting opposite is him Perrish Cox, the second-year player out of Oklahoma State. Outside of immediate friends and family, I am one of Cox's biggest believers.

    Sitting in my living room during round 5 of the 2010 draft, the Broncos came onto the clock. I remember telling my dad that we needed to grab this Cox kid out of Oklahoma State as early as the second round. With every pick, I begged the Broncos to grab him. Finally, Denver's 5th round pick came around. I told my Dad that this was it; Cox was going to Denver here. He was simply too good to pass up.

    Ten seconds later, Perrish Cox became a Bronco. I have never been so happy with a draft pick. It was surprising all the while that he went in the fifth round; Cox may have had first or second-round ability. The value was phenomenal.

    He absolutely would have been an early second-rounder if not for some issues that manifested this offseason, as Cox is facing 2 years to life in prison. Personally, I believe Cox will get off the hook (knock on wood) and will turn himself around. I also believe he will become one of the best young corners the Broncos have had.

    Andre Goodman will be the nickel corner assuming Cox holds onto the starting spot. Goodman is an average corner who was completely exposed as quarterbacks largely continued to throw away from Champ Bailey. He provides great experience and phenomenal speed in passing situations.

    Last but certainly not least, Syd'quan Thompson is a coach's favorite and could end up anywhere on this list. He is capable of beating out Cox and Goodman with a sufficiently strong off-season. Many believe that he and Cox are the future of the Broncos secondary. Despite all the great things circulating about Thompson, he needs to find a way to overcome his shortfalls, which include his lack of speed and size. Thompson was able to do it in college, but the NFL is a whole different game.

    CB

    • 1. Champ Bailey
    • 2. Perrish Cox
    • 3. Andre Goodman
    • 4. Sydquan Thompson

Free Safety

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    PHILADELPHIA - DECEMBER 27:  Brian Dawkins #20 of the Denver Broncos looks on against the Philadelphia Eagles on December 27, 2009 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Broncos 30-27.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Gett
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Grade: C+

    More than anyone on the squad, Brian Dawkins has lost a step. Still, Denver is extremely fortunate to have a player like him on the roster. He is an unbelievable leader, albeit on the decline. This will likely be Dawkins' last year, so you can expect him to give his all, like he has since his very first game. You will see him in Canton one day. Perhaps not first ballot, but eventually.

    Likely stepping in for Dawkins in third down passing situations is Rahim Moore. Moore was an absolute stud in college; he was the definition of a ball-hawk. The Broncos desperately need him to grow up fast so he can take over in his second year.

    A player that should not be slept on is Darcel McBath. McBath enters his 3rd year as a Bronco and may be the second most talented safety on the team, behind Dawkins. McBath is a former second round pick who could surprise many and start opposite Dawkins.

    Denver gets the C+ grade because Dawkins is now an average starter, but his leadership capabilities, together with the young talent behind him, boost the grade up to a C+, almost a B-.

    FS

    • 1. Brian Dawkins
    • 2. Rahim Moore
    • 3. Darcel McBath

Strong Safety

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    Grade: D+

    Renaldo Hill is the reason that Rahim Moore won't be seeing much playing time early on. The issue with Hill, however, is that he's over the hill, and needs to be upgraded soon. Hill does provide plenty of experience, this being his 12th year in the NFL. But his time may be running out.

    Behind Hill, Quinton Carter is another young Broncos draft pick who looks to fight his way up the Denver roster. Carter was exceptional at Oklahoma and is capable of laying the big hit and holding his own in pass coverage. Check out the video to the left to see what I'm talking about.

    Denver grades out at a D+ because until Carter proves he is or isn't worth it, this is clearly a below-average unit. 

    SS

    • 1. Renaldo Hill
    • 2. Quinton Carter

Special Teams

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    Grade: C+

    Matt Prater is one of the few underrated players on the Broncos roster. He has a monster leg, and is 9-12 in his career from 50 yards plus. Prater is certainly an above-average NFL kicker.

    Britton Colquitt, on the other hand, is a below-average punter. He grades out right in the middle of the field in just about every category, but ranks 22nd in NET punting yardage—easily the biggest indicator of the quality of a punter.

    Lonnie Paxton will be your longsnapper.

2011 Season Prediction

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    DENVER - SEPTEMBER 19:  Quarterback Kyle Orton #8 of the Denver Broncos shakes hands with former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway before an NFL game against the Seattle Seahawks at INVESCO Field at Mile High on September 19, 2010 in Denver, Colorado.
    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    At the end of the day, the Broncos don't grade out all that well. Fortunately, with the King of Comeback (John Elway) on board, Denver has a much better shot of playing competitive football in the near future. 

    The fans in Denver need it, want it, and will be sleepless until that quality of football returns. Until then, they will have to settle for a mediocre team that won't fare all that well in 2011.

    Predicted record with FA signings: 6-10

    Predicted record without FA signings: 4-12

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