Broncos Roster and Speculative Depth Chart

Hello, Broncos fans! With OTAs winding to a close and a month to go before training camp, I thought it would be fun to take a good look at the current roster and to make some guesses as to how the final 53-man roster and depth chart will shake out. Of course there will be some surprises in camp (good and bad), as well as some injuries, that will impact the roster between now and the start of the season. But since NFL news is a little slow and we’ve got some time to fill, let’s give it a shot anyway.

Let’s start with a little reality check. Not every player on this roster is going to make the team; that’s just the reality of the situation. Some guys will get cut, and among them will be a few names we thought would probably make the team. On the flip side, there’s probably going to be some young players who appear to be merely camp fodder at this point, but who will flash potential and ability in camp and will find themselves on the practice squad or maybe even the 53-man roster come opening day.

I’m going to break this down position by position, with some brief discussion, much like the roster breakdown in my draft preview. Much of this write up might border on “No shit, genius, tell us something we don’t know” territory, but you may find few surprises sprinkled in as well. Let’s get started.


Projected Depth Chart:

Key: 53-man roster in bold; Likely cuts in regular font


Quarterbacks (QB) (3):

1. Mark Sanchez; 2. Trevor Siemian; 3. Paxton Lynch

Not much to explain here. This is how Kubiak trotted them out during OTAs, and this is how I think it will stay, barring injury. I was thrilled with the selection of Lynch in April’s draft, but I think it’s in everyone’s best interest for the team to take their time with him. I don’t think they want the kid to start a game this year if he doesn’t have to. He could surprise, but the best scenario for all involved is probably for Sanchez to stay healthy, perform well (enough), and to start all year. If he gets hurt, though, all bets are off. The team wants to win now, so if Sanchez goes down, they’ll play whomever is most effective. The fact they haven’t signed another veteran tells me they really like Trevor Siemian, but it’s incredibly hard to know what he’s capable of at this point. I think he’ll get the first crack if Sanchez gets hurt, but I have no idea what to expect in terms of performance.

Possible Roster Enhancement: 

History tells us the team usually uses four QBs in training camp, even if one is nothing more than a camp arm. I think it’s likely the Broncos will add another QB before the start of camp this year, and there’s two directions they could go. One would be to add a guy that has no real chance to make the roster, but who can throw enough balls in practice to keep the receivers busy and prevent the top three guys from wearing out. The other possibility, though probably much less likely, is adding a player with some experience, like a T.J. Yates, to compete for a backup role and infuse some been-there-done-that into the roster.


Running Backs (RB) (3):

1. C.J. Anderson; 2. Devontae Booker; 3. Ronnie Hillman; 4. Kapri Bibbs; 5. Juwan Thompson; 6. Cyrus Gray

Count me among the many very confused Bronco fans that were scratching their heads wondering why C.J. Anderson didn’t get the ball more often in 2015. His early season ankle injury had to be a factor, and maybe it was the only factor, because when push came to shove, it was Anderson who toted the rock. Booker was a steal in the 4th round, and one of my favorite picks of the Broncos’ draft this year. I think he’ll be ahead of Ronnie Hillman when he’s back to 100% from his ACL tear last fall. Speaking of Hillman, he’ll provide good depth, veteran presence, and knowledge of the offense in 2016. Depending on Booker’s health status, Hillman may begin the year as #2. I like him much better in a depth role than I do as a starter. I believe the rest of the RBs are on the outside looking in. It’s possible a guy like Bibbs could flash and beat out Hillman (cutting Hillman would count only $500K in dead money and would save $1.5M), but I think it’s probably not likely. Thompson also has a chance, mostly because they’ve been using him some as a FB as well, but he may need an injury to one of the top three guys to sneak onto the roster.

Possible Roster Enhancement: Unlikely


Fullbacks (FB) (1):

1. Andy Janovich; 2. Juwan Thompson; 3. Manasseh Garner

I like the 6th round rookie Janovich to lock down the starting role at FB. Not only can he block, but he can also do something with the ball in his hands. He brings additional value on special teams as well. It’s yet to be seen if he can catch the ball out of the backfield, but if he can he’ll have checked all the boxes. He’s most definitely a smart, hard-working, lunch-pail-toting GRINDER of the highest magnitude. Again, Thompson’s ability to play both RB and FB might help him make the team, but at this point I think he’s on the bubble. Garner brings his own versatility in that he can play TE and FB, but there’s just too much young talent in front of him at both positions.

Possible Roster Enhancement: Unlikely


Wide Receivers (WR) (5):

1. Demaryius Thomas; 2. Emmanuel Sanders; 3. Bennie Fowler; 4. Cody Latimer; 5. Jordan Norwood; 6. Jordan Taylor

Others: Bralon Addison; Mose Frazier; Kalif Raymond; DeVier Posey; Durron Neal; Dwayne Norman

This is a tough position to evaluate once you get past the top two guys. After that nothing is set, and that will make for some compelling camp discussions. First, is Fowler the clear cut #3? Will Latimer finally flash? Will Norwood hold onto his roster spot and continue to play slot WR and PR for the Broncos? Will Jordan “Sunshine” Taylor delight Bronco fans across the country and PFT Commenter alike by stepping up and securing a roster spot?

There are a lot of factors to consider. First, how often will they use 3 or more receivers in the offense? Will the utilization of TEs and FBs come at the expense of the WR corps? Do they want a true slot guy like Norwood inside, or are they comfortable using a guy like Fowler there, even though he may be more of an outside WR? Will they be depending on WRs to return punts AND kicks? If a guy like Bralon Addison or Kalif Raymond can win a job as a returner, does that mean Norwood will be cut? Or would they carry six WRs, with one being utilized as a return specialist only?

For right now, I’m projecting the same five WRs that were on the roster last season, but admittedly, there could be a lot of movement here.

Possible Roster Enhancement: Unlikely


Tight Ends (TE) (3):

1. Virgil Green; 2. Jeff Heuerman; 3. Henry Krieger-Coble; 4. Garrett Graham; 5. Manasseh Garner

Green and Heuerman are the undisputed 1-2, but behind them is unknown. In what is probably the first big surprise of this evaluation, Henry Krieger-Coble is my under-the-radar favorite to make the team. He’s got soft hands, can run routes and blocks well. Kubiak has said he just needs to add strength, so we’ll see how much progress he can make in the weight room this summer. Like a lot of young players, it may take some time for him to develop an NFL body, but there’s not a ton of depth at this position and Krieger-Coble is a capable football player. If there are concerns about his strength, Garrett Graham would be the default option to take his place.

Possible Roster Enhancement: 

Like QB, TE is a position where I could easily see Elway and Co. add more bodies. This looks like one of the weakest position groups on the team as it stands. Maybe Green finally becomes a part of the passing game, but Heuerman is still an unknown. I think he can play, but we’ll have to wait and see. Behind those two the Broncos have a replacement level guy (Graham), a largely unknown undrafted rookie free agent (Krieger-Coble) and an undersized, tweener, journeyman youngster (Garner). Free agent names to watch include old friend Daniel Fells, Scott Chandler, Chase “Turn your head and” Coffman, Andrew Quarless, and Michael Hoomanawanui.


Offensive Line (OL) (9):

LT: 1. Russell Okung; 2. Ty Sambrailo; 3. Michael Schofield; 4. Darrion Weems

LG: 1. Max Garcia; 2. Sam Brenner; 3. Robert Myers, Jr.; 4. Aaron Neary

C: 1. Matt Paradis; 2. Sam Brenner; 3. James Ferentz; 4. Dillon Day

RG: 1. Connor McGovern; 2. Sam Brenner; 3. Robert Myers, Jr.; 4. Aaron Neary

RT: 1. Donald Stephenson; 2. Ty Sambrailo; 3. Michael Schofield; 4. Cameron Jefferson; 5. Kyle Roberts

Others: Lars Hanson, Justin Murray

For the third consecutive season the weakest unit on the Broncos’ roster appears to be the offensive line. The additions of Okung and Stephenson as starting tackles should improve the starting lineup, but there’s still questions at guard and with depth across the board. Right now the team is attempting to move Ty Sambrailo inside to RG, and heading into just his second season as a 2015 2nd round pick he’ll be given every opportunity to succeed. Sambrailo struggled at LT in his injury-shortened rookie season, and it appears the staff feels me may fare better at guard. I find the move puzzling, as perhaps Sambrailo’s biggest flaw is his lack of power, something that seems even more necessary at G than at T. It’s very possible the move will work out, and if it does that would be fantastic, but I’m not convinced it will.

One player who doesn’t lack power is 5th round rookie Connor McGovern. In addition to tremendous strength, McGovern also has good movement skills, and that’s why I’m projecting him to win the starting RG spot in an upset over Sambrailo. And if moving Sambrailo inside doesn’t get him into the starting lineup, I think we may see the team kick him back outside in an effort to develop him as a swing tackle. Current swingman Michael Schofield’s troubles are well-documented, and if Sambrailo does serve as Denver’s #3 tackle, Schofield’s days could be numbered. The problem, though, is that the Broncos don’t likely have any better options to provide depth, so he’s probably safe for now.

Possible Roster Enhancement: 

Without knowing whether the Sambrailo move will work out, it’s very difficult to project what this line will look like in September. Right now, though, it looks like adding another veteran would be wise. If Sambrailo stays inside at G, the greater need appears to be at T. If the team puts Sambrailo back outside, though, they could use another veteran on the inside. Of the available guards, Amini Silatolu, Jahri Evans, Patrick Omameh and Ben Grubbs stand out at guard. Unfortunately, there are almost no suitable options on the free agent market at tackle right now. However, once teams start to trim down their rosters, more talent will become available.


Interior Defensive Line (IDL) (7):

LDE: 1. Derek Wolfe; 2. Vance Walker; 3. Adam Gotsis; 4. Kenny Anunike; 5. Eddie Yarbrough

RDE: 1. Jared Crick; 2. Vance Walker; 3. Adam Gotsis; 4. Kenny Anunike; 5. Eddie Yarbrough

Others: Shaniel Jenkins; David Moala; Calvin Heurtelou

NT: 1. Sylvester Williams; 2. Phil Taylor; 3. Kyle Peko; 4. Darius Kilgo

As with a few other units, I’m doing some educated guesswork on the interior DL. Starting with the base 3-4 DEs, I think Crick has the edge to start over Walker, but the two of them will likely receive similar workloads. Gotsis will take time to recover from injury and develop as a football player, but he’ll see his way into the rotation this year. That doesn’t leave much hope for the oft-injured Anunike, who has been a training camp standout seemingly since the Reagan administration.

Nose tackle could go a few different directions as well. Williams is the only sure thing, but there is talent behind him. Taylor, a former first round pick, has tremendous bulk (335 pounds) and could be useful in a rotational capacity and in short yardage fronts. But he has dealt with injuries of late, sitting out the entire 2015 season as a result. He may be a key cog on the IDL for Denver this year, or he could be sitting at home watching games like the rest of us. He’s a tough call. Behind him I’ve listed my second favorite under-the-radar surprise in Kyle Peko. Peko is a bit undersized at only 6’1″, but dude can flat out get after it. Kilgo received good reviews in OTAs, and if Taylor isn’t back to his previous form Kilgo could well beat him out. But if Taylor is healthy, and Peko is what I think he is, Kilgo could be in trouble.

Remember, also, that this deck gets shuffled when they switch from their base odd front to an even front, which is something they do regularly in sub packages like the nickel. When that happens DEs like Wolfe, Crick and Walker become DTs, while base 3-4 NTs like Sylvester Williams and Phil Taylor would likely come off the field. NT Kyle Peko would be the exception, as I think his inside pass rush would be welcome in passing situations. That gives him a competitive advantage over the other NTs who likely would be only 2-down players.

Possible Roster Enhancement: Unlikely


Edge Rushers / 3-4 Outside Linebackers (OLB) (4):

ROLB: 1. Shaquil Barrett; 2. Demarcus Ware; 3. Shane Ray; 4. Sadat Sulleyman; 5. Kyle Kragen; 6. Vontarrius Dora

LOLB: 1. Von Miller; 2. Demarcus Ware; 3. Shane Ray; 4. Sadat Sulleyman; 5. Kyle Kragen; 6. Vontarrius Dora

The top four edge rushers are still the top four edge rushers, but we may see the snaps distributed differently in 2016. First off, Demarcus Ware is going to see a significant reduction in his playing time. His advancing age and ailing back have likely left him unable to play as an every down player at this stage of his career. So playing him more sparingly should result in less missed time for injury, and should keep him fresh enough to still have an impact as a situational pass rusher.

Shaquil Barrett outplayed Shane Ray in 2015, so until Shane Ray gives me a reason to believe otherwise, I think it will be Barrett starting opposite Von Miller in 2016. Ray will still see plenty of action, particularly in relief of Barrett and Miller on first and second downs, but I believe he’s still #4 in the pecking order among the edge rushers. This unit is stacked and deep, but you guys knew that already.

Possible Roster Enhancement: Unlikely


Inside Linebackers (ILB) (5): 

LILB: 1. Brandon Marshall; 2. Corey Nelson; 3. Dekoda Watson; 4. Frank Shannon

RILB: 1. Todd Davis; 2. Zaire Anderson; 3. Dekoda Watson; 4. Frank Shannon

There’s been a lot of discussion as to who will replace the departed Danny Trevathan, and I don’t think it’s a simple answer. Todd Davis will have the first crack at the starting lineup, and I think he’ll probably win the job. But Davis can’t run and cover like Trevathan could (few players can), so while Davis is the likely favorite for early down work, Corey Nelson or Zaire Anderson could be called upon to play LB on passing downs. Anderson can really fly, but is undersized (220), so he’s not well suited to play inside against the run. Basically, we’ll be looking at some combination of all these players in the rotation at ILB. Dekoda Watson will bring a veteran presence to the special teams coverage units, which should help fill the void left by the departure of David Bruton.

Possible Roster Enhancement: 

It’s quite possible we could see the Broncos add another ILB to the mix before camp or after the first round of cuts. This unit is very young and inexperienced, and if someone gets hurt, it’s unlikely the team would be comfortable standing pat with what they have here.


Cornerbacks (CB) (5):

LCB: 1. Aqib Talib; 2. Bradley Roby; 3. Kayvon Webster; 4. Lorenzo Doss; 5. Taurean Nixon; 6. B.J. Lowery; 7. John Tidwell

RCB: 1. Chris Harris; 2. Bradley Roby; 3. Kayvon Webster; 4. Lorenzo Doss; 5. Taurean Nixon; 6. B.J. Lowery; 7. John Tidwell

This unit is the best in the league, and the depth chart is fairly predictable. Talib, Harris, Roby and Webster are locks. Behind them, Lorenzo Doss is a likely candidate to make the roster to provide depth at CB and contribute on special teams. His former college teammate, Taurean Nixon, is probably next in line, but he’ll have to battle for a spot. Of the other two, John Tidwell’s experience as a kick returner could give him an outside shot to make the team, but it’s from way outside. Beyond that, there’s not much to talk about here. Stay healthy, fellas.

Possible Roster Enhancement: Unlikely


Safeties (S) (5):

SS: 1. T.J. Ward; 2. Will Parks; 3. Shiloh Keo; 4. Antonio Glover

FS: 1. Darian Stewart; 2. Justin Simmons; 3. Shiloh Keo; 4. Brandian Ross

The Broncos knew they needed depth at safety going into the draft after allowing both David Bruton and Omar Bolden to depart in free agency, and they aggressively addressed the need by selecting Justin Simmons in round 3 and Will Parks in round 6. With Ward and Stewart in the starting lineup, this group looks solid, even with two rookies as the backups. Shiloh Keo knows the system well after playing for Wade Phillips in Houston and Denver, and should round out the unit nicely and contribute on special teams. Keo could get bumped with a surprise showing by Glover or Ross in training camp, but he’s got the inside track right now.


Specialists (3):

K: 1. Brandon McManus

P: 1. Riley Dixon; 2. Britton Colquitt

LS: 1. Casey Kreiter; 2. Nathan Theus

I think/hope Riley Dixon finally unseats Britton Colquitt, giving the Broncos a cheap young punter for years to come.

Alright, that’s all I’ve got for now. That’s 53 guys making the cut. We’ll come back and tweak this during camp to adjust for injuries and surprises, but I think we’ve got a pretty good idea at this point what the team will look like heading into September. Let me know what I missed, and who your favorite surprises are, whether they’re young guys that you expect to pop, or some vets that might get bumped by someone better and/or hungrier.

Take care, and Go Broncos.