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The Broncos’ 2020 season began with promise. It seemed the pieces were in place to make a run, and optimism was high after the Broncos’ finished the 2019 season with a flourish. Instead, injuries, turnovers and inefficiency crippled the Broncos as they spiraled to a 5-11 finish, last place in the AFC West.
The Broncos worked to bring in some talent and re-shape the roster for 2021. That meant seeing some veterans depart, as Jurrell Casey retired, Phillip Lindsay moved on to the Houston Texans, A.J. Bouye went to Carolina, Ju’Wuan James landed in Baltimore and former Third Round pick Royce Freeman was released, landing in Carolina. At the same time, the Broncos worked to bring in an infusion of new talent, especially in the secondary.
The team locked up safety Justin Simmons and brought back Kareem Jackson, but it was the corner position that received the most attention. The Broncos retained Bryce Callahan, adding former Bears’ teammate Kyle Fuller and signing free agent Ronald Darby. The Broncos then spent a First Round pick on Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II, giving them a group of four corners that might be among the best in the NFL.
On offense, the team added a few veteran pieces. Mike Boone came over from Minnesota to add depth in the backfield and on Special Teams, while the Broncos struck a deal with the Carolina Panthers to add Teddy Bridgewater just before the draft. Bridgewater threw for 3,733 yards, 15 TDs and 11 INTs as a starter with the Panthers in 2020. He won the off-season competition with Drew Lock and will provide veteran leadership to the Broncos’ offense. In addition, the Broncos moved up in the Second Round of the draft to snag North Carolina running back Javonte Williams. Williams rushed for 1,140 yards and 19 TDs in 2020 and figures to form a great 1-2 punch with Melvin Gordon.
Bridgewater is the quarterback suggesting a more conservative offensive approach. Bridgewater was QB19 in 2020 and could return low-end QB2 value again. I’m not convinced Lock remains on the bench all season, either. The competition was close and Lock arguably provides more upside, so if the Broncos struggle it’s quite possible we see a change. For now, I see a ceiling of QB20-24 for Bridgewater.
In the backfield, Gordon will be the nominal starter but I expect Williams to be part of the attack from the jump. The Broncos like Williams, trading up to snag him. He looked good in limited pre-season work and I think there’s a good chance he takes over as the lead back by the end of the season, especially with Gordon in a contract year and not expected to be re-signed. I like Williams as a low-end RB2, while I think Gordon has good weeks early and ultimately finished between RB35-40.
Among receivers, the Broncos have a talented quartet in Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick and K.J. Hamler. I suspect the offense will be more conservative, capping the value. I think Sutton and Jeudy finish as WR3s, while Patrick and Hamler are occasional contributors, more in the WR6 range. Noah Fant figures to be a bigger piece of the offense, and I like him to finish as Top 12 in 2021.
The Broncos have talent and potential but also some questions. If healthy, I think this defense with the return of Von Miller and an impressive secondary can be solid. The question is the offense, as the AFC has a group of talented teams that can all score. I think Denver will start strong but ultimately be in the 9-10 range and on the cusp of the Wild Card.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.