Denver Broncos June Scouting Report
For President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway, the flood of trades was about maximizing the value of this year's draft and picking where the prospect pool was deepest: "This draft, in my opinion, was thick in the middle". The Broncos stayed true to their big board during the draft, selecting the best players available instead of reaching for needs. As a result, the team did not land a true inside linebacker, one of the team’s needs going into the draft. Never the less, the draft is one of John Elway’s best as general manager. It should feature several players who can contribute right away.
The offense is pretty well set. Elway thinks the 34-year-old Joe Flacco (from Baltimore) can end his quarterback search, so much of the offseason efforts have centered on upgrading Denver’s line. However, he did draft Drew Lock in the second round, with the goal to slowly groom him. The Broncos will ask Lock to build off the second half of his 2018 College season when he pushed his completion percentage to 67.3 percent over the final seven games. QB Brett Rypien, 6-2, 210, is an UDFA with a contract that guarantees him six figures. This is a bad sign for QBs Hogan and Grayson (released). The signings, trades and draft helped settle the depth in the defensive front seven. Fangio wants to see what Josey Jewell, Alexander Johnson, Keishawn Bierria, Justin Hollis, Todd Davis, Josey Jewell, Isaac Yiadom and Su’a Cravens can do. It looks like Denver will have RB Devontae Booker for veteran depth for the season and may ask OLB Von Miller to drop into coverage (2int. w/1TD) more often than over the last few years. Had Denver selected a corner in the first two days of the draft, it would have been a bad sign for Chris Harris,Jr’s future with the team. Noah Fant fits the physical template of a true tight end and is an NFL-ready play maker. He can operate in space, move around as a "move" tight end (a big slot wide receiver more than a tight end?), and he can block. Fant can stretch the field (intermediate and deep). Defenses will have to account for him on every down. With 4.50/40 speed, Fant is a match up nightmare. Flacco is going to go for the big tight end early and often. Dalton Risner is a student of the game. His power, tenacity, quickness, versatility and ability to deliver blocks at the second level should translate to any spot on the offensive line. He is a top candidate to start at right guard. However, LG Ron Leary (not participating in team drills yet), hasn’t played a full 16-game season since his rookie year. Risner’s presence is a bad sign for Leary, as the Broncos will try Risner at left guard next to Garrett Bolles at left tackle and have one of the nastiest combinations in the NFL. This should be the "make-or-break year" for Bolles, but under new offensive line coach Mike Munchak, Denver seems willing to give Bolles one more year to prove himself and improve his game. WR Juwann Winfree’s ability to gain separation through his cuts and changes of direction gives him a chance at long-term success (5 or 4 WR). Making the roster as a rookie will likely hinge on playing special-teams, but his ability as a blocker is one of the major reasons why Denver liked him. Winfree has great upside as the fifth wide receiver behind Courtland Sutton, Emmanuel Sanders (return mid-July), DaeSean Hamilton and Tim Patrick. The offense will be familiar to Joe Flacco, and one that he’s already seen and had success in: a lot of boot legs; run-heavy; and, tight end-centric. With Fant, Butt, and Heuerman, it (offense) will cater to Joe Flacco."
Defensivly, DreMont Jones’, initial responsibility will be as a sub-package pass rusher. He will be a force in Vic Fangio’s hybrid 3-4/4-3 defense (4-3 under). and he will be a force as a 3T or 1T. Jones projects as an every down player and solid run defender. UDFA Malik Reed (6-2, 235 pounds) is a defensive edge play maker who has a good chance to make the 53-man roster as a rotational pass rusher along with Jeff Holland as depth behind Miller and Chubb. Speed is the name of LB Justin Hollins' game. He has the versatility to play inside or outside linebacker. As an edge pass rusher, he can drop back into coverage and make plays against the pass. The Broncos have historically struggled to cover tight ends, but didn’t pick a true inside linebacker which is good news for the current projected starters Todd Davis and Josey Jewell. Hollins has the athleticism to play inside and that’s bad news for the injury plagued Su’a Cravens (bulking up) but he is still in the picture at safety. The Broncos are hoping to develop Hollins, but he needs time and refinement. Overall, the Broncos lost a significant amount of depth at LB, but Flacco is an upgrade from Case Keenum. Denver cannot afford to lose contract-year CB Chris Harris and will not trade him (closing in on resolution for 2019). Flacco will not mentor Lock.
The Broncos college free agents 1. Ahmad Gooden, DL/OLB, Samford, will face an uphill battle to make the team. 2. Brett Rypien, QB, Boise State, is competition for the No. 3 quarterback. 3. Joe Dineen, LB, Kansas, versatility for the practice squad if not on the active roster. 4. Austin Fort, TE, Wyoming, shot of at least making the team’s practice squad. 5. Trinity Benson, WR/RB/KR, ECU, explosiveness (and $10,000 signing bonus gives him a chance for making the 53-man roster as a WR/kick returner. 6. Brian Wallace, OT, Arkansas, if he can protect the backup QBs well in practice, will have a shot. 7. George Aston, FB, Pittsburgh, a shot to make the team. 8. John Leglue, OL, Tulane, practice squad shot. 9. Kelvin McKnight, WR Samford, was dominant and consistent throughout his college season and has a shot to make the practice squad. 10. Jaylen Johnson, DL, Washington, a shot to make the team. 11. Josh Watson, LB, Colorado State a shot to make the practice squad. 12. Alijah Holder, CB, Stanford, chance of making the practice squad/long-shot roster spot. 13. Devontae Jackson, RB, UWG, a shot to make the practice squad-K/P returner. 14. Malik Reed, OLB, Nevada, depth at outside linebacker. 15. Quinn Bailey, OL, ASU, competing for the practice squad. 16. Romell Guerrier, WR, Florida Tech, a long shot, but speed gives him a chance for at least the practice squad. 17. Ryan Crozier, OL, UCONN, has the versatility to earn a spot on the practice squad. 18. Nathan Jacobson, OL, UNLV 19. DeShawn Williams, DL, Clemson (2015) 20. Deyon Sizer, DL, Colorado State-Pueblo 21. Johnathan "Bug" Howard, TE
The Broncos waived QB Garrett Grayson, WR Chad Hansen, OL Brian Wallace, DL Caushaud Lyons, DL Jaylen Johnson and TE Temarrick Hemingway to make their 90-man roster limit.
Rookie Mini Camp The Denver Broncos held a huge (47) three day rookie camp: six draft picks; 17 undrafted players; 20 try out players; and, four players that are eligible in their first year. Having that many players at rookie camp will give each player the practice they need before the entire team reports for OTAs. When most rookies arrive, they are slotted to a single position to give them a home. Dalton Risner is slotted at guard, but will add tackle and a little bit of center later. Fifth-round pick Justin Hollins will have more than one home-outside (base D) and inside linebacker (nickle). A mandatory minicamp, the most important practice sessions in preparation for the 2019 season, will close out the Broncos' offseason work.
Transactions Placed OL Nico Falah on IR (Achilles); signed OL Chaz Green;
Moving forward Death by inches. Small missed opportunities throughout the season were the difference between wins and losses. The small differences can be fixed through proper coaching and preparation. Player development by these players will be a step forward for the Broncos: QB Joe Flacco; RB Royce Freeman; WR Courtland Sutton; TE Jake Butt; G Ron Leary (availability!); DL DeMarcus Walker; LB Josey Jewell; CB Isaac Yiadom; S Su’a Cravens. CB Chris Harris Jr is locked in and ready to get to work. Harris’ presence allows the Broncos to mix and match things in the defensive backfield the way they want to, with depth. The Broncos significantly closed the gap between themselves and the AFC West champions with the best offseason they've had in a while. Elway finally hit a home run.
Fantasy Outlook Offensive Coordinator Rich Scangarello hurts the fantasy projection for Philip Lindsay. Scangarello’s running a run-zone blocking scheme that Royce Freeman thrived in at the college level. The Broncos won't fill the air with footballs this season, making Sutton more of a fantasy WR2 and Sanders in the WR3 range with upside. However, DaeSean Hamilton (round 12 ADP) could end up being the better pick in PPR leagues if Sutton doesn't take a big step forward. Flacco heavily targets the tight end so Noah Fant could be an immediate contributor in a Shanahan offense scheme, but less so for fantasy (TE 2). While the Broncos offensive line isn’t impressive on paper, OL coach Mike Munchak will boost their overall reliability. With Harris signed, the Broncos could return to the elite defensive ranks. K Brandon McManus will bebefit from his second year with coach Tom McMahon, but his upside will depend on the offense.
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