2020 Denver Broncos Outlook
Vic Fangio returns for his second season as the Denver Broncos head coach after running the 49ers and the Bears defenses from 2011 to 2018. He also has 11 other seasons of experience as a defensive coordinator in the NFL. His success in Chicago in 2018 led to his upgrade in job. The Broncos finished 7-9 in Fangio's first season in Colorado.
The Broncos brought in Pat Shurmur to run their offense after struggling to win as the Giants' head coach in 2018 (5-11) and 2019 (4-12). He worked as the offensive coordinator over six other seasons for the Rams, Eagles, and Vikings. Shurmur has 22 seasons of experience coaching in the NFL while compiling a 19-46 record as NFL head coach.
Their offense slipped to 28th in points scored (282) and 28th in yards allowed.
Fangio promoted Ed Donatell to the defensive coordinator in 2019. He worked over the eight previous seasons as the defensive backs coach for the Broncos and 49ers. Donatell has 29 years of experience coaching in the NFL, with eight coming as a defensive coordinator.
Denver had a top-four defense in yards allowed from 2014 to 2017 before slipping to 22nd in 2018. Last year, they ranked 12th in points allowed (316) while finishing 13th in yards allowed.
Their defense lost CB Chris Harris to the Chargers. Harris regressed last year, after having a long career of success in pass coverage. Denver added RB Melvin Gordon to upgrade their lead running back position.
The Broncos didn't re-sign QB Joe Flacco, G Ron Leary, DT Adam Gotsis, CB Cyrus Jones, RB Devontae Booker, LB Corey Nelson, RB Theo Reddick, and DT Billy Winn. All players failed to find a new home.
Denver added G Graham Glasnow after a successful career with the Lions. His game projects well in both run and pass blocking. Their offensive line lost C Connor McGovern after playing at his highest level in 2019.
DT Derek Wolfe found a new home in Baltimore, and S Wil Parks jumped to the Eagles. Wolfe tends to be an asset vs. the run while flashing sack ability at times.
Over the first two rounds in this year's draft, the Broncos invested in WR Jerry Jeudy and WR K.J. Hamler.
Jeudy worked more as a traditional receiver in 2019, where he relied on his route running to get open. Most catches were in the flat or coming back to the quarterback, leading to less explosiveness after the catch. When able secure passes going forward, his speed and acceleration become more disruptive. Jeudy doesn't have the same explosiveness when caught flat-footed with the ball trying to make defenders miss.
Despite being undersized (5'9" and 178 lbs.), Hamler does play with strength (15 reps in the NFL combine bench press). His electric speed and quickness will threaten a defense every time he gets the ball in space. Hamler has a slot feel, but his game is all about challenging defenders with his legs. Once he gets the ball in his hands, the next move is hitting the gas while having the talent and vision to create.
Denver added CB Michael Ojemudia, C Lloyd Cushenberry, and DT McTelvin Agim in the third round.
Ojemudia has the appearance of a physical press cover, but his game doesn't translate as well against the run with questions with his open-field tackling. He lacks explosiveness or the wheels to match top wide receivers in the deep passing game. Ojemudia gains value as the field shortens.
Cushenberry plays with power and fight, but his range is limited to a small box. When attacked in the pass rush, he holds his ground as long as Cushenberry isn't asked to move his feet to hit his target. His play in the run requires a quick-hitting attack.
Agim looks to have a tweener skill-set heading into the NFL. He wants to rush the quarterback with some moves and quickness to attack the quarterback. His frame (6'3" and 309 lbs.) scream defensive tackle, but his hands, technique, and strength all need improvement.
In the fourth round, the Broncos tried to improve their tight end depth with the addition of Albert Okwuegbunam. His best value comes in the deep passing game and making winning plays in the end zone. His release and route-running point to a limited role while also needing to get stronger.
With their final four selections, Denver drafted LB Justin Strnad, G Netane Muti, WR Tyrie Cleveland, and LB Derrek Tuszka.
Strnad brings an attacking style, but he does need a clean run due to his lack of size (6'3" and 238 lbs.) and questionable fight in tight quarters. His play improves moving forward while needing improved vision and more patience.
Muti comes to the NFL with minimal playing time due to multiple injuries. His play is based on power with the base to handle hard changing rushers. He has the hands to win in pass protection, but his range is limited.
Cleveland struggles with his route running while lacking the explosiveness to win in the deep passing game. He needs to improve his win rate in tight coverage. Cleveland could work out of the slot vs. zone defenses, but he will lose value off the line of scrimmage vs. physical cornerbacks.
Tuszka has the look of a playmaker who works hard on every down. He went to a small school (North Dakota State), which invites a learning curve in the NFL. He attacks the line of scrimmage with value in the pass rush. His most significant area of need is when locked up with the big bodies at the line of scrimmage. Tuszka doesn't offer elite speed or quickness while also needing to get stronger.
The Broncos finished 20th in the NFL in rushing yards (1,662) with 11 TDs. Their ball carrier gained 4.1 yards per carry with only eight runs over 20 yards.
Denver fell to 28th in passing yards (3,401) with 16 TDs and ten Ints. Their offensive line allowed 41 sacks and 84 QB hits. The Broncos gained only 6.7 yards per pass attempt.
LT Garett Bolles
Bolles was the Broncos first-round selection in 2017. He's a talented player with plus speed and quickness for his position. Bolles plays with vision while playing with an edge, but he needs to add bulk and power to his game. His style works for a quick-hitting rushing offense. In his first three seasons in the league, Bolles played well in both run and pass blocking. Last year his most improvement came in pass protection.
LG Dalton Risner
Risner projects well as a run blocker with value on the move. His hands create an edge while owning strength in his technique. He lacks range and foot speed in pass protection. Risner needs to improve his square footage in his blocking area.
Risner made 12 starts in his rookie season. His game came in below expectations in the run game while playing at the league average in pass blocking.
C Lloyd Cushenberry
The best option to start at center for Denver this year is Cushenberry. His style should fit well with what the Broncos want to do in the run game. I expect his best play out of the gate to come in pass protection.
RG Graham Glasgow
Denver bought stability at the right guard position in the offseason by signing Glasgow to a $44 million contract over four seasons. He's been a steady asset in all areas over the last three seasons while continuing to improve in each as a run blocker.
James is a former first-round draft selection (2014) who signed a $51 million four-year contract in 2019. Last year he appeared in just three games due to a season-long battle with a left knee issue. James looks to be a neutral player with more upside in his pass blocking skills.
Offensive Line Outlook
There is some intrigue with the Broncos' offensive line in 2020. The center position looks to be the biggest question for Denver this season. Every other position has talent and upside with a focus on improving the run game. Possible top ten offensive line if the passing game comes quicker than expected.
QB Drew Lock, DEN - Sleeper (undervalued)
The 2020 excitement for the Broncos comes with the emergence of Lock over the final five games (4-1 with seven TDs and three Ints), but he only averaged 204 passing yards per game and 6.6 yards per pass attempts. His only impact game (309/3) came in Week 15 vs. the Texans.
Denver signed RB Melvin Gordon in the offseason to help on early downs and at the goal line. WR Courtland Sutton (72/1112/6) played well in his second season with growth expected this year. This year Lock should get TE Noah Fant more involved while Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler draft in this year's draft class set a much higher bar.
I pushed Lock's early projections to 3,991 combined yards with 28 TDs and 12 Ints, making an upside QB2 in the 2020 draft season.
RB Melvin Gordon, DEN - Solid/Safe Pick
Gordon held out for the first four games in 2019, which led to almost emptiness in his first four appearances (149 combined yards with two TDs and 11 catches – 2.5 YPC).
Over his final eight games, he gained 759 combined yards with seven TDs and 31 catches while averaging 18.6 touches per game.
Gordon came out of the season healthy, and the Broncos picked him up for $16 million over the next two seasons.
Denver's RBs gained 2,154 combined yards with 95 catches and 13 TDs, and RB Phillip Lindsay scooped up 259 touches for 1,207 yards with seven TDs and 35 catches.
The Broncos want to run the ball, and Gordon should see between 60 and 65 percent of their RB opportunity this year. I set the bar at 1,214 combined yards with nine TDs and 48 catches, making him a top-tier RB2 in PPR.
RB Royce Freeman, CAR - Deep-league Only
The Broncos gave Freeman 319 touches over his first two years in the league, but he gained only 3.9 yards per rush and 5.8 yards per catch. Denver decided his game didn't offer enough upside to work as an RB1, which led to the signing of RB Melvin Gordon. Over his time in the NFL, Freeman has only three runs over 20 yards. Freeman looks to be the odd man out unless the Broncos move him this summer.
RB Phillip Lindsay, HOU - Quality Backup
The Broncos have no complaints on the success of Lindsay after two seasons, but they brought in RB Melvin Gordon to take over the lead role in 2020.
He finished in 13th (222.8) and 20th (198.1) in RB scoring in PPR leagues while only having a difference of two TDs and 71 yards.
The Broncos had him on the field for about 50 percent of their RB plays last year. The addition of Gordon pushes him to RB2 with about a 35 to 40 percent opportunity. His early projections come to 844 combined yards with six TDs and 35 catches.
WR Courtland Sutton, DEN - Solid/Safe Pick
Sutton struggled with his catch rate (50.0) in his rookie season, which wasn't helped by nine drops.
Last year he blossomed into a second-tier WR while setting career-highs in catches (72), receiving yards (1,112), TDs (6), and targets (125). Sutton had a floor of four catches in 14 games, leading to double-digit fantasy points in PPR leagues in 11 weeks.
Despite a breakout season, his opportunity can't be as high this year with the Broncos adding WR Jerry Jeudy and WR K.J. Hamler with the first two picks in this year's draft.
I have Sutton catching 69 balls for 997 yards and seven TDs.