DENVER — John Elway set out this offseason to make the Broncos’ offense more explosive and dangerous.
On paper, he did just that by signing a Pro Bowl running back, drafting an All-American receiver and selecting one of the fastest wideouts in the draft. With all of the new additions, including key pickups on the offensive line, the Broncos will have many new faces in the starting lineup.
Here’s how the Broncos’ offensive depth chart shakes out with all of their rookies after the draft.
First-string: Drew Lock
Second-string: Jeff Driskel
Additional players (in order): Brett Rypien, Riley Neal
This one is easy. Thankfully. Drew Lock will get the entire year to prove he’s the guy. There will be no quarterback competition. Drew’s the guy. Hallelujah.
First-string: Melvin Gordon
Second-string: Phillip Lindsay
Third-string: Royce Freeman
Additional players (in order): Khalfani Muhammad, LeVante Bellamy, Jeremy Cox
The Broncos didn’t pay Melvin Gordon $8 million per year to be the backup. Unless he falls on his face, Gordon will get the slight nod over the Colorado native. However, Phillip Lindsay and Gordon will be more of a 1A-1B punch instead of Lindsay filling a true backup role.
After the top two, there’s a massive drop-off. Royce Freeman was the biggest loser when Denver signed Gordon and will be competing with Khalfani Muhammad and LeVante Bellamy for not only rare playing time, but for a roster spot.
First-string: Andrew Beck
After shipping Andy Janovich to the Browns for a seventh-round pick, Andrew Beck is the last fullback standing in the Mile High City. However, in Pat Shurmur’s offense, there won’t be a use for a full-time fullback. If Beck wants to make the team, he’ll need to prove he can add value to the tight end room too. Fortunately for the second-year player, he showed great promise last year with his versatility.
First-string: Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler
Second-string: DaeSean Hamilton, Tim Patrick, Diontae Spencer
Third-string: Juwann Winfree, Tyrie Cleveland, Fred Brown
Additional players (in order): Trinity Benson, Kelvin McKnight, Kendal Hinton, Zimari Manning
Elway didn’t use his first two draft picks this year to have them sit on the bench. Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler will instantly be the team’s No. 2 and No. 3 receivers as rookies, providing much-needed weapons to Denver’s offense.
Diontae Spencer’s roster spot will be dependent on special teams. Outside of that, DaeSean Hamilton, Tim Patrick and the rest of the receivers will be fighting for backup roles as well as three to four roster spots, with Hamilton leading the way entering the season.
First-string: Noah Fant
Second-string: Nick Vannett
Third-string: Albert Okwuegbunam
Additional players (in order): Jeff Heuerman, Troy Fumagalli, Jake Butt, Austin Fort
This has been a rough offseason for all of the Broncos’ 2019 tight ends outside of Noah Fant. In fact, it appears Nick Vannett is a natural replacement for Jeff Heuerman and Denver’s fourth-round pick, Albert Okwuegbunam — one of Drew Lock’s favorite targets at Missouri — fills the receiving threat they hoped Jake Butt and Troy Fumagalli would bring.
First-string: Garett Bolles (left), Ja’Wuan James (right)
Second-string: Elijah Wilkinson
Third-string: Jake Rodgers, Calvin Anderson
Additional players (in order): Quinn Bailey, Hunter Watts
This is not a fun place on the depth chart, beginning with the starters. After the draft, Elway stated “we have to get better” at the tackle position. Yet, Denver enters 2020 with the same starters as they had entering 2019.
The hope is for Ja’Wuan James to play an entire season on the right side. At left tackle, Garett Bolles and Elijah Wilkinson will be in an open competition for the left tackle spot. Regardless of who wins that, they’ll have to earn the Broncos’ confidence with their play.
Looking past those three, it’s clear depth is a serious issue.
First-string: Dalton Risner (left), Graham Glasgow (right)
Second-string: Nico Falah, Netane Muti
Third-string: Austin Schlottmann, Tyler Jones
While Denver’s tackles are shaky, Mike Munchak’s guards are the complete opposite. With Dalton Risner and Graham Glasgow holding down the trenches, the Broncos have the opportunity to have one of the best guard duos in the league.
On top of that, the addition of Netane Muti in the sixth round of the draft gives Denver a very talented prospect to develop behind Risner and Glasgow.
First-string: Lloyd Cushenberry III
Second-string: Patrick Morris
Third-string: Austin Schlottmann
Lloyd Cushenberry III learned the center position just four years ago by watching YouTube videos. Less than half a decade after playing the position for the first time, he’ll be the Denver Broncos’ starting center learning from one of the best offensive line coaches of all time.
Sorry Patrick Morris and Austin Schlottmann, but Denver’s third-round pick will be the starter.