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2011 Team Report: Denver Broncos

Quarterbacks

Starter: Kyle Orton
Backup(s): Tim Tebow, Brady Quinn, Adam Weber

Starting QB: Many thought Kyle Orton would be dealt before the start of training camp, but he's still in Denver and at the top of the depth chart. Josh McDaniels was fired before the end of last season and John Fox was hired as the Broncos new head coach. Fox will feature an offense with a sophisticated ground game which will limit Orton's fantasy production. Brandon Lloyd will continue to be his favorite target with Eddie Royal getting quite a few looks too. Orton is not the type of player who can lead his team back from a 7+ point deficit. However, he can run plays as designed and stays consistent when the score is close. Orton may begin the season as the starter but the pressure to start Tim Tebow will be high. The Broncos will continue to use Tebow as a Wildcat QB and near the goalline if he's not the starter. Orton should not be relied on as a fantasy starter, and should perform like a mid-level QB2.

Backup QB: Tim Tebow may be the QB of the future, but he'll have to prove himself to the new front office in Denver. He has been struggling in camp, and tends to hold onto the ball too long. Tebow will still be used as a goalline/Wildcat QB and thus has fantasy value. He finished last year as QB34 even though he only started 3 games at the end of the season. Tebow could begin the season on the bench, then take over for Orton if the veteran struggles. Brady Quinn has looked really good in camp. He's throwing with more confidence and trusting what he sees. He needs to prove himself during the preseason and there's a chance he'll beat Tebow for the backup job behind Orton. Adam Weber is a tough QB who knows how to pick up an offense quickly. However, he has a weak arm and is most likely bound for the practice squad.

Running Backs

Starter: Knowshon Moreno
Backup(s): Willis McGahee, Lance Ball, Jeremiah Johnson, LenDale White, Brandon Minor, C.J. Gable
Fullback(s): Spencer Larsen, Daniel Fells

Starting RB: Knowshon Moreno had another disappointing season last year. He was hurt early and often and failed to produce up to his potential. John Fox wants a sophisticated ground game and has given Moreno a chance to prove himself in training camp. Moreno lost 15 pounds this offseason in order to be quicker and faster this year. His endurance has improved, but Moreno doesn't look noticeably quicker or faster in camp. He is not a big play RB and has only had 5 carries over 20 yards over the last 2 years. However, Moreno is the team's best receiver out of the backfield and should catch around 35-40 passes this year. John Fox will use a RBBC and could end up featuring Willis McGahee as the primary ball carrier.

Backup RBs: Willis McGahee spent the last few seasons backing up Ray Rice and now finds himself in Denver under run-heavy coach John Fox. He has a chance to earn the starting job and be the team's primary ball carrier over Knowshon Moreno. McGahee is the perfect John Fox RB and he has the size to be a battering ram for the Broncos offense. The team has implemented a run heavy offense and the opportunity is there for McGahee to finish the season as a top 25 fantasy RB. Even if he's not named the starter McGahee has a great nose for the endzone and should help end the team's short-yardage woes. Lance Ball is a compact runner who has the ability to grind yards out between the tackles. Jeremiah Johnson has good all-around ability and has been dazzling the coaching staff in training camp. LenDale White is much slimmer now and has a chance to make the team as a power runner if he can stay healthy. Brandon Minor does not give up and has a hard charging running style. C.J. Gable was added after Mario Fannin was cut and is a long shot to make the team.

Fullback: Spencer Larsen is a versatile player who can play Fullback or Linebacker. He's not a devastating blocker, but could make the team because of his ability on special teams. Daniel Fells comes to Denver from St. Louis and could make the team because of his versatility. He can play Tight End, Fullback, or H-back for the Broncos.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Brandon Lloyd, Eddie Royal
Backups: Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas, Matthew Willis, David Anderson, Britt Davis, Mark Dell

Starting WRs: Brandon Lloyd had a career year in 2010, catching 77 passes for 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns. That was in a Josh McDaniels offense, so expecting those same numbers on John Fox is unwise. However, Lloyd has been looking great in training camp and should be the team's leading receiver once again. His current ADP is WR19 and he could easily outproduce that. Lloyd is the perfect Wide Receiver no matter who is starting at Quarterback for the Broncos. Eddie Royal is looking rejuvenated at Broncos camp this year. He is a precise route runner who works best as an outside receiver. He'll be getting one-on-one coverage because of Brandon Lloyd on the other side and should be able to take advantage of that. Even in a down year Royal still caught 59 passes last season. He makes for a sneaky play later in your draft as a WR4 or WR5.

Backup WRs: Eric Decker is an emerging talent but has not outplayed Eddie Royal in training camp. Decker has good hands and is a big target who knows how to use his frame to shield the ball away from defenders. He struggles to get a clean release off the line of scrimmage but could be used effectively in motion as the team's slot receiver. Demaryius Thomas is coming back from an offseason Achilles' injury and could begin the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list. If he comes back it won't be until mid-season. Matthew Willis is an athletic playmaker who will fight for passes in the air. He's not the biggest Wide Receiver but plays bigger than his size. David Anderson comes to Denver after spending his entire career in Houston. He's a savvy veteran receiver who is not afraid to go over the middle. Anderson can also help the Broncos on special teams. Britt Davis has the size/speed combination to be a good downfield target for the Broncos. Mark Dell was undrafted coming out of Michigan State this year. He is turning heads almost every day in training camp and is a big target who can catch passes over the middle or deep. Dell may make the final roster, and at the very least should be kept around on the practice squad.

Tight Ends

Starters: Julius Thomas
Backups: Robert Quinn, Dan Gronkowski, Dante Rosario, Virgil Green

Julius Thomas is a raw prospect, having spent only one season at Portland State playing football. He was a basketball star in college and has crazy athleticism. Thomas has been running with the first-team in training camp and makes multiple big plays each day in practice. The defense has began double teaming the rookie in practice because he creates mismatches every time he's on the field. Thomas is too fast for linebackers to cover and too big for safeties to cover. He has a big frame and knows how to 'box out' defenders. Thomas has also shown the ability to make tough catches over the middle of the field. Robert Quinn was overdrafted and is looking more and more like a bust. He was selected in the second-round of the 2009 NFL Draft because of his ability as a blocker. Quinn has struggled with blocking during his career and has only 2 career catches in 2 seasons. He's certainly on the roster bubble, but could make the team as a blocker in 2 Tight End sets. Dan Gronkowski is versatile enough to play Tight End or Fullback and is a decent blocker and receiver. Dante Rosario followed John Fox from Carolina to Denver. He's known more as a receiver, but is a decent effort blocker. He could make the team because of his familiarity with coach Fox. Virgil Green can make plays as a move Tight End but has not shown the ability to be a blocker. The Broncos may decide to sneak him through to the practice squad.

Place Kicker

Matt Prater : Heading into 2011, the Broncos still have Lonie Paxton as their long snapper and Britton Colquitt as their punter/holder. They enter camp with two kickers on the roster -- starter Matt Prater, whose 2010 ended on IR with a groin injury, and Steven Hauschka, his injury replacement. Prater, a restricted free agent, couldn't practice with team right away after resigning due to the post lockout rules, "I'd like to get as many reps as I can before we start playing games. Guess I'll get some work done outside the facility on my own." He has since rejoined the team and does not appear to be hampered by any lingering injury effects. After what seemed like an eternity ranked in the top ten, the Broncos dropped to 26th in kicker scoring opportunities last year.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Cassius Vaughn, Lance Ball, David Anderson

Punt Returners: Eddie Royal, Syd'Quan Thompson, David Anderson

The initial depth chart lists WR Eddie Royal as the starting punt returner followed by CB Syd'Quan Thompson. CB Cassius Vaughn sits atop the kickoff returners followed by RB Lance Ball. WR David Anderson is listed as third for both roles. In practices, CB Perrish Cox, WR Eric Decker, rookie CB Brandon Bing and RB Brandon Minor have also worked on returns. In the preseason opener, Vaughn had the longest return of the game for the Broncos, albeit only a 19 yard kickoff return. He also is a potential start on defense this year, which could open up the starting KR slot for one of the others.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Ryan Clady, LG Zane Beadles, C J.D. Walton, RG Chris Kuper, RT Orlando Franklin [R]
Key Backups: Ryan Harris, Chris Clark, Eric Olsen, Rich Hochstein, Manny Ramirez

Team Defense

The Broncos are now under the stewardship of John Fox and face questions about how their defense can recover from a down year in 2010. The team will employ a 4-3 scheme as the merry-go-round of scheme and player fits continues in Denver. Elvis Dumervil will take up his role as an undersized 4-3 defensive end once again. The team will do their best to get former first round pick Robert Ayers to perform to his capabilities. Von Miller will play the strong side linebacker position and will often be asked to utilise his vast array of pass rushing moves to get to the quarterback. It was a major coup for the Broncos to re-sign Champ Bailey to be the veteran presence in a mostly young secondary.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Elvis Dumervil, DT Broderick Bunkley, DT Marcus Thomas, DE Robert Ayers
Backups: DE Jason Hunter, DE Derrick Harvey, DE Jeremy Jarmon, DT Ty Warren, DT Kevin Vickerson, DT Louis Leonard

Starting DL: John Fox takes over as head coach of the Broncos and he will be running the 4-3 defense. Elvis Dumervil is among the players that will be changing positions this year, switching from a 3-4 OLB to DE in the 4-3. Dumervil, who missed the entire 2010 season with a torn pectoral muscle, led the NFL in sacks with 17 as an OLB in 2009. He had 12 sacks as a 4-3 DE in 2007. Playing opposite Dumervil on the defensive line is another former OLB, Robert Ayers. In 26 career games, Ayers only has one sack and the Broncos are hoping the position change will help him improve on those numbers. The Broncos sent an undisclosed draft pick to the Eagles for former first-round draft pick Broderick Bunkley He is expected to start at one of the DT spots. The other starting spot is up for grabs, with Marcus Thomas currently listed as the starter.

Backup DL: Jason Hunter will be the top reserve at DE. Like Dumervil and Ayers, Hunter was a 3-4 OLB last year. He last played in the 4-3 defense in 2009 with Detroit, when he registered a career-high five sacks. The Broncos made several moves to add depth to their defensive line, one being the signing of former Jacksonville first-round pick Derrick Harvey. The underachieving Harvey was the eighth-overall pick in the 2008 draft. The Broncos also acquired DE Jeremy Jarmon from the Redskins. Jarmon will compete for playing time at DE. The Broncos signed former Patriot Ty Warren to a contract. Warren will have to adjust after playing DE in Bill Belichicks's 3-4 defense in New England. Kevin Vickerson adds another experienced player to the DT spot. Former Panther Louis Leonard will battle for a roster spot.

Linebackers

Starters: MLB Joe Mays, OLB D.J. Williams, OLB Von Miller
Backups: MLB Nate Irving, MLB/OLB Mario Haggan, OLB Wes Woodyard

Starting LBs: With the change to the 4-3 defense, LB D.J. Williams once again will be changing positions, this time back to WLB. The versatile Williams has played all three LB spots in the 4-3 and played both inside and outside in the 3-4. Williams has played in all 16 games in three of the last four seasons, averaging over 100 solos, 27 assists, and 3 sacks. The other outside LB spot will be manned by Von Miller, the second overall pick in this year's draft. Miller has exceptional pass rushing skills and will be utilized in that role on passing downs. The MLB spot is up for grabs, with Joe Mays currently atop the depth charts. Mays is a prototypical run-stuffing MLB, but he lacks the speed and agility to be effective in coverage.

Backup LBs: Outside of D.J. Williams, the Broncos had very little talent or depth at LB prior to the NFL draft. They took steps to address that in the draft, first by selecting Miller with the second overall pick. They then selected Nate Irving with their third round pick. The Broncos were hoping that Irving could step right into the starting lineup, but the lockout and subsequent loss of OTAs hurt his development. He is currently third on the depth chart behind Mays and versatile LB Mario Haggan, who can back up all three LB spots. Wesley Woodyard returns as a backup OLB. Woodyard is on the small side and that hurts him in run defense, but he is very good in coverage.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Champ Bailey, CB Andre Goodman, SS Brian Dawkins, FS Rahim Moore
Backups: CB Nathan Jones, CB Perrish Cox, CB Syd'Quan Thompson, S Quinton Carter, S Darcel McBath, S David Bruton

Starting DBs: The Broncos made a move to keep one of their few defensive playmakers, signing longtime stud CB Champ Bailey to a four-year contract extension. Bailey has been one of the best cover corners in the league for most of his career and his signing lends some stability to the Broncos' secondary. Playing opposite Bailey is Andre Goodman, a solid overall corner who missed eight games last year due to injuries. Goodman had five interceptions in both 2008 and 2009. Lining up at strong safety once again is veteran Brian Dawkins. The 38-year old Dawkins did not have a good season in 2010 and he will have to play better to keep his job. The Broncos released safety Renaldo Hill, paving the way for rookie Rahim Moore to join the starting lineup. Moore, a second-round draft pick, was the first safety chosen in the draft.

Backup DBs: The Broncos have several backup defensive backs with talent, but the majority of them are unproven at the NFL level. Nathan Jones is one of the few backup defensive backs that has significant playing experience at this level. He brings a much-needed veteran presence to the secondary. Perrish Cox and Syd'Quan Thompson are both in the mix for playing time at corner. Cox has had some legal issues that could threaten his roster spot. Should Dawkins falter, the Broncos have several young safeties waiting in the wings, led by rookie Quinton Carter. Third-year safeties Darcel McBath and David Bruton are also in the mix for playing time at safety.

Last modified: 2011-09-04 16:39:03

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