This offseason we’ll take a look at all 32 NFL teams’ most pressing needs heading into the 2018-19 season. Next up is one of just two AFC teams to make the Super Bowl since 2014: The Denver Broncos.
The Broncos proved in 2015 that you don’t need elite quarterback play to win a championship, but they’ve gone just 14-18 since then with a mix of Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, and Brock Osweiler under center. Additionally, the offense could lose contributors at nearly every position this offseason, and the defense faces the possibility of losing two starters from the front seven. Reports have also indicated that C.J. Anderson is a candidate to be released or traded, while Aqib Talib has been shipped to Los Angeles.
John Elway and company will need to use their nine draft picks and ~$29M of open cap space effectively to fill the roster’s numerous holes. Last season’s 5-11 record didn’t cost head coach Vance Joseph or his coordinators their jobs, but Elway fired six assistant coaches. The team is in a position to win now with the league’s third-most expensive defense, but there’s plenty of work to do on both sides of the ball.
Need No. 1: Quarterback
All of the aforementioned signal callers have largely proven to be incapable of leading even an average offense over the past two seasons. All three rank outside of the top-32 quarterbacks in adjusted yards per attempt among 52 players to throw at least 125 passes since 2016. Last season’s 42-17 beatdown against the Cowboys marked the offense’s only performance of 30-plus points since the Peyton Manning era. Overall, the offense ranked among the league’s six worst units in completion rate, yards per attempt, and quarterback rating, joining the Browns and Titans as the only units with more interceptions than touchdown passes.
Elway said himself, “There is no doubt we’ve got to get better at that position,” when discussing the Broncos’ quarterback situation. Their immediate solution is Case Keenum, who ranked among the league’s top-five quarterbacks in total QBR, completion rate, and interception rate during his wildly successful 2017 campaign, but he was more of a game manager than game changer given that the Vikings’ ball-control offense ranked second in time of possession and just 22nd in pass plays. Even with Keenum signed, the Broncos are a strong candidate to draft a quarterback in the first round with their fifth overall pick. It’d behoove them to target a more pro-ready prospect over an unproven project considering the amount of money they’ve invested in their perennial top-10 defense.
Telling Stat: The Broncos have gone 7-6 with 200 or fewer passing yards from their quarterback over the past two seasons. The rest of the NFL is 119-187.
Need No. 2: Offensive Line
The Broncos need better play from their quarterback, but they haven’t exactly set their signal caller up for success with a solid offensive line. Overall, Pro Football Focus graded the unit as the league’s third worst in pass-blocking efficiency, and three of the five starters ranked outside of the top 40 at their positions. Osweiler and Siemian were two of just six quarterbacks to complete fewer than 40 percent of their passes under pressure last season, and their per-game performance against elite pass-rushing defenses (top 12 in adjusted sack rate) has predictably suffered since 2016.
- Top 12 (6 games): 3-3, 16.5 points, 309.2 yards, 188.7 pass yards, zero percent of games with more than 225 pass yards
- Bottom 20 (26 games): 11-15, 20.1 points, 326.9 yards, 226.4 pass yards, 50 percent of games with more than 225 pass yards
Re-signing restricted free agent Matt Paradis (PFF’s No. 8 overall center) should be a priority, and Ron Leary proved to be a solid addition at right guard. Last year’s first-round pick Garett Bolles played well in the run game and should continue to grow as a pass blocker, but another early-round pick could be needed to shore up the right tackle or left guard position for their future signal caller. The Broncos are one of just five teams to allow more than 90 sacks over the past two seasons.
Telling Stat: Four of the league’s seven top edge defenders in total pressures play in the AFC West, and the division has accordingly allowed the fewest average DraftKings points, Plus/Minus values, and Consistency Ratings to quarterbacks over the past two seasons.
Need No. 3: Defensive Line
Both Jared Crick and Billy Winn are unrestricted free agents, and Derek Wolfe‘s status is uncertain given he ended last season on Injured Reserve with a neck injury. Last season’s group didn’t have an interior defender graded among PFF’s top-40 pass rushers at the position, but the unit was at least the league’s fourth best in adjusted line yards per rush. The group’s newfound success against the run came with regression against the pass, as the Broncos allowed 35-plus points on three separate occasions after no opponents surpassed that threshold in 2015-16.
There is perhaps enough talent on the roster to remain strong against the run, and Von Miller will always be the piece that can push the Broncos defense from great to special. Still, the defense’s lack of depth and overall talent was exposed last season, as the No. 10 ranking in Football Outsiders’ Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average was the unit’s first finish outside of the top four since 2013. DeMarcus Walker and Shelby Harris are capable of taking steps forward in their second seasons with the team, but additional bodies will be needed to replenish the trenches of the team’s aging defense.
Telling Stat: Five quarterbacks scored 18-plus DraftKings points against the Broncos in 2017. Six quarterbacks did so in 2015 and 2016 combined.
- Safety: There was plenty of flying in the renowned no-fly zone last season, as the league’s 15th-ranked defense in pass DVOA couldn’t replicate its historical dominance. The league’s fourth-most expensive secondary would have a need at corner if Talib is ultimately released, but the unit’s failure to replace T.J. Ward will also need to be addressed. Justin Simmons and Darian Stewart combined for five interceptions, but each ranked outside PFF’s top-35 safeties and deserve plenty of blame for the unit’s 29th-ranked pass DVOA vs. tight ends.
- Running back: The potential departure of Anderson, combined with the expected loss of unrestricted free agent Jamaal Charles, leaves Devontae Booker atop the depth chart. Booker’s size and capable hands theoretically make him a capable three-down back, but he’s averaged just 3.6 yards per carry with zero career games with more than 85 rushing yards. The Broncos have ranked 26th in average open field yards per rush during each of the last two seasons and accordingly are one of just four teams with fewer than 13 runs of 20-plus yards.
Daily fantasy players should know about NFL rookies before they’ve played a down of professional football because they are among the most misvalued assets in all of DFS. People who know NFL rookies have a significant DFS edge. The draft will be held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, from April 26-28.
Our mock draft has the Broncos selecting quarterback Josh Rosen with the No. 5 pick. Check out Rosen’s player profile as well as the FantasyLabs quarterback rankings, and be sure to conduct offseason research yourself with our NFL tools!
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