With new general manager George Paton at the helm, the Denver Broncos view 2021 as a pivotal season for the franchise. The 2021 campaign represents several challenges for one of the youngest teams in football. It is also likely a make-or-break year for head coach Vic Fangio. As such, Denver appears poised to ride veteran savvy and the benefits of continuity in terms of their roster. This 2021 Denver Broncos roster projection predicts what the 53-man roster may look like come opening day in New Jersey.
2021 Denver Broncos 53-Man Roster Projection
In: Drew Lock, Teddy Bridgewater
While the Broncos very well could carry three passers, it seems more likely they use the extra roster slot elsewhere. After arriving in a trade from Carolina, Teddy Bridgewater is set to compete with Drew Lock for the top of the depth chart. The incumbent Lock, however, enjoyed off-season film-studying sessions with the greatest quarterback mind of all time, Peyton Manning. The team hopes Lock can settle into a rhythm in his second year in Pat Shurmur’s scheme.
Running Back (3)
In: Melvin Gordon, Javonte Williams, Mike Boone
The team is intent on establishing their offensive identity firstly through running the ball, so all three backs should have the opportunity to make their mark in one way or another. After trading with the Minnesota Vikings for Mike Boone, Royce Freeman finds himself the odd man out. He is expendable because all three other backs on the present roster can do what he does and more.
Melvin Gordon has one more year on his deal and should start for the team. That said, the Broncos also traded up in round two for rookie Javonte Williams. His 19-touchdown season in 2020 proved too enticing for the Broncos. Pass protection also features heavily in this assessment toward a 53-man Denver Broncos roster projection.
Wide Receiver (7)
In: Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, K.J. Hamler, Tyrie Cleveland, Seth Williams, Diontae Spencer
The Broncos lost their top pass-catcher for the season on opening night in 2020. With Courtland Sutton’s return to the field, Tim Patrick’s rise to stardom, and year two for Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler all coinciding, 2021 represents a great opportunity for the receivers. Beyond the top four, the depth is interesting following the departure of DaeSean Hamilton.
Tyrie Cleveland showed a flash of chemistry with Lock at the end of the 2020 season. He should make the team because he can also contribute on special teams. The team drafted Seth Williams in the sixth round. Nonetheless, it would be a surprise to not see him make the team. At the very least, he would still likely play in relief in the event of injuries. Diontae Spencer does not contribute offensively but should continue to serve as the team’s primary kick- and punt-return specialist.
Tight End (3)
In: Noah Fant, Albert Okwuegbunam, Shaun Beyer
Noah Fant looks to continue building off of an improved second season last year. If Albert Okwuegbunam can return from his season-ending injury, he provides the team an interesting top duo at the position. Undrafted free agent Shaun Beyer’s run-blocking talents are a big reason the team signed him after the 2021 NFL Draft. His presence makes fullback-tight end hybrid Andrew Beck expendable.
Offensive Line (10)
In: Garett Bolles, Dalton Risner, Lloyd Cushenburry, Graham Glasgow, Bobby Massie, Calvin Anderson, Netane Muti, Quinn Meinerz, Cameron Fleming, Austin Schlottmann
Four of five starters along the offensive line are set to reprise their roles atop the depth chart in 2021, with the lone exception of the right tackle position. Multiple off-season additions at the position have the team feeling at least slightly more confident in the depth at tackle. Cameron Fleming started all 16 games for the New York Giants in 2020. Denver views availability as a vital trait, so this Denver Broncos roster projection sees Fleming making the opening day roster.
Along the interior, rookie Quinn Meinerz, second-year lineman Netani Muti, and veteran backup Austin Schlottmann provide offensive line coach Mike Munchak with some much-needed versatility.
Defensive Line (6)
In: Shelby Harris, Dre’Mont Jones, Mike Purcell, DeShawn Williams, McTelvin Agim, Shemar Stephen
Following the departure of Jurrell Casey, Dre’Mont Jones appears poised to take over as the starting defensive end opposite veteran end Shelby Harris. Mike Purcell’s new contract suggests he will start at defensive/nose tackle. Behind these three starts, DeShawn Williams and McTelvin Agim both look to build off of snaps played in 2020 due to injuries to starters. Shemar Stephen’s veteran experience and frame make him more likely to make the 53-man roster than rookies Jonathan Cooper or Marquiss Spencer.
In: Von Miller, Malik Reed, Bradley Chubb, Alexander Johnson, Baron Browning, Josey Jewell, Justin Strnad
Manning the interior, Alexander Johnson should return to his starting role. The second inside linebacker position is wide open, however. This means it should not surprise anyone if the team runs with four defenders at the position. Josey Jewell’s play last year should earn him a roster spot while Justin Strnad’s return from injured reserve presents Fangio with interesting opportunities. Rookie Baron Browning’s versatility suggests it is incredibly unlikely he does not make the opening day roster.
At outside linebacker, the all-time franchise leader in sacks Von Miller is a lock to make the team. Hopefully the Robin to Von’s Batman, Bradley Chubb is also a lock. Malik Reed continues backing up the edge rushers in this Denver Broncos roster projection. It would, however, be unsurprising if the team decides to bring in another outside linebacker for depth— perhaps even one of their later-round rookies.
In: Kyle Fuller, Bryce Callahan, Ronald Darby, Pat Surtain II, Michael Ojemudia, Kary Vincent, Jr., Essang Bassey
The Broncos learned their lesson from 2020 and should carry seven corners into 2021.
Bryce Callahan is, like the starting outside linebackers, a lock to make the team. He was the top-rated nickelback in the league in 2020 and arguably enters 2021 as the top corner on the team. Off-season additions Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby should also make the team and contribute immediately. Behind these top three corners, first-round pick Pat Surtain II is a lock to make the 53-man roster.
Michael Ojemudia started 11 games last year and is sure to play some snaps on both defense and special teams. Rookie Kary Vincent, Jr. is primed to learn greater nuances of the nickelback position from Callahan and seems likely to make the team. Essang Bassey played about a third of defensive snaps in 2020 and makes the team in this Denver Broncos roster projection over other candidates.
In: Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson, Jamar Johnson, Caden Sterns, Trey Marshall
Following signing a massive new deal with the team, Justin Simmons headlines the safety room. Veteran Kareem Jackson agreed to a significantly cheaper contract to return to the team. He should both make the 53-man roster and start. Behind them, Trey Marshall’s availability in relief last year should earn him a spot on the roster as well. A pair of rookies, Jamar Johnson and Caden Sterns, appear as virtual locks for depth.
In: Brandon McManus, Sam Martin, Jacob Bobenmoyer
The team brought in Max Duffy to compete with Sam Martin, but it does not matter much who the punter is when the special teams coordinator is still Tom McMahon. Jacob Bobenmoyer and Brandon McManus are locks.
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