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The Broncos checklist for becoming a playoff contender

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Former NFL scout and current analyst for NFL Network Daniel Jeremiah tweeted out a while back a checklist for building a roster in today’s NFL. According to him, here’s what every team needs in order to be successful:

QB – 1
Offensive Playmakers – 3
Quality OL – 3
Pass Rushers – 2
Defensive Playmakers – 2

Based on that theory, how do the Broncos stack up? According to this formula, are they on track to becoming a playoff team?

Quarterback: The Broncos are hoping that they have found their franchise quarterback in Drew Lock. The rookie finished the season with a 4-1 record in his first five starts, throwing seven touchdowns and three interceptions. He threw for 1,020 yards, as well. Lock deserves to start every game in the 2020 season and Denver will then know if they found their guy.

Offensive Playmakers: Denver currently has two playmakers on offense in Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant, but will now look to free agency and the draft to find another weapon to improve this offense. Sutton has shown that he’s a rising star in this league going for more than 1,100 yards in his second season and adding a Pro Bowl to his resume. Fant exceeded expectations for a rookie tight end having one of the best seasons this century for a a player at his position drafted in the first round. John Elway and company are hoping that Fant can be the next George Kittle and it’s safe to say he’s on his way. Denver will need to add at least one more weapon to get this offense to the next level.

Quality OL: Well, the Broncos only have one quality offensive lineman. That’s Dalton Risner. As a rookie last season, he proved to be the best offensive lineman last season playing at left guard. Denver is stuck with Ja’Wuan James at right tackle after making him the highest-paid right tackle in the league at that time of his signing. James missed nearly all of last season due to injury, but that shouldn’t have been a surprise since he’s been hurt every season for the last three seasons. Denver will need to upgrade at left tackle after Garett Bolles has continued to struggle year after year. Bolles has led the league in holding calls multiple years. The Broncos have holes they need to fill at right guard and center and can fill those spots in free agency. Elway will have a chance to draft his franchise tackle like Andrew Thomas in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft.

Pass Rushers: Jeremiah says you need two and that’s exactly what the Broncos have in Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. Unfortunately, Broncos Country didn’t get to see this duo for the entire season after Chubb missed 12 games due to a torn ACL. Are the Broncos perfect at this position? Kinda. Denver still needs to add some depth on the edge like they did in 2015, when they had DeMarcuse Ware, Shaq Barrett and Shane Ray with Miller. Head coach Vic Fangio did say that he likes to play his starters as much as possible, but if you can give Miller a breather from time to time that would be helpful. This is low on the Broncos priority list, but also have to start looking to replace the soon to be 31-year-old Miller for the future.

Defensive Playmakers: This is a tricky category to figure out, but when I define a playmaker, I’m thinking of players that are forcing turnovers and playing shut down at the cornerback position. Well, the MVP of the Broncos defense last season was newly acquired safety Kareem Jackson. Jackson was all over the field last season in his 13 games that he played in before being suspended. He played more in the box as a “nickel backer” piling up 71 tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble. You could feel the impact he made when on the field.

The Broncos might have a playmaker in newly acquired cornerback A.J. Bouye. The Pro Bowl corner was great in 2017 with Jacksonville, recording six interceptions. The final two seasons were not so great, however, for Bouye because of how poorly things were run in Jacksonville according to reports, but Fangio made it a priority to being the playmaker on after trying to sign him in 2017. If Bouye turns out to be who the Broncos think he his, Denver will have a top playmaker on the outside.

Even after mentioning Bouye, the Broncos still need more playmakers! They are in need of one at the middle linebacker position. Todd Davis has struggled covering tight ends and running backs out of the backfield. Davis has only forced two turnovers in his 85 games he’s played in. Denver needs a linebacker who will force turnovers and a player opposing teams are scared to game plan around. Davis isn’t that guy and the Broncos can upgrade that position in free agency.

The Broncos are going into free agency with around $70 million depending on how the CBA voting goes down before the new league year. Denver also owns 11 picks in this year’s draft, with five in the first 95 picks. The offseason is sitting in Elway’s favor and it’s time for the Broncos to make a splash and check off these boxes to get back into the playoffs to compete for another world championship.

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