The Denver Broncos finished with a 7-9 record in head coach Vic Fangio’s first year. That was only one win more than in 2018, and it didn’t tell us much we didn’t already know about the team — at least until the final weeks of the season.
It was in those final weeks that the Broncos named rookie Drew Lock the starter. Lock went on to lead the Broncos to a 4-1 mark, guiding the offense much more efficiently than Joe Flacco or Brandon Allen had earlier in the season.
While Lock is still somewhat unknown at quarterback, he’s the guy moving forward and the Broncos have to be able to build around him. Denver is now facing an offseason in which it has plenty of draft picks (12 total, with five within the first three rounds) and cap space, and a dearth of playmakers.
Denver Broncos (7-9), missed playoffs
The top order is making sure that Lock gets help, both with new weapons and new blockers. Some key decisions will also have to be made to get Fangio’s defense up to snuff.
Before free agency:
- Offensive line: The unit was one of the worst in the NFL for most of last season, though they improved down the stretch. Still, there is a long way to go, with holes at tackle and guard. Garett Bolles is entering his fourth year in the league and hasn’t lived up to his first-round status at tackle. Even if the Broncos aren’t ready to give up on him, they need more linemen and can add them in free agency and the draft.
- Cornerback: Chris Harris will be a free agent, and that’s a major concern. He is a sure thing in coverage and one of the best run-support corners in the league. The team added A.J. Bouye via trade, which boosts one cornerback spot, but the other is still a big question mark if Harris doesn’t come back.
- Wide receiver: The Broncos traded Emmanuel Sanders to the 49ers last season, but they needed some help at the position before they made that move. While Courtland Sutton is a good receiver and will only be entering his third year, he can’t be the only guy that defenses pay attention to. This year’s draft is stacked at receiver, so this is as good a year as any to find players there.
What Mile High Report wants most this offseason: John Elway needs to maximize the resources available to take advantage of both the strengths of this draft and free agent class to try to close the gap between Denver and Kansas City. That means being aggressive to find a No. 1 corner and depth across the roster before the draft, so the team can go with the best player available in April. — Tim Lynch
After free agency:
The Broncos have had a very active offseason even before the draft. Their biggest moves included signing running back Melvin Gordon, and making trades for Bouye and defensive lineman Jurrell Casey. Finally, they also got some much-needed offensive line help with Graham Glasgow on a four-year deal.
- Wide receiver: This is still Denver’s biggest need. The Broncos didn’t sign any receivers in free agency, which isn’t surprising given how strong the draft class is at the position.
- Offensive line: Glasgow should bolster the interior of Denver’s offensive line, but the team needs a long-term solution at tackle. The Broncos would do well to draft a tackle in the first few rounds and develop him behind the underwhelming Bolles.
- Linebacker: The Broncos are set on the edge, and even on the inside they’re faring pretty well. But both Todd Davis and A.J. Johnson are free agents next season, while Davis carries a significant cap hit. They could use some depth on the inside.
After the draft:
The Broncos loaded up on weapons for Lock early and often in the draft. They managed to land Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy — perhaps the best WR in the class — with the No. 15 pick. Then in Round 2, they took another wide receiver: Penn State speedster KJ Hamler. Lock’s old Mizzou teammate, tight end Albert Okwuegbunam, came in the third round.
Denver also got good value with LSU center Lloyd Cushenberry III in the third round and Fresno State guard Netane Muti in the sixth round. However, the Broncos ignored the offensive tackle position.
On defense, they added Arkansas DT McTelvin Agim in the third round and Day 3 linebacker Justin Strnad out of Wake Forest. Both have high upside.