3 Broncos Sleepers Poised to Break Out Onto the NFL Scene in 2024

Keep an eye on these Denver Broncos.
Dec 24, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Johnson (89) celebrates his touchdown with tight end Lucas Krull (85) in the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 24, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Johnson (89) celebrates his touchdown with tight end Lucas Krull (85) in the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports / Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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As the Denver Broncos gear up for another NFL season, much of the spotlight has understandably been on the high-profile names and star players. However, Pro Football Focus ranked the Broncos' talent level as the worst in the NFL, citing a lack of playmakers as a significant concern.

This stark assessment underscores the need for under-the-radar talents to step up. Such contributions could be strategically utilized by head coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph to transform the Broncos from mediocre to a cohesive group that plays with such fire that opponents wither.

Do the Broncos have any such sleepers? In fact, they do. Here are three under-the-radar Broncos to keep an eye on in 2024.

Lucas Krull | TE

Denver Broncos tight end Lucas Krull (85) runs through the tackle of Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Nick Niemann (31).
Dec 31, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos tight end Lucas Krull (85) runs through the tackle of Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Nick Niemann (31) as cornerback Essang Bassey (27) defends in the second quarter at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports / Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The unheralded Krull could be a game-changer for the Broncos. His speed and agility are ideal for exploiting mismatches against slower linebackers and safeties.

Payton, known for his innovative offensive schemes, can utilize Krull's speed in critical situations. Imagine a third-and-long scenario where the defense expects a deep pass to one of the wide receivers.

Instead, Krull, lined up in the slot, streaks down the seam, exploiting a gap in the coverage for a crucial first down. His ability to stretch the field vertically will open opportunities for the wide receivers and create more space for the running game.

Payton's track record with versatile tight ends — most notably with Jimmy Graham during his tenure with the New Orleans Saints — could suggest that Krull is poised for a breakout season. By leveraging Krull's unique skill set, Payton can add a new dimension to the Broncos' offensive arsenal.

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John Franklin-Myers | DL

New York Jets defensive end John Franklin-Myers (91) against the Buffalo Bills during the second half at Highmark Stadium.
Jan 9, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; New York Jets defensive end John Franklin-Myers (91) against the Buffalo Bills during the second half at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports / Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

On the defensive line, John Franklin-Myers brings a blend of power and finesse to the Broncos. Last season with the New York Jets, he recorded 15 solo tackles and three sacks.

Franklin-Myers' ability to generate pressure from both the interior and edge positions makes him an asset to Joseph's defense. Joseph can deploy Franklin-Myers in multiple roles to maximize his impact.

In passing situations, Franklin-Myers can line up as a defensive end, using his quick first step and hand technique to disrupt the quarterback. He can shift inside in running situations, where his strength and leverage can clog running lanes and free up linebackers to make plays.

Franklin-Myers' versatility allows Joseph to disguise his defensive fronts, making it more challenging for opposing quarterbacks to read the defense pre-snap. This unpredictability can lead to more sacks, turnovers, and opportunities for the Broncos to capitalize on.

Brandon Jones | S

Miami Dolphins safety Brandon Jones (29) celebrates recovering a fumble on the goal line during the first half of an NFL game
Miami Dolphins safety Brandon Jones (29) celebrates recovering a fumble on the goal line during the first half of an NFL game against the Dallas Cowboys at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Dec. 24, 2023. / Jim Rassol / USA TODAY NETWORK

The departure of Justin Simmons, one of the league's top safeties, left a significant void in the Broncos' secondary. Enter Jones, a talented free agent formerly of the Miami Dolphins, who now has the daunting task of filling those big shoes.

Last season, Jones showcased his ability to be a playmaker, amassing 41 tackles and two sacks. Although he lacks Simmons' ability to generate interceptions, Jones is a versatile defender who excels in coverage and support.

Joseph can use Jones in various roles, whether patrolling the field's deep middle, matching up against tight ends, or blitzing off the edge.  Integrating Jones into the defense seamlessly will be critical.

The Broncos can leverage Jones' familiarity with different defensive schemes, allowing him to play instinctively and make impactful plays. If Jones can stay healthy and adapt quickly, he has the potential to be a stabilizing force in the secondary and a leader on the defense.

The Takeaway

While the Broncos' success will undoubtedly depend on the performance of their star players, the contributions of under-the-radar talents like Krull, Franklin-Myers, and Jones cannot be underestimated.

This trio's unique skills and versatility provide Payton and Joseph with the tools to craft a dynamic and unpredictable team. If these three players can maximize their potential, they could be the catalysts that propel the Broncos to being a competitive force in the talent-laden AFC West.

As the saying goes, football is a team sport; sometimes, the lesser-known names make the most significant difference.

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Mike Evans

MIKE EVANS

Mike Evans covers the Denver Broncos as a contributor for Mile High Huddle since 2020.