The Denver Broncos' draft was heavily weighted towards reinforcing the defense. Seven of GM George Paton's picks were defensive in contrast to the three offensive selections.
It seems like defense-oriented head coach Vic Fangio had his thumb on the scale in the decision to prioritize adding defensive talent to the roster.
Throughout free agency and last week's draft, the Broncos infused playmakers that should help vault the team up the defensive rankings. Although this year's unit does not possess the same game-wrecking talent of the 2015 Super Bowl-champion Broncos' defense, if everyone can stay healthy, the crew should be a force to reckon with.
In the wake of Paton's draft haul, here's how the Broncos' starting defense is shaping up on paper.
- Shelby Harris | DE
- Mike Purcell | NT
- Dre’Mont Jones | DE
Although a bit undersized, the group is athletic and creates disruptive interior pressure on passing downs. Look for defensive tackle Harris to continue his knack for batting down passes in key situations.
- Von Miller
- Bradley Chubb
Everyone is curious to see how linebacker Miller will play coming off a season-ending injury. At 32, achieving double-digit sack numbers may be a long shot. Expect Miller to evolve his game to leverage strength versus speed and look for Chubb to take the next step in his development and become a dominant force.
- Alexander Johnson
- Baron Browning
Coach Fangio has been on the hunt for a true three-down linebacker who can be that athletic impact player. He may have found his man with third-round selection, Baron Browning, out of Ohio State. Browning has the physical tools to both stop the run while also making things difficult in coverage for tight ends like Las Vegas' Darren Waller. Incumbent starter Jewell should prepare himself for potentially seeing his playing time significantly reduced.
- Kyle Fuller
- Bryce Callahan
The cornerback room hosts the most talented position group on the roster. The battle for the starting spots will be fierce. Paton added seasoned veteran starters in Darby and Fuller. Darby and Fuller are effective in both man and zone coverage but Bryce Callahan still sits atop the depth chart (when healthy).
Also to not be forgotten, the Broncos selected the top cornerback in this year's draft in Alabama's Patrick Surtain II. Surtain will likely not be a day-one starter but will see significant playing time in the nickel and dime packages.
The Broncos secondary finally has the talent to compete head-to-head with the Kansas City Chiefs' potent passing attack. Choosing who the starters will be is going to go beyond just playmaking ability and system familiarity. Trust of the coaching staff will likely play a significant role.
- Justin Simmons
- Kareem Jackson
The Broncos got the band back together. The Pro Bowler Simmons and Jackson were one of the most effective duos in the league last season. They were the glue that kept the depleted secondary from collapsing. Now, with improved playmakers at all levels, the pair should see some multiple-interception games with a couple of young draft picks to groom behind them in Caden Sterns and Jamar Johnson.
Some fans in Broncos Country were disappointed that the team didn't make a bigger splash in the draft by selecting a quarterback but Paton's painstaking draft and the free-agent process have added enough defensive players with speed, agility, and experience to wipe out offensive game plans.
Fangio now has the talent to coach the Broncos to a top-five defense. Fans should hold these defensive players and coaches to the standard of being a dominant defense. One thing's for sure, it should be fun to watch.
Follow Mike on Twitter @MHHEvans.
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