The Broncos had another sub-par season, finishing 7-10 (fourth in the division). Despite struggling on offense (23rd in points allowed), the Broncos’ defense was solid. They allowed the third-fewest points per game (18.9 PPG) behind the Bills and Patriots and were in the Top 10 against the pass. They did have some struggles against the run but still finished 15th.
The Broncos traded away their stud pass rusher, Von Miller, in Week 8 to the LA Rams and lost both 2020 starting inside linebackers to injury early on in the season.
Denver does have a new coaching staff in 2022 and added Russell Wilson in the offseason. They look to reestablish themselves as a dominant team in the AFC West. They’ll still need to rely heavily on the defense while the offense learns to establish chemistry with new players.
Let’s take a look at some of the fantasy-relevant IDPs from the Broncos’ defense from each category.
Bradley Chubb, OLB/EDGE
After an amazing rookie season in 2018, the former fifth overall pick has struggled to stay healthy and perform well when healthy. That being said, Chubb claims to be fully ready for 2022, both physically and mentally.
He also looked outstanding in camp and the first preseason game.
I’m hesitant to count on Chubb to be a top edge rusher in 2022, but he can bounce back and can be a sneaky late-round pick. He could be someone you can look to acquire without giving up too much.
Randy Gregory, OLB/EDGE
The former second-round pick in 2015 is another player who has had an inconsistent career. He’s been on the Cowboys’ roster for the first seven years of his career but signed a five-year contract with the Broncos in March of 2022.
Gregory is another pass rusher who has the raw talent to be something special in Denver. Let’s hope he can stay healthy (currently on the PUP list). He’s someone to watch for late in drafts or possibly off of waivers if he’s able to produce on the field.
Best of the Rest
I think two players can make a name for themselves in Denver this season: second-year converted inside linebacker Baron Browning and the 2022 third-round draft pick, Nik Bonitto.
The Broncos took Browning in the third round of the 2021 NFL draft and filled in as an inside linebacker when Josey Jewell and AJ Johnson both went down with season-ending injuries. However, during OTAs and training camp, Browning moved over to the outside linebacker position and received high praise from his coaches. Joey Richards from Mile High Sports wrote an excellent piece on the potential of Browning as an edge rusher. He will likely be available on waivers or as an add-on player in a trade.
Bonitto has also been making plays during training camp but seems firmly behind other players on the depth chart. He’s a solid late-round flyer but should be kept on your taxi squad until he has consistent playing time.
LINEBACKERS (UPDATED: 8/15/22; 12:10pm)
*BREAKING* Joe Schobert, ILB
Almost immediately after this article published, I received the notification that Joe Schobert signed with the Broncos. He will be able to make an immediate impact, and should be in the conversation as a mid-to-low end LB2. Great signing for Schobert and the Broncos. Hopefully you held onto him in the hopes that he’d find a home!
Josey Jewell, ILB
Jewell is probably the best fantasy option at linebacker from the Broncos, which isn’t saying much. The former fourth-round pick in the 2018 draft had a solid 2020 season but was lost to injury early in the 2021 season. He appears to be healthy and doesn’t have much competition for snaps this season. He’s a serviceable flex option if he can stay healthy.
Jonas Griffith, ILB
After the 49ers traded him to the Broncos in the last offseason, Griffith showed flashes of fantasy relevance at the end of the 2021 season. He posted back-to-back double-digit tackle games in weeks 16 and 17 of the 2021 season and was slated to start next to Jewell before injuring his elbow in the Broncos’ first preseason game against the Cowboys. He will likely miss 4-6 weeks, which means he’ll miss the first few weeks of the regular season.
Best of the Rest
Outside of free agent acquisition Alex Singleton, the Broncos don’t have much depth at linebacker. Singleton will get an opportunity to make a case for himself as a starter with Griffith being sidelined, but we all know he’s not the best player. That said, he gets a ton of tackles and currently holds the Eagles’ single-season tackle record.
Justin Strnad is the only possible linebacker to keep an eye on this season, but he’s been given opportunities to become a starter. He hasn’t been able to impress his coaches.
Justin Simmons, FS
Simmons is a player you can count on. He’s gotten 90+ tackles every year as a starter except for 2021 but was able to make up for it with a sizable handful of interceptions and other impact plays. He’s not a household name like Derwin James or Budda Baker but can be a solid low-end DB1 or high-end DB2 option for your team.
Kareem Jackson, SS
Jackson has been the Broncos’ strong safety for a few seasons and has been a solid bye-week filler at DB for most of his long career. He has a decent tackle floor but not much in the way of impact plays. He’s probably available in your leagues and can provide solid bench depth.
Pat Surtain II, CB
Surtain had a stellar rookie season in 2021. He stepped into the starting cornerback role immediately and was vital in the success of Denver’s pass defense. He’s a CB2 in leagues that require cornerbacks but doesn’t offer consistent tackle numbers enough to be a solid DB option on your team. If you drafted him last season, try to trade him to someone based on name recognition.
Best of the Rest
With Kareem Jackson entering his 12th season, look for second-year player Caden Sterns to continue to see an increase in snaps. He had a limited role last season but showed some promise, especially in Week 4, when he recorded two sacks on only seven snaps.
The Broncos lack star power at any position on defense, but there’s a lot of potential. Someone will emerge as the three-down linebacker, and they’ll likely be available on waivers, so keep an eye out there. We probably won’t know who to rely on at the EDGE position until we’re a few weeks into the season. The only reliable player on this roster is Simmons, and you can generally find him later on in drafts.
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