Not since the beginning of the 2015 regular season has there been this much excitement and expectation for the Denver Broncos.
Understandably so, the past couple of seasons for Broncos Country has been painful. Watching the incessant quarterback shuffle unfold between Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch last season was the equivalent to banging your head against a concrete wall. That being said, there is a palpable hope in the Mile High City heading into 2018, and here are three players to keep an eye on as the season approaches.
Su’a Cravens, Strong Safety
Most Broncos fans did not have a clue who Cravens was before the team acquired him this past March in a trade with the Washington Redskins. Most fans also do not realize the immense value in which the Broncos obtained Cravens.
Drafted in 2016 from the University of Southern California as a second-round pick (No.53) by the Redskins, Cravens possessed all the upside that teams look for in a safety. As a three-year starter at USC, Cravens racked up over 200 total tackles, 10.5 sacks, and 9 interceptions. Strangely enough, the Broncos had a prior first-round grade on Cravens, and for a good reason.
As a hybrid middle-linebacker/safety in his rookie season, Cravens appeared in eleven games, starting just three of them. He recorded 34 total tackles, 1 sack, 5 passes defended, and 1 interception. All things considered, a respectable rookie season.
Last season, however, in a seemingly stunning development, Cravens informed the Redskins he was retiring from football. However, Bruce Allen, the President of the team, convinced Cravens to reconsider. Cravens then found himself placed on the exempt/left team list. Cravens dealt with a knee injury which was another issue keeping him out of action.
Fast forwarding, the Broncos who, as previously mentioned had a first-round grade on Cravens, were finally able to complete a deal involving multiple late-round draft picks in acquiring Cravens.
Cravens is just 22 years old and has a lot to prove. He joins a team who has been a dominant force over the past few seasons, gaining the nickname the “No Fly Zone.” Other guys like the pass-rushing monster duo of Von Miller and Derek Wolfe create a big hole for Cravens to fit.
Nevertheless, the Broncos defense looks to get back to its dominance of their 2015 Super Bowl winning season, and Su’a Cravens is a necessary addition for fans to watch this season.
De’Angelo Henderson, Running Back
Henderson found himself slip to the sixth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. The Broncos scooped him up as the No.203 overall selection, as depth to C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker.
Henderson is a product of Coastal Carolina University, a Division I school who is part of the Sun Belt Conference. In his four seasons at Coastal Carolina, Henderson racked up over 4,600 rushing yards and 58 touchdowns. In the receiving game, Henderson totaled 97 receptions for 921 yards and 6 more scores.
His measurables are unbridled as he tested in the 82nd-percentile for the 40-yard dash, running a 4.48. Another metric, which measures College Dominator, according to PlayerProfiler, put him in the 95th-percentile.
Last year, Henderson flashed his athleticism in the preseason, however, found himself buried on the depth chart. His shining moments came on a beautiful 41-yard preseason scamper versus the Chicago Bears, as well as his first official NFL touchdown in the final week versus the Chiefs.
— NFL (@NFL) August 11, 2017
— NFL (@NFL) December 31, 2017
Henderson shows shades of Mike Anderson if Broncos fans are interested in a comparison. His brutish running style mixed with his athleticism profiles him as a possible sleeper candidate.
Conversely, the Broncos released C.J. Anderson, leaving Devontae Booker as the lead workhorse, however that could quickly change. Henderson continues to work his way back into the playbook as well as the offense.
Broncos fans, get hyped for De’Angelo Henderson. This season is going to be a fun ride.
Garett Bolles, Left Tackle
For many Broncos fans, the teams’ selection of Bolles in the 2017 NFL Draft was somewhat stifling. It was especially infuriating for many, as former Wisconsin offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk was still available.
In all honesty and hindsight, the Broncos should have drafted Ramczyk as he ended up being one of the highest rated offensive tackles, according to Pro Football Focus.
Needless to say, Bolles failed to live up to the hype last season. In referance to Pro Football Focus, Bolles registered as a ‘below average’ offensive tackle and the No.42 overall tackle in the NFL. Not what a team wants in a first-round pick.
In his first season in the league, Bolles allowed 8.5 sacks, 7 holding penalties, and 4 false starts. Clearly there is room for much improvement heading into his second season. The goal, of course, is for Bolles to find much needed consistency on the line.
The Denver Broncos flipped the script in signing Case Keenum. Conversely, in an article from Kyle Fredrickson of the Denver Post, the teams draft class this year has been heralded as one of the best by many analysts in the league. New faces, same places. Broncos Country should be ready for a fun season ahead.