ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The draft remains the lifeline. Teams can sign marquee free agents, but without the right selections of college players, it is difficult to maintain success.
The Broncos missed on their 2017 class, save for left tackle Garett Bolles and the to-be-determined contributions from tight end Jake Butt and defensive tackle DeMarcus Walker. They feel like they hit the Powerball with the 2018 group, reflected in the final 53-man roster with cuts official soon.
"I know I don't want to be picking fifth again," said Elway of why it helped drafting, but at the cost of a 5-11 season. "I don't want that again."
Broncos 53-man roster:
Case Keenum, Chad Kelly, Paxton Lynch.
Comment: Keenum is the key. Can he duplicate last year's lightning strike? Kelly's ascension saved Lynch. The Broncos trust him at No.2. They had no plans to bring in a veteran No. 3. So for now Lynch, much to the dismay of a large throng of Broncos' fans, stays.
GM John Elway: "Paxton has to find ways to improve (on scout team). It was the best situation for us at this time." Elway added that they talked to veteran quarterbacks, but none was interested in signing at this time. Elway said he had no plans to change the quarterback position with the waiver wire, but it remains a situation worth monitoring.
Devontae Booker, Royce Freeman, Phillip Lindsay, Andy Janovich.
Comment: Booker, too, polarizes fans. He has 253 carries, but only a 3.6 yards per attempt average. He knows the offense. But it shouldn't be long before Freeman receives the bulk of the work, perhaps even in the opener against Seattle. Lindsay electrified with his speed in space, and versatility. He should be a mismatch on wheel routes against linebackers.
Coach Vance Joseph: "Booker is the most experienced, he’s played some good football for us. His better days are ahead of him. Royce had a great spring and great summer also. Obviously with Lindsay, he’s a special runner, but he also played teams well.”
Offensive linemen (9)
Garett Bolles, Ron Leary, Matt Paradis, Connor McGovern, Jared Veldheer, Max Garcia, Elijah Wilkinson, Sam Jones, Billy Turner.
Comment: Uncertainty surrounds the group. The Broncos need Leary's knee to cooperate. Veldheer settled right tackle. Can he remain consistent? Local high school star Jones sticks because of his ability to play multiple positions.
Summary of Elway and Joseph: Both praised the depth of this group. Joseph believes all nine can play in a game if needed.
Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton, Tim Patrick.
Comment: One of the team's weakest groups last season, the Broncos upgraded significantly. Sutton and Hamilton remain critical to caffeinating the offense. Patrick made the team because of gutsy special teams work. Jordan Taylor will start the season on the PUP list with no timetable on a return.
Summary of Elway/Joseph: Five receivers is a result of McKenzie not being a luxury the Broncos can afford to develop as a returnman.
Tight ends (3)
Jeff Heuerman, Jake Butt, Matt LaCoss.
Comment: This position has been a sinkhole. Broncos desperately need production. Could it be from one, two, or all three? LaCoss beat out Austin Traylor and Brian Paker for the final spot. Troy Fumagalli landed on injured reserve.
Summary of Elway/Joseph: The Broncos chose between LaCoss and Parker. LaCoss made late move that made the decision.
Defensive line (6)
Derek Wolfe, Domata Peko, Shelby Harris, Zach Kerr, Adam Gotis, DeMarcus Walker.
Comment: Deep, talented bunch capable of causing frequent disruptions. Wolfe hasn't looked this healthy since the Super Bowl season. Veteran Clinton McDonald couldn't beat out Walker.
Summary of Elway: Elway told me that Walker beat out McDonald. They liked McDonald, but only see five linemen active on game day, so no reason to carry seven.
Brandon Marshall, Todd Davis, Josey Jewell, Joe Jones, Keishawn Bierria, A.J. Johnson.
Comment: Group boasts athleticism and infusion of youth with rookies Jewell, Bierria and Johnson. Jewell projects as a future starter.
Summary of Joseph: "When you are younger, you are faster and healthier," Joseph said. The Broncos carried younger players at backer with an eye toward the future. The Broncos admitted that Anderson is more polished than Johnson, but they prefer Johnson's upside.
Outside Linebackers (4)
Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, Shane Ray, Shaquil Barrett.
Comment: Anything less than weekly "wow" moments will be a disappointment. The team's revival centers on a dynamic pass rush.
Summary of Elway: In a mild surprise, there was no real momentum to keep Holland. And that echoed what I heard from multiple players. Elway spent little time answering the question, hinting that it was an easy decision to go with four.
Chris Harris Jr., Bradley Roby, Tramaine Brock, Adam Jones, Isaac Yiadom.
Comment: This is the New Fly Zone. And it added gray to the beard overnight with the addition of Adam Jones. Jones convinced team to move on from Brendan Langley and Isaiah McKenze, a pactice squad candidate. Roby playing well remains central to the group maintaining its standard of excellence.
Justin Simmons, Darian Stewart, Su’a Cravens, Will Parks, Dymonte Thomas.
Comment: Simmons is a rising star, and Cravens, if healthy, is a bruiser. If he can cover tight ends, the group will improve significantly. Jamal Carter is on season-ending injured reserve.
Summary of Joseph: Thomas made significant push in Washington game that was rewarded.
Kicker Brandon McManus
Punter Marquette King
Long Snapper Casey Kreiter
Comment: McManus is solid. King needs to show more than did in the preseason.