Top pick Garett Bolles, two free agents should start on O-line for Broncos

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and organized team activities and minicamps in full swing, here’s a starting lineup projection for the Denver Broncos:


QB: Trevor Siemian. This will be the most chronicled lineup battle of training camp, and though Paxton Lynch could win the job, Siemian still throws with much better timing to a far greater variety of routes and has better awareness in the pocket.

RB: C.J. Anderson. The Broncos have made things a lot more crowded with Devontae Booker, Jamaal Charles and even rookie De'Angelo Henderson in line for some carries, but if Anderson returns as expected from his knee injury, he should open games.

FB: Andy Janovich. Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy will probably vary the team’s “base" formation week to week, but Janovich showed last season that he makes a two-back set worth a long look because of his work as a receiver and as a blocker.

LT: Garett Bolles. The Broncos like Ty Sambrailo’s progress this offseason more than many believe they like him as a potential starter here, so he could make it interesting as Bolles tries to be the team’s first rookie to start at LT since Ryan Clady in 2008.

LG: Ronald Leary. Leary was one of the team’s high-priority targets in free agency, and he should give the Broncos better play on the inside than they’ve had since Chris Kuper’s tenure with the team.

C: Matt Paradis. Paradis had surgery on each hip this offseason, so he will not be a full participant for much of the offseason work and the Broncos will go easy in training camp, but he runs the show up front.

RG: Max Garcia. There’s always a chance for a surprise here if the Broncos choose to bump down one of their tackles inside, such as Michael Schofield or Sambrailo, but the Broncos hope Garcia makes improvements in pass protection to match his physical play in the run game.

RT: Menelik Watson. Physically, mentally and in his approach to the game, Watson is exactly the kind of player the Broncos want on the offensive line, but he has never played more than 12 games in any season because of a variety of frustrating injuries.

TE: Virgil Green. This could well be rookie Jake Butt at some point, but the Broncos will be patient in Butt’s return from knee surgery, so that makes Green still the best blocker/receiver combo until somebody else proves otherwise.

WR: Demaryius Thomas. This could be a bounce-back year of sorts for Thomas -- if a guy needs a bounce-back from a 90-catch season, that is -- but coach Vance Joseph is pushing hard to get more from Thomas, and McCoy knows him well from a previous stint in Denver.

WR: Emmanuel Sanders. Sanders was productive last season, works hard and is a reliable target, but the Broncos' new coaches want more from him in '17, both as a leader and as a red zone option.


DE: Derek Wolfe. Wolfe finished 2016 with career bests in tackles (51) and tied a career best in sacks (5.5), but he should find a little more room to work with the Broncos’ additions up front.

NT: Domata Peko. Peko could play at end as well in some of the Broncos’ looks -- the Broncos signed nose tackle Zach Kerr in free agency as well -- but the veteran has been a durable player who should immediately help the Broncos’ run defense, no matter where he lines up.

DE: Adam Gotsis. To earn this spot, Gotsis will have to hold off veterans Billy Winn and Jared Crick as well as rookie DeMarcus Walker, but the Broncos have raved about his offseason work so far.

OLB: Von Miller. A lot of what the Broncos have done in the offseason has been about getting Miller free, and if he does his part, another potential run at Defensive Player of the Year should be the result.

ILB: Brandon Marshall. He didn’t have his best year in ’16 -- just ask him -- but if the Broncos’ new additions play well up front, he should have some cleaner paths to the ball, and the tackle numbers should reflect that.

ILB: Todd Davis. The Broncos gave some thought to inside linebacker during the draft. However, it was not a great class overall, so Davis will have to fend off Corey Nelson to keep this spot.

OLB: Shane Ray. No player on the Broncos’ defense carries bigger expectations for a breakout year than Ray does as he moves into DeMarcus Ware’s spot. "Shane’s been ready for a long time," Miller said.

CB: Chris Harris Jr. He has been one of the true "givens" in the team’s defense for years, as he performs at an elite level no matter if he lines up in the slot, outside, in man or in zone.

FS: Darian Stewart. The Broncos signed Stewart to a contract extension last season, and that means this will be the third consecutive season that this group of starters has played together in the secondary.

SS: T.J. Ward. He’s a do-it-all guy when the Broncos move back and forth from their base defense into their specialty packages, and he’s in a contract year.

CB: Aqib Talib. There are times when Talib’s off-the-field issues and post-play penalties can camouflage what an old-school player he is snap-to-whistle, with a work ethic the new coaching staff has already noticed.


K: Brandon McManus. After the draft, executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway expressed some frustration that McManus had not signed his one-year tender as a restricted free agent, but he should be in the lineup once he does.

P: Riley Dixon. The Broncos liked his progress during his rookie season in ’16, but it’s still possible that they'll bring in another punter at some point if they want some competition for camp and another leg to use in drills.

KR: Carlos Henderson. The rookie was one of the best kickoff returners on the draft board, and he is expected to push hard for the job as the No. 3 wide receiver as well.

PR: Isaiah McKenzie. McKenzie, another rookie, will have to carve out a bit of a niche on offense as a fifth receiver who could carry the ball once in a while out of the backfield, but he probably is the best punt returner on the roster before he has fielded one in an NFL game.