It has not been an ideal start to the season for the Denver Broncos after being dealt a tough hand with multiple big injuries to key players like Von Miller, Courtland Sutton, and Jurrell Casey, though the team has battled back of late. When a team deals with so many injuries like the Broncos have, players lower on the depth chart have to step up, and the silver lining to the team’s 2-3 start is that quite a few have.
On the flip-side, however, the Broncos have seen a few players regress, failing to answer the bell when called upon. With the juggernaut Kansas City Chiefs next up on the schedule, it’s time for a stock report of five risers and five fallers.
Stock Up: Tim Patrick | WR
When Sutton went down, many Broncos fans immediately turned to Jerry Jeudy in expectation of the rookie first-rounder filling those shoes but that hasn’t happened. Instead, Patrick has not only stepped up but has thrived in a similar role that Sutton would fill with three different QBs throwing him the ball.
Patrick’s fit into Sutton’s vacuum has been perfect as the play-style of the two receivers is quite similar. With Patrick stepping up, hopefully, he can help Jeudy do the same. Of course, Jeudy needs to work out those hands but that’s a whole different subject. It’s going to be interesting to see what the future holds for Patrick as he is forcing opponents to pay attention to him.
Stock Down: DaeSean Hamilton | WR
What has kept Hamilton around is his solid blocking, but that hasn’t been the case this year. His effort is lacking, his routes are sloppy, and his hands have not been good. It’s past time to have him take a seat and give another receiver (whom we’ll talk about later) the opportunity to fill his role on the offense and see what can come of it. A change of NFL scenery might be the next step for Hamilton.
Stock Up: Michael Ojemudia | CB
The rookie earned the No. 3 cornerback job out of camp but ended up as the No. 2 due to injuries. Outside of his Week 2 game vs. Pittsburgh, Ojemudia has been the best rookie corner in the NFL. It helps that his scheme fit was perfect to help his transition to the NFL go a bit smoother. There’s still plenty of room for him to grow but he is really trending up.
Stock Down: Jake Butt | TE
Butt’s is a great story of perseverance but that isn’t helping Denver win games. Being miscast in the Broncos’ scheme as an in-line blocking tight end hasn’t helped him because it’s not what he does best. Butt is a reliable receiving tight end that can be the security blanket for a quarterback to make solid chunk plays.
It sucks that Butt isn’t being used to his strengths, but the truth is, when it comes to the passing game, a guy like Noah Fant offers up more. Butt has to take that and grow to be what the Broncos need him to but his blocking remains a disaster, though it’s still better than that of Albert Okwuegbunam.
Why mention Okwuegbunam? Well, Butt seems to have lost what few receiving snaps he was getting to Okwuegbunam, who offers up enough big-play potential to outweigh the slightly better blocking from Butt. It’s not enough to justify the snaps Butt gets.
Stock Up: DeShawn Williams | DL
This might probably the biggest surprise on this list with all the injuries the Broncos dealt with on the defensive line but Williams has really been playing well. He hasn’t been outstanding by any means, but he has shown he can play in the NFL as a rotational piece on the line. It’ll be interesting to see how much farther he can develop and take his game. He has the winning pieces and now he just has to put them all together.
Stock Down: Nick Vannett | TE
What a disappointment Vannett has been. It’s sad that he still needs to have his role because there isn’t a single tight end that can block better than him on the roster. That’s a slight against the other tight ends. Unfortunately, Vannett was signed to be the blocker but he’s been nothing short of a disaster in that department and it starts with his terrible footwork and terrible hand technique. He needs to step up, or Denver needs to let him go and just use backup tackles as blocking tight ends. He’s been that bad.
Stock Up: Tyrie Cleveland | WR
Outside of a missed block on a punt return, Cleveland has been a good special teams player for the Broncos. His few chances on offense have also been valuable to the team. The rookie’s opportunities have been limited but should be increased if the Broncos wise up and limit Hamilton’s role going forward. Cleveland should be seeing the field more on offense going forward.
Stock Down: Essang Bassey | CB
There was a lot riding on Bassey and while he flashed potential, he ultimately failed. Denver still needs to work with him because he has the makings to be a good slot corner, but it’s going to take time. Benching Bassey was the right move and he needs to take the benching and grow from it. It wasn’t expected for him to be called upon as much as he was early on but the injury to A.J. Bouye forced the Broncos’ coaches to get creative.
Stock Up: De’Vante Bausby | CB
When Bausby didn’t make the 53-man roster initially, it was a big shock and I had to dig for a reason. There were rumors about him being afraid of contact and tentative, in the wake of his scary neck injury last year that caused him to lose all feeling in his limbs for about half an hour.
That may have been the case in training camp, but whatever the reason for Denver’s decision to put Bausby on the practice squad, based on his play since Bassey got benched, his tackling hasn’t been an issue out there on the field. When Denver benched Bassey, moved Bryce Callahan to the slot, and inserted Bausby on the boundary and the coverage unit started performing quite a bit better. Bausby does give up separation at times, but he will come up quickly and make the tackle or break the pass up.
Stock Down: Alexander Johnson | LB
This is by far the most controversial player on this list. After having a really promising 12 games as a starter in 2019, Johnson has left a lot to be desired this year. He has by no means been bad, but his play has not been at the level it was a year ago with one exception — as a blitzer.
Johnson’s run defense has not progressed and his play in coverage has regressed. Denver needs him to find his way back. Johnson is still a solid linebacker and he has potential to offer more, but it’s just a matter of gleaning that out of him.
He’s limited in coverage and opponents are exploiting his late decisions, as well as making him pay for biting on play-action, which, combined with his late reactions, and the stiffness of his hips, has been detrimental to the defense. These next 11 games are going to be vital for Johnson and his valuation from the team.