Note: From now until the day before the Broncos' first training-camp practice, we'll take a look at one burning roster question each day.
At cornerback, Chris Harris Jr., Bradley Roby and Tramaine Brock are known commodities.
Harris, a three-time Pro Bowler, is the leader of the group, and as his former teammate, Champ Bailey, said last month, "He's playing at a Hall of Fame level." Roby, who is on his fifth-year option, has the chance to build off of his big-play foundation as a No. 3 cornerback to become an every-down, lockdown defender. Brock, who played sparingly in Minnesota last season, was a solid No. 3 cornerback for the San Francisco 49ers two years ago.
After that, questions loom. And whether the answer is Brendan Langley, Marcus Rios, C.J. Smith, rookie Isaac Yiadom or one of the other young cornerbacks, that answer will almost certainly be counted on at some point this season.
In the past five seasons, Denver's top three cornerbacks have missed a total of 19 regular-season games. In none of those seasons did the Broncos get a full 16-game slate out of all three cornerbacks.
Last November, that meant that Langley played 43 snaps at Oakland following Aqib Talib's early ejection. When Langley was inactive for three December games, Rios was active, although 42 of his 48 defensive snaps last season came in Week 17, when Harris and Talib made early cameos before ceding the work to younger players.
It was trial by fire for Langley, but that experience and his exposure to the veteran cornerbacks in the room opened his eyes and helped the 2017 third-round pick understand what NFL success requires. This offseason, he made the most of his downtime, working with a group of defensive backs that included Harris and Roby. His growth there was as much mental as physical.
"[Langley] is such a talent," Head Coach Vance Joseph said. "His problem won’t ever be matching up physically. His problem is getting reps enough to know what to do, and to have great technique every play."
Rios has tried to learn as much as he can about multiple roles.
"When the safeties are getting taught, I'm listening. When the nickels are getting taught, I'm listening, and when the corners are getting taught, I'm listening there," Rios told Orange and Blue 760 last month. "I'm learning from all the guys and learning all positions because you never know when your name might be called."
For all of the young cornerbacks, a heavy load of repetitions is the first and most crucial step toward getting separation in the race.
"When you're a young player, it takes reps," Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods said during minicamp. "So you can't force it down their throat. They have to go out; they have to go through it. They have to make the mistakes, they have to watch the tape, and then they have to learn from it so they don't do it again."
The young cornerback who emerges as at least the fourth cornerback -- or pushes for No. 3 role -- will likely be the one that extracts the most improvement from his training-camp reps. Langley's experience last year could give him a slight edge, but the race is far from complete.