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Football forecast: Predicting the Broncos' offensive and defensive players of the year


As the Broncos' 2020 season approaches, we've spent recent weeks looking at which Broncos players could play major roles this year.

Over the last few weeks, we've polled our reporters and members of the local media to predict which members of the team would win a series of awards.

We previously identified Bradley Chubb as the consensus pick for the team's Comeback Player of the Year award, Noah Fant as the team's Breakout Player of the Year, Jurrell Casey as the Broncos' top veteran offseason addition, Jerry Jeudy as Denver's Offensive Rookie of the Year and Michael Ojemudia as the team's Defensive Rookie of the Year.

There are just three awards left to hand out, as the panel will select an Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player.

The MVP choices will be published next week, but we continue on for now with the OPOY and DPOY selections.

In our projections, Pro Bowl wide receiver Courtland Sutton earned 12 of 19 votes to take home Offensive Player of the Year honors and three-time first-team All-Pro Von Miller edged out the competition with 7 of 19 votes to earn the Defensive Player of the Year nod.

Read on to hear from our panel of media members.



(Individuals polled: Matt Boyer, Aric DiLalla, Sydney Jones, Phil Milani, Alexis Perry, Ben Swanson)

WR Courtland Sutton: 4 votes

Boyer: "Great players add new skills to their game during the offseason and Sutton has demonstrated that ability for two straight years. He was a Pro Bowler last season and (with a little help from Drew Lock) I think he becomes a a guy heavily included in the All-Pro discussions."

DiLalla: "I've been bullish on Noah Fant, and I thought about picking him for this award. But while I think Fant could tie or eclipse Sutton's touchdown total, Sutton should wind up with more yards and receptions. Make no mistake: Even with the addition of Jerry Jeudy, Sutton is still the top option on the Broncos' offense. He'll prove that this year as he breaks 80 catches and 1,200 yards."

Jones: "As a rookie, Sutton had 42 catches for 704 yards and four touchdowns. Last year, Sutton had 72 catches for 1,112 yards and six touchdowns. Considering Denver had three different starting quarterbacks last year, this is extremely impressive. Finally, with Lock solidified as the starter for this season, Sutton will continue to build his chemistry with him; plus, this will be Sutton's first full season as the No. 1 option. It's very plausible that Sutton could have 85-plus catches, 1,200-plus yards and 8-plus touchdowns to continue building his young resume."

Perry: "Courtland Sutton is a Pro Bowl wide receiver who hasn't even come close to reaching his full potential yet. With the additions of Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler, defenses will be forced to equally respect each member of the Broncos' receiving corps, freeing up Courtland Sutton to make one highlight reel-worthy catch after another in 2020. Don't forget, Sutton racked up over 1,100 yards in 2019 with three different quarterbacks, so just imagine what he'll be able to do with consistency at the QB position!"

QB Drew Lock: 2 votes

Milani: "If you are like me and have been making banana bread nonstop for the past several months, you will understand this analogy: Drew Lock is like the bananas in the recipe for the Broncos' offense. What I'm trying to say is that he's the key ingredient. You can add all kinds of fancy stuff to the mix, but without bananas, it just ain't gonna taste right. After going 4-1 as a starter in his rookie season, Lock is now surrounded by talent and has every opportunity to be successful. Hearing him talk about the way he's attacking the offseason, I think he will only improve. And yes, that means I think Lock is going to go bananas next season!"

Swanson: "It's hard not to pick Lock, right? It feels like with all the targets around him now, the success of the offense will fall on his shoulders. It may not be fair to put all the pressure on him, but to his credit, he's the kind of guy that embraces it — and I think he'll play well enough to justify it. That said, I don't think we should hold any wild expectations for Lock to immediately ball out in a new offense he's had to learn virtually without in-person offseason programming."


(Individuals polled: Nicki Jhabvala, The Athletic; Lindsay Jones, The Athletic; Ryan Koenigsberg, DNVR; Brandon Krisztal, KOA; Mike Klis, KUSA; Jeff Legwold, ESPN senior writer; Steve Levy, ESPN/KUSA; Dave Logan, KOA News Radio; Ryan O'Halloran, Denver Post; James Palmer, NFL Network; Troy Renck, KMGH; Peter Schrager, NFL Network; Michael Spencer, CBS Denver)

WR Courtland Sutton: 8 votes

Jhabvala: "Lock would be worthy here too if he's the overall MVP, but Sutton's rise in 2019 may have hinted at an even bigger leap in Year 3. The Broncos' offensive additions this offseason should free him up to collect more deep balls and acrobatic catches."

Jones: "He could have a monster statistical season. He'd need to be in that 90+ catch, 1400-yard range to win this award, while leading the league in those categories."

Klis: "With some help on other side, he could become freed up for a 1,400 yard/10 TD season."

Krisztal: "Courtland already has a Pro Bowl on his resume. He made the big leap from Year 1 to Year 2 that you want to see all young players make, as he built off the positive flashes he showed as a rookie. The truly great players stack great seasons on top of each other, and Sutton wants to be truly great. You can get that sense just talking to him, and you can tell his teammates feed off him as a leader in the locker room and outside of the building. With what the offense will ask him to do, the other weapons that have been added around him, and Drew Lock already showing a confidence in him, it'll be fun to see if Sutton's dedication to his route-running not only pays off, but propels him into the conversation as a top 3-to-5 receiver in the league … and he may already be knocking on that door."

Legwold: "Newly acquired speed all over the formation, a quality 1-1A pairing at running back, and an offense that will look to push the ball down the field more than it did last season (tied for 17th in pass plays of at least 30 yards), should get Sutton in the kinds of matchups he can win."

Logan: "Could be either receiver, but Sutton is a proven commodity."

Spencer: "Lock's success will have a lot to do with his relationship with Courtland Sutton. Sutton took big steps forward from Year 1 to Year 2, and is ready to take another step forward in Year 3. The addition of talented weapons around him will allow him to flourish, and that's why he's my pick for Offensive Player of the Year."

James Palmer also selected Sutton for the award.

WR Jerry Jeudy: 2 votes

Koenigsberg: "The odds-on favorite in this category is likely Courtland Sutton, but I'll take an underdog here in Jeudy. In all my time following the NFL Draft, I've never seen a better route-runner coming out. I believe that ability — combined with his speed — is going to lead to a massive rookie year in Denver for Jeudy."

Peter Schrager also selected Jeudy for the award.

G Graham Glasgow: 1 vote

O'Halloran: "Going off the board here a bit, but why not? He was the Broncos' top free-agent addition and in addition to bringing stability to right guard (Ron Leary couldn't stay on the field), Glasgow's ability and experience will also help right tackle Ja'Wuan James and rookie center Lloyd Cushenberry."

RB Phillip Lindsay: 1 vote

Levy: "While he wont have any many carries, he should have more catches out of the backfield, getting him in space where he is so elusive. No one is more aware of Melvin Gordon's presence than Lindsay, and this competition will push the third-year player to an explosive season finding the end zone more than he did last season."

QB Drew Lock: 1 vote

Renck: "The reason? If this caffeinated offense reaches its potential, it's because Lock is playing well. Given the value of the quarterback position, a good season from Lock is more valuable than a great season from another player."


(Individuals polled: Matt Boyer, Aric DiLalla, Sydney Jones, Phil Milani, Alexis Perry, Ben Swanson)

S Justin Simmons: 3 votes

Boyer: "Last year, I thought Simmons was robbed of a deserved Pro Bowl nod. This year, he'll be on everyone's radar. With another season in Vic Fangio's defense, he should be recognized as one of the best safeties in the AFC."

Jones: "I believe Simmons is arguably one of the best young safeties in the league. I think he'll be out to prove [his worth]."

Milani: "With an offseason of contract chatter behind him, Justin Simmons will be happy to just play football. And coming off the best season of his career, I think he will take his game to a Pro Bowl level in 2020. Simmons' style of play fits Vic Fangio's system perfectly. When you combine the two, well, that's kind of like when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie. You know, it's amore!"

OLB Bradley Chubb: 2 votes

DiLalla: "Chubb will lead this team in sacks, and I wouldn't be shocked if he's near the league lead, as well. I fully expect him to be in Las Vegas for the 2021 Pro Bowl — and it's hard to pick out a more deserving player (Simmons should be there too, actually). You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who worked harder than Chubb this offseason, as he attacked his rehab and was in the Broncos' facility early and often. That work will pay off in a big way this year."

Perry: "Is there anyone on the defensive side of the ball more eager for the 2020 season than Bradley Chubb? Doubtful. Chubb has been battling his way back from a partially torn ACL for the last eight months and will be even hungrier than he was his rookie season when he racked up 12 sacks. I'm predicting 14 sacks for Chubb in 2020, which should be enough to earn DPOY honors."

LB Alexander Johnson: 1 vote

Swanson: "I'm going out on a limb here, I know. But I thought what Johnson brought to the Broncos' defense last year transformed the unit. He has good instincts, great speed at the position and can shed blocks well in pursuit. I think with a second year learning the defense as a starter, Johnson has the tools to make the leap to the Pro Bowl."



(Individuals polled: Nicki Jhabvala, The Athletic; Lindsay Jones, The Athletic; Ryan Koenigsberg, DNVR; Brandon Krisztal, KOA; Mike Klis, KUSA; Jeff Legwold, ESPN senior writer; Steve Levy, ESPN/KUSA; Dave Logan, KOA News Radio; Ryan O'Halloran, Denver Post; James Palmer, NFL Network; Troy Renck, KMGH; Peter Schrager, NFL Network; Michael Spencer, CBS Denver)

OLB Von Miller: 7 votes

Jones: "It's the major thing missing from his trophy case, and he's due for a bounce-back year."

Klis: "He is the best defensive player and after his sacks fell off last season he'll have something to prove."

Krisztal: "Von had a pedestrian year by Von standards and still made it to his eighth Pro Bowl in nine seasons. He's still the most talented player on the team, although some of these young guys may give him a run for his money on both sides of the ball. He's been vocal about his desire to win Defensive Player of The Year, really the only accolade that's eluded him in his stellar career. The return of Bradley Chubb and addition of Jurrell Casey should ease the burden of the two and three blockers that he saw seemingly down-in and down-out last season, and with rumblings the Broncos may move on from him with a year left on his contract, or when it expires, Von will want to remind John Elway and all of Broncos Country why he's been the face of the franchise since Peyton Manning retired and that he deserves to play his entire career in Denver, just like No. 7."

Legwold: " ... [the] addition of Jurrell Casey and return of Bradley Chubb will have an enormous impact on how many fewer times offenses can gang up on Miller."

Logan: "Von's gotta be Von in 2020."

Renck: "He has pushed his chips to the center of the table. Miller knows this might be his best – not last – chance to have a monster season. He is determined to bounce back. With a healthy Bradley Chubb, Miller should post between 13 [and] 16 sacks."

Peter Schrager also selected Miller for the award.

OLB Bradley Chubb: 3 votes

Jhabvala: "Chubb tore his ACL in Week 4 last year, but he should finally get his first full season in Vic Fangio's defense — a system tailor-made to his skill set."

Spencer: "Chubb is going to be HUNGRY after missing the majority of the 2019 season. I've never heard a guy say he was happy he got hurt, like Chubb did following his injury last season, and that drive and mindset tells me that he's in line for a monster season in 2020. Teams will continue to key on Von Miller, and I think the addition of some bulk on the defensive line will help Chubb thrive in his third season."

James Palmer also selected Chubb for the award.

CB A.J. Bouye: 1 vote

O'Halloran: "The first major move of the offseason could be one of the Broncos' best, giving up a fourth-round pick to acquire Bouye from Jacksonville. Last year, Broncos cornerbacks combined for one interception (one!). A good fit for the zone coverage scheme, Bouye will have four interceptions."

S Kareem Jackson: 1 vote

Koengisberg: "Maybe no player on the Broncos' defense makes his presence felt more consistently than 'K-Jack.' Jackson, while he may not come with the star power of a guy like Von Miller or even Bradley Chubb, is always putting himself in the right position to make an impact. He's simply a playmaker, and when the Broncos offense starts putting up points, he's going to have more and more opportunities to make plays."

S Justin Simmons: 1 vote

Levy: "No one will benefit more from a better pass rush than Simmons. He's opportunistic, makes big plays at the right time and will show off his ball skills more than ever before."

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