INDIANAPOLIS — A talented Broncos rookie class showed flashes of greatness as Bradley Chubb, Courtland Sutton and Phillip Lindsay all found early success last season.
But as Head Coach Vic Fangio made clear Wednesday at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine, the veterans on the team still have plenty to contribute to the team’s success.
Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders is just one of those players that Fangio expects to play a significant role when the season begins.
“Hopefully it’ll be a major role for us,” Fangio said. “Emmanuel’s a hell of a player, been a highly productive receiver in the league for a long time. He was having an excellent year last year with the Broncos. We expect him to be back [at] full speed.”
Fangio said he expects Sanders, who turns 32 next month, to be ready for Week 1 after recovering from a torn Achilles tendon. While healthy, Sanders was on pace for one of the best years of his nine-year career.
He finished 2018 with 71 receptions for 868 yards and four touchdowns in 12 games.
That success can only help Sanders as the team reviews him ahead of the 2019 season. But as Fangio said, there’s more that goes into evaluating if a team should keep a veteran player on the roster.
“How veteran are they?” Fangio said. “How many good years do they have left? What are the options if we don’t bring them back? Salary-cap ramifications. Everything goes into that.”
Seven-year veteran defensive end Derek Wolfe could also face that sort of evaluation.
Fangio, though, said he expects Wolfe to return to the team in 2019 and be a key contributor.
“Oh, sure,” Fangio said. “I don’t see anything changing our stance there with him.”
And while cornerback Chris Harris Jr. seems like a sure bet to again lead the Broncos’ secondary, Fangio said he foresees ways for Harris to make a bigger impact in 2019.
“Just mixing things up [can help him],” Fangio said. “Give him the ability to play multiple coverages because he's an experienced and savvy guy. I think he can excel in that way."
Harris has never had more than three interceptions in a season, but Fangio’s scheme could help him make more game-changing plays.
Paired with strong performances from Sanders and Wolfe, who are both expected to return in 2019, the Broncos could see a substantial change in fortune.
Even as the Broncos’ young players make names for themselves, several veteran players could soon prove they’re not finished quite yet.