Broncos debate: Who will be Denver’s most impactful new player in 2021?

Newman: General manager George Paton certainly made his mark on the roster after taking the job in January, bringing in a new quarterback and overhauling the secondary with an array of fresh faces. While cornerback Pat Surtain II appears primed for a strong rookie season — and capable of silencing doubters who thought Denver should’ve gone with Justin Fields at No. 9 overall — for the Broncos to be relevant again, Bridgewater needs to be somewhere in the realm of his 2015 Pro Bowl form (11-5 for the Vikings that year).

O’Halloran: This is a Broncos defense that has struggled to create turnovers. Enter cornerback Ronald Darby. Formerly of Buffalo, Philadelphia and Washington, Darby was the first big-money, free-agent addition in March by Paton. Darby is strictly an outside corner, but if he’s on his game in man coverage, it will allow coach Vic Fangio to do other things with his safeties in terms of over-the-top coverage against another receiver or tight end.

KN: Rookie running back Javonte Williams is another player capable of serious contributions. Williams, Denver’s second-round pick, is acclimating quickly enough to the NFL that fans should not be surprised if he becomes the primary back over veteran Melvin Gordon at some point in the season. For Williams, 800 yards and 10 TDs aren’t out of the question. But up front, don’t overlook the importance of Bobby Massie, either. The Broncos’ sixth different Week 1 starting right tackle in as many years, Massie must bring stability to the spot.

RO: Williams will lead the Broncos in rushing — I’ve said that since the summer and have seen nothing to change my mind. Darby will be the most impactful Broncos newcomer (non-Teddy Category), but don’t forget about Kyle Fuller. If he returns to his 2018 form in Chicago with Fangio and defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, he will be a boon from a scheme standpoint because that will allow the Broncos to play six-defensive back personnel and just cover the heck out of teams.

KN: Let’s also not forget about running back Mike Boone, who was looking good in training camp before suffering a quad injury during joint practices in Minnesota. He’s on injured reserve but is eligible to come back starting in Week 4. If the Broncos are who they say they are come October, Boone (signed to two-year deal in March) could be an invaluable midseason addition to the special teams lineup and depth in the backfield.

RO: To wrap this up, if outside linebacker/seventh-round pick Jonathon Cooper can be a situational pass rusher, he will be able to get 1-on-1 match-ups opposite Von Miller, Bradley Chubb or Malik Reed. He was dynamic in the Seattle game to lock up a roster spot. Finally, I’ll go off the board and cheat a bit and say inside linebacker Justin Strnad. He missed all of last year following wrist surgery so Sunday will be his NFL regular-season debut. His athleticism and coverage should get him on the field in sub-package situations.

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