As great of a season as the Denver Broncos had in 2012 after starting off 2-3 and then winning 11 straight games, most people will remember it for one play.
Even though the Ravens’ miracle run ended the Broncos’ season, it didn’t end their hopes for a Super Bowl title in the near future. The Broncos are the number one team in our 2013 Power Rankings, and they boast one of the most talented rosters in the NFL, led by superstars Peyton Manning and Von Miller.
The Broncos made one of the biggest splashes in the league in 2013 when they signed slot receiver Wes Welker to join an already stacked WR group featuring Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, both of whom had breakout seasons last year with Manning throwing them the ball.
Since John Elway joined the front office, this team has done a great job of drafting, especially when you compare what they’ve done the last three years to years prior. The Broncos are a team with great veterans, but they are also one featuring some top notch young prospects.
Here are three players–one from each of the last three draft classes–that could have a breakout season in 2013.
Third Year — Nate Irving, LB
The Broncos’ middle linebacker spot should have a really intriguing battle this offseason. Former third round draft choice Nate Irving is looking to take over for departed D.J. Williams on the inside and join a group of linebackers that already features All-Pro Von Miller and a player who busted out in a big way last season–Wesley Woodyard.
To this point, Irving has only played key roles on the Broncos’ special teams, but he saw some spot action when Miller got nicked up last season at SLB. This year, the Broncos put a big vote of confidence in Irving, pretty much handing him over the starting job and adding only Stewart Bradley at the position through free agency or the draft.
Irving only has 17 career tackles in 31 games, so he’s been healthy he just hasn’t quite been ready to step into a full time role. Broncos coaches feel like Irving can be a big contributor to the defense, and obviously they felt enough of him to pick him in the third round a couple of years ago. This could very well be a make-or-break year for the former North Carolina State star.