It is clear that the Denver Broncos had their ups and downs this season. They finished the year off with a 5-11 record and a 1-5 record against the AFC West. That record can’t possibly display anything positive about the team, can it? Although the team as a whole was below average, today we will take a look at some notable players and outstanding performances within the odd season. We will go through my picks for the Denver Broncos 2020 Player Awards. Let’s get right into it.
Offensive Player of the Year: OT Garett Bolles
The Broncos offensive tackle, Garett Bolles, was notorious for his constant holding penalties within games. He was widely viewed as one of the worst offensive tackles in the entire league during the 2019 season. However, that view promptly changed as Bolles broke out in the 2020 season. The star offensive tackle allowed 0 sacks in 2020 compared to his 4 allowed sacks in 2019. His penalties dropped from 17 to 7 from 2019 to 2020. He received a Pro Football Focus grade of 90.6 (3rd best among tackles) in the 2020 season while receiving a Pro Football Focus grade of 76.1 in the 2019 season. Within the first 4 weeks of the 2020 NFL season, Garett Bolles allowed 4 pressures. In the past 3 seasons (not including last season), he allowed 9 or more pressures in the first 4 weeks. Similarly, he allowed a total of 13 pressures in 2020 but allowed 29 or more pressures in the 3 previous seasons. It’s clear. Garett Bolles played like a star and deserves Offensive Player of the Year for the Denver Broncos.
Defensive Player of the Year: FS Justin Simmons
Some might make the argument that cornerback Bryce Callahan deserves this award for his 47.8 passer rating allowed in the 2020 season. However, I’m going with Justin Simmons as the best defensive player of 2020 for the Broncos. Simmons had a career high of 5 interceptions in one season. He also had 9 pass deflections along with 96 total tackles. While a lot of people might rate Simmons lower due to his 102.2 passer rating allowed and 77.8 completion percentage allowed, he showed up in crucial moments when Denver needed him most. He received a Pro Football Focus grade of 77.4 which is 9th best among safeties and is ranked as the best defensive back in the 2021 free agent class. While there are some downsides and holes in Justin Simmons’ 2020 season, the positive outweighs the negative enough for him to receive my vote for Broncos Defensive Player of the Year.
Breakout Player of the Year: OLB Malik Reed
You could have given this year to Garett Bolles or Bryce Callahan but Malik Reed was something special this past season. In 2019, Reed started 15 games and totaled 2 sacks, 27 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 5 quarterback hits, and a 6.9 missed tackle percentage. He has improved in each and every one of those categories. In just one game more than 2019 (16 games), Reed tallied 8 sacks, 53 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 17 quarterback hits, and a 5.4 missed tackle percentage. Statistically, Malik Reed vastly improved in 2020. The outside linebacker who some see as potentially Von Miller’s successor also notched 33 pressures in 2020. If this Broncos team wants playoff contention, some of the players need to greatly improve and take on bigger roles and Malik Reed displayed just that.
Most Disappointing Player of the Year: QB Drew Lock
It is definitely safe to say that Drew Lock, quarterback of the Denver Broncos, didn’t meet the high expectations that fans had. This, in part, is due to the height of these expectations. Nonetheless, Lock was disappointing this year. Although I believe in giving Lock a final chance in 2021, he is definitely going to need to improve. In 2020, he was tied for most interceptions in the league and had a TD-INT ratio of 1.07, which will not cut it in the NFL. Lock’s completion percentage, which was 57.3, is the worst among starting quarterbacks. There isn’t much else to say about Lock’s down year. He needs to improve his decision making, accuracy, and footwork. Like I mentioned, Lock deserves the starting spot for at least the beginning of the 2021 season as a final chance to prove himself. But we can’t look at the future and in the present, he was the most disappointing Denver Bronco in 2020.
Rookie of the Year: CB Michael Ojemudia
Yes, it’s a shocker, Michael Ojemudia is being picked over Jerry Jeudy. You may be thinking that this is an absolutely crazy pick, so let me explain why Ojemudia deserves it and why Jeudy doesn’t. Michael Ojemudia was selected in the 3rd round out of Iowa. His year wasn’t absolutely amazing but he is definitely deserving of this award from me. Ojemudia allowed a lower passer rating than every cornerback selected before him in the 2020 NFL Draft. He had a lower completion percentage than all but one of the cornerbacks selected before him in the 2020 NFL Draft. To top that, he was featured in all 16 games but only started in 11. He received a Pro Football Focus grade of 48.7 which, in comparison with the 3rd pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Jeff Okudah, is pretty good. Ojemudia statistically is a top 3 rookie cornerback which is definitely a factor for me giving him this award. Now, why doesn’t Jerry Jeudy get this award? He was really good this season, right? Indeed, he was good this season, but he was not a statistical stand out among rookie wide receivers. He’s outside of the top 7 in receiving touchdowns for rookie wide receivers. He’s outside of the top 5 in receiving yards per game among rookie wide receivers. His drop rate is significantly high and his catch percentage is significantly low. Receivers like Henry Ruggs III and Gabriel Davis had a higher catch percentage than Jeudy which is certainly not good. He can definitely improve these drop problems, though. With a good offseason, Jerry Jeudy can definitely be a greater receiver than he already is, but this award is going to Michael Ojemudia.
Poised to Breakout in 2021: WR Jerry Jeudy
As I mentioned above, Broncos wide receiver Jerry Jeudy had serious drop issues during the 2020 season. To use statistics as an example, Jeudy was targeted 113 times throughout the season but only caught 52 passes. That translates to a disappointing 46.0 catch percentage. Were all of the throws he missed on him? We don’t know but what we do know is that a catch percentage of 46.0 isn’t an accolade that translates to success. In Week 9 against the Atlanta Falcons, Jerry Jeudy was targeted 14 times with 7 receptions. In Week 16 in the second matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers, Jeudy was targeted 15 times and had 6 catches. These numbers won’t provide him anything positive in the NFL. He’s going to need to put in hard work and effort to fix those mistakes. However, once he does that, Jeudy exceeds in everything else. Catch percentage and balls dropped are Jeudy’s main struggle but in terms of speed, route running, separation abilities, contested catches, and football IQ, Jeudy is either elite or very solid. It isn’t a far fetched belief that once Jerry Jeudy cleans up his drop issues, he will be a very deadly threat in this league. Jeudy’s potential is limitless meaning that when he unlocks it, I believe he could potentially become a top 10 wide receiver in the NFL.