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Broncos Roundtable: Which rookie will have the biggest role for Denver in 2023?

Zac Stevens Avatar
May 7, 2023

The 2023 Broncos draft class was small, but Sean Payton and George Paton hope it will be mighty.

After massive trades for Russell Wilson and Sean Payton, the Broncos didn’t have a first or second-round pick entering the draft. Thanks to a trade on Day 2 of the draft, Denver was able to slide into the end of round two to snag receive Marvin Mims.

The Broncos ended the draft with five new players and over a dozen undrafted rookies.

Which of the rookies will have the biggest impact in 2023?

The DNVR Broncos Crew gives their take.

Which Bronco will have the biggest role as a rookie?

Zac: Marvin Mims — Sean Payton has a long history of making rookie receivers very productive their first year in the NFL.

Much like how Mims was a second-round pick, so was Michael Thomas. In Thomas’ rookie season, he had a mind-blowing 92 catches for 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns. Will Mims be able to follow in Thomas’ footsteps? Probably not. But to be the most productive rookie on the team, he doesn’t even have to come close.

How about seventh-round pick Marquez Colston? In Colston’s rookie year in New Orleans, he had 70 catches for 1,038 yards and eight touchdowns. In 2013, fifth-round pick Kenny Stills had 641 receiving yards and five touchdowns. The next year, first-round pick Brandin Cooks had over 500 receiving yards as a rookie.

Payton’s track record of getting extremely high-level, and at times elite, production from rookie receivers is incredible.

That, along with Mims’ abilities, is why he will have a significant role in the Broncos’ offense, despite Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick all on the roster.

Payton’s history would suggest Mims will have at least 500 receiving yards… if not potentially double that number his first year in the NFL.

RK: Marvin Mims — If you think Sean Payton is going to pound the table for a wide receiver in the second round and not go on to feature him in the offense, you are sorely mistaken.

Mims’ two NFL comps from most experts are Brandin Cooks and Emmanuel Sanders. During his three seasons with Payton, Cooks averaged 954 yards per season, with two seasons over 1,100 yards. In one season with Payton at age 33, Sanders went for 753 yards.

It’s no coincidence at all that the new head coach in Denver sought out a receiver from that archetype to have in his offense in Denver. Mims is a great compliment to what Denver already has in the room and Payton will make sure he gets his opportunities.

Hank: Riley Moss — I’m probably in the minority here, but if I had to bet on one of the Broncos’ rookies to have the most playing time this season, I’m taking Riley Moss.

Moss is a freaky athlete. He’s plenty fast, plenty big and has a special ability to change directions. He was one of the best hurdlers in the country when he was in high school.

And he’s experienced, too. Moss played three years as a starter and enters the league as a 23-year-old rookie. The polish shows, as he had the best Pro Football Focus coverage grade of any cornerback in this year’s draft.

At the very least, Moss should be the Broncos’ fourth cornerback, which will get him onto the field in dollar, quarter and, potentially, dime formations. He’s bound to enter the top three, which will make him a starter, for at least a few games because of injury. Plus, he has a real shot to steal a starting job from Damarri Mathis, either during training camp or at some point during the season.

And here’s the kicker: Moss is going to play on just about every special teams unit. Punt coverage. Punt return. Kick coverage. Probably kick return. Maybe field goal block. These snaps won’t be enough to give him the “biggest role for a rookie” but they’ll be enough to break the tie if we’re splitting hairs at the end of the season.

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