ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos’ secondary picked up a new addition on Saturday.

Denver selected Boise State safety JL Skinner, 22, in the sixth round of the NFL Draft. Skinner was a two-year starter and two-time all-conference performer in college and developed a reputation as the Mountain West’s biggest hitter. At 6-foot-4 and more than 200 pounds, that should come as no surprise.

He’s excited to join the Broncos’ defensive backfield.

“I know those guys; I’ve looked at them,” Skinner said on Saturday. “Pat Surtain was one of my favorite corners when he came out at that moment. Looking at that guy, being able to pick his brain and learn from all those guys inside the room right now—I’m excited to really get up there and pick those guys—those veteran guys—brains, for sure.”

Could one of those veteran guys be Kareem Jackson? With 13 years of starting experience, including the last four in Denver, the 35-year-old could be a great mentor for Skinner.

“We’re open with Kareem,” general manager George Paton said after the draft concluded. “The talks are ongoing. We’re speaking with Kareem and his agent, so we’re open.”

As it stands now, the Broncos have six safeties on their roster:

  • Justin Simmons
  • Caden Sterns
  • JL Skinner
  • PJ Locke
  • Dellarin Turner-Yell
  • Devon Key

The Broncos are extremely unlikely to keep more than five on the roster. If Jackson returns, he would compete with Locke and Turner-Yell for the final two spots. Key is probably on the outside looking in.

Two pieces will factor into the equation: Who can help on defense? And who can help on special teams?

Jackson is unlikely to play any special teams, but he’d give the Broncos a high floor at the second safety spot next to Justin Simmons. But if the Broncos trust Sterns, Skinner and the rest to provide starting-caliber play and not be a leak in an otherwise playoff-ready defense, they may choose to keep players who can help one of the worst special teams units in the league from a year ago.

Expecting Skinner, a sixth-round rookie, to be ready to play for a top-notch NFL defense sounds like a stretch, but Skinner isn’t your typical sixth-rounder.

“I tore my pec before the combine—about two days before the combine,” Skinner said. “That’s the reason why a drop may have happened, but I don’t really consider a drop. I consider it me being placed into the correct hands. The Denver Broncos are the correct hands for me and I’m excited to be out there.”

And that torn pec shouldn’t factor into this season.

“I’m actually ahead (in my recovery),” Skinner said. “I’m running and doing everything right now—lifting and doing all that stuff. So, not too far. I’m about a month out from my full expected recovery to be fully cleared, but I’m back doing all my normal activities—my normal things every day. It’s been good.”

Paton didn’t expect Skinner to be around that late in the draft.

“I think the injury did impact where he was drafted,” he said. “We felt very fortunate to get him where we did.”

But draft value only matters in April. The test for Skinner will be proving he can be more than a special teams player for the Broncso this season.

“The first thing you see is the size,” Paton said. “He’s almost 6’4’. Then the athletic ability for that size, we thought was unique. The short-area quickness, the range and you see the ball skills on tape. The thing that really sticks out is his physicality and playing downhill the run game. You see that all over the tape. He’s a fun watch.”

Regardless, the team is open to bringing Jackson back for training camp.


Henry was born in Columbia Falls, Montana and graduated from Columbia Falls High School in 2015. He earned bachelor's degrees in journalism and economics from the University of Montana in 2019. After graduation, he joined DNVR. He spent three years covering the University of Colorado before moving to the Broncos beat ahead of the 2022 season. Henry joined DNVR as a remote staff writer in 2017, providing support to BSN's Broncos beat reporters. He interned at DNVR headquarters in the summer of 2018 and accepted a full-time position after graduating from UM. Follow Henry on Twitter - @HenryChisholm