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What to expect from Denver’s rookie class in 2018

Zac Stevens Avatar
July 17, 2018

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Don’t sugar coat it; last year was forgettable for the Denver Broncos organization for countless reasons.

One of the most prominent reasons was their rookie class, or more specifically, the lack of an impact their rookie class had. This year, however, truly does look to be different.

Instead of one regular positive contributor like last year, Garett Bolles, the Broncos could look for a dramatic difference from this year’s class.

“I think between the draft evaluation and watching those guys in Phase 2 and Phase 3 [of the offseason conditioning program], it’s what we thought with most guys,” head coach Vance Joseph said about the new rookie class on the team’s final day of the offseason.

“Obviously with the offensive line and running backs, it’s hard to tell without pads, but our skill guys, our evaluation was right on those guys. We’ve got a bunch of young guys that should help us this year.”

Here’s the impact the 2018 draft class could realistically have this season.

OLB/DE Bradley Chubb (1st round)

The hype surrounding John Elway’s top-five pick has been real, at least during his first few months with the organization.

It didn’t matter whether Chubb was playing as a standup outside linebacker or with his hand in the dirt as a defensive end, he dominated the Broncos’ offensive line during OTAs and mini camp.

During the offseason, Chris Harris Jr. deemed Chubb a starter across from Von Miller, and if training camp and the preseason go similar to how the offseason went, this will certainly come true.

Double-digit sacks shouldn’t be out of Chubb’s reach during his rookie, and it’s not crazy to see a path to Chubb putting up numbers similar to what Von had his rookie season — 11.5 sacks and 50 tackles.

Production projection: 16 starts; 8 sacks; 50 tackles; 15 tackles for loss

WR Courtland Sutton (2nd round) and WR DaeSean Hamilton (4th round)

There are two opposing forces pulling against each other when it comes to projecting the rookie seasons of these two wide receivers.

On one hand, it’s traditionally very difficult for receivers to break into the NFL their rookie season.

On the other hand, both Sutton and Hamilton have done nothing but amaze in every phase of the game during the offseason. That, combined with the Broncos’ desperate need for one, or both, of them to step up into the third receiving role should lead to an impressive rookie campaign for the two.

The combination of the two rookies should see the field early and often during the season as they split time with each other as well as fill in for Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas.

Production projection (combined): 65 receptions; 700 receiving yards; 6 touchdowns

RB Royce Freeman (3rd round), RB David Williams (7th round) and Phillip Lindsay (UDFA)

This position is as wide open as any on the roster as the team enters training camp.

Heck, Williams and/or Lindsay could have a major impact this season or could be cut during the preseason. Freeman could easily be the team’s starting running back or could fall to third on the depth chart. To say the position is up for grabs in an understatement.

If Freeman shines, the starting job will eventually be his, whether that be Sept. 9 against the Seattle Seahawks or weeks down the line.

However, if Devontae Booker holds onto the starting job and does well, and De’Angelo Henderson becomes the playmaker of the group, these rookies could have a quiet year on the bench.

As of right now, however, it looks like they’ll be essential pieces to the backfield.

Production projection (combined): 190 carries; 765 rushing yards; 5 rushing touchdowns

CB Isaac Yiadom (3rd round)

If Yiadom sees significant playing time this season on defense, it either means really good things for the Broncos’ young corner out of Boston College, or it means really bad things from Denver’s cornerback group.

As it stands right now, Yiadom is the team’s fifth corner on the depth chart, behind Harris Jr., Bradley Roby, Tramaine Brock and Brendan Langley, in that order.

For 2018, Yiadom’s best, and most realistic, shot of seeing the field will be on special teams.

Production projection: Active in all 16 games

ILB Josey Jewell (4th round) and ILB Keishawn Bierria (6th round)

Elway hopes he drafted the future set of inside linebackers for the Broncos in Jewell and Bierria. But the key word in the general manager’s plan is “future.”

For 2018, Denver’s starting backers will be Todd Davis and Brandon Marshall. With plenty of safety talent to fill in at linebacker in coverage situations — specifically Su’a Cravens — it will be tough for Bierria to see the field his rookie season on defense.

Jewell could be used on a limited basis to give a breather to Davis or Marshall as he’s the more polished and well-rounded player of the two. Jewell seems to be a lock to make the team, while Bierria will need to beat out Zaire Anderson for the final inside backer spot, which Bierria likely has a leg up on.

Production projection (combined): 15 tackles with significant special teams contributions

TE Troy Fumagalli (5th round)

Fumagalli is the Broncos’ fifth Big Ten tight end currently on the roster. And as the lone rookie of the group, he’ll have to earn his playing time.

The rookie from Wisconsin didn’t practice during the entire offseason as he’s been recovering from sports hernia surgery he had back in the winter. By all indications, he should be ready for training camp.

With Jake Butt, Jeff Heuerman and Austin Traylor above him on the depth chart, it will be an uphill climb for the rookie to earn significant playing time in 2018. It’s not inconceivable he finishes the season with the second or third-most catches of the group, but the best bet for that would be 2019.

Production projection: Special teams contributor

OG Sam Jones (6th round)

The Colorado native’s first goal as a member of his childhood team is to focus on making the final 53-man roster.

With Menelik Watson and Connor McGovern battling for the starting right guard position, Jones is in a battle with former starting guard Max Garcia to be the team’s backup swing guard.

For 2018, Jones would need an injury or two to take the field along the offensive line, but his future track could be similar to the path his fellow teammate, and fellow fifth-round pick, McGovern has taken.

Production projection: Special teams contributor


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