This dysfunctional Broncos season has brought one significant positive to light in the bye week.
Denver’s 2018 rookie draft class is developing toward a runaway success.
Of the Broncos’ 10 selections back in April, four now have starting experience — linebacker Bradley Chubb, wide receiver Courtland Sutton, running back Royce Freeman and linebacker Josey Jewell — while just one pick, seventh-round running back David Williams, is no longer on the roster. And, the jury is still out on fifth-round tight end Troy Fumagalli, sidelined on injured reserve since September with a groin injury.
The Broncos overall rookie success is no fluke based on a 3-6 record, either. Several first-year players, including undrafted running back Phillip Lindsay, have carved their niche as the foundation of Denver’s long-term plans.
“They are our guys right now. We’ve got seven or eight rookies in major, major roles,” coach Vance Joseph said. “If they play good, we win, so it’s not a balancing act. They are playing. They are our headliners right now. They’ve got to play well. They have no choice.”
Here is a closer look at how the Broncos’ 2018 rookie draft class has performed through their first nine NFL games.
LB Bradley Chubb
Round (selection): First (No. 5)
Key statistics: Played 461 defensive snaps (77.6 percent) and three special teams snaps … Appeared in all nine games … Recorded 30 tackles, nine tackles for loss, eight sacks, 11 quarterback hits, one pass deflection and one forced fumble. … Penalized three times for 15 yards.
Quotable: “I’m just trying to go out there and not think as much as I was in the beginning of the season, just being the player that they drafted. That player wasn’t thinking … he was just out there playing, having fun and that’s what I’m trying to do now. I feel like it’s been successful.” — Chubb
Bottom line: Chubb is a legitimate candidate for defensive rookie of the year after exploding for 6.5 sacks over his last four games — putting him on pace to break the rookie sack record (14.5, Jevon Kearse). If Denver can learn to play with leads late, watch out, because Chubb is proving among the most NFL-ready players in the entire 2018 draft.
Second-half projection: Chubb will continue to pair mostly with Von Miller on the edges, especially on third downs, allowing him to flourish in clear passing situations. Chubb has effectively passed Shaq Barrett and Shane Ray as the team’s second best option at outside linebacker behind Miller.
WR Courtland Sutton
Round (selection): Second (No. 40)
Key statistics: Played 432 offensive snaps (70.9 percent) and 27 snaps on special teams (10.2 percent). … Appeared in all nine games. … Recorded 20 receptions for 381 yards and two touchdowns. … Penalized four times for 35 yards.
Quotable: “I never look at individual victories. We’re all a team. If we don’t come out with the win, that’s the only stat that matters in my book. I can have the best game ever, and if we lose, to me that’s the only thing that matters. We have to find a way to capitalize and find a way to get the Ws.” — Sutton
Bottom line: Sutton was undervalued as a second-round pick with rare explosive play-making ability on deep balls. There is much left to prove, including sharpened intermediate route running, to validate Sutton’s role as a well-rounded NFL wideout. But he’s on course to become a special talent for Denver.
Second-half projection: Trading Demaryius Thomas to Houston puts Sutton in the spotlight. His touches will increase with more bubble screens, underneath routes and possibly end-around runs. Don’t be surprised to see Sutton become quarterback Case Keenum’s favorite target down the stretch.
RB Royce Freeman
Round (selection): Third (No. 71)
Key statistics: Played 163 offensive snaps (26.8 percent). … Missed the previous two games with an ankle injury, but is expected to return versus the Chargers in Week 11. … Recorded 71 carries for 309 yards and four touchdowns. … Caught four passes for 21 yards. … No penalties.
Quotable: “You can’t think about (being a rookie) too much. You just go out there and execute like you do in practice. We have a lot of veterans on this team who do a good job of coaching us. They’ve seen a lot. It’s good to have them as leaders.” — Freeman
Bottom line: When healthy, Freeman delivers the Broncos’ most powerful inside runner with elusiveness and speed to break the big play. His wealth of experience at Oregon makes him unlike most rookie running backs in the league as someone Denver can trust with a variety of tasks.
Second-half projection: Freeman will continue to split carries with Lindsay as proven one-two punch. A healthy return in Los Angeles would be a step forward in an otherwise successful rookie campaign. Freeman must continue to improve his pass blocking with the Broncos often struggling to keep Keenum upright.
CB Isaac Yiadom
Round (selection): Third (No. 99)
Key statistics: Played 70 defensive snaps (11.8 percent) and 92 snaps on special teams (34.7 percent). … Appeared in seven games. … Recorded nine tackles. … Penalized once for 15 yards.
Quotable: “He’s trying to just find his way. It’s going into the game. He had no idea he was going to play against the Ravens, you know what I mean? He suited up and if he has a chance, he gets ready to go. It’s hard coming off the bench like that. I think he’s doing a great job for the role and the situations that he’s been put in.” — Cornerback Chris Harris.
Bottom line: The Broncos expected Yiadom to play mostly special teams this season, but cornerback depth forced him into big defensive situations versus the Ravens and Jets. The learning curve is clear. Yiadom has the physical tools to possibly develop into a starting defensive back. He’s not there yet.
Second-half projection: If cornerbacks Adam Jones and Tramaine Brock can stay healthy, Yiadom’s role will stick mostly with coverage units on special teams. But injuries are inevitable and it’s likely he’ll be thrown into the fire again this year. There’s no better teacher than experience.
LB Josey Jewell
Round (selection): Fourth (No. 106)
Key statistics: Played 221 defensive snaps (37.2 percent) and 218 snaps on special teams (82.3 percent). … Appeared in all nine games. … Recorded 25 tackles, three tackles for loss and one pass deflection. … No penalties.
Quotable: “It’s just doing your job, plain and simple. There isn’t much to it or beyond that. Getting off blocks, staying in your gaps and not trying to do too much.” — Jewell
Bottom line: Linebacker Brandon Marshall’s lingering knee issue, paired with Jewell’s maturity after 43 college starts, allowed him a larger role than some might have expected entering the year. Jewell hasn’t been perfect, especially in coverage, but his football IQ allows him to consistently be in the right place at the right time.
Second-half projection: Marshall’s health status will likely improve after the bye week, but even if Jewell doesn’t start moving forward, he’ll be a regular rotational linebacker. Jewell should only get better with time as he adjusts to NFL game speed and scheme with increased snaps.
WR DaeSean Hamilton
Round (selection): Fourth (No. 113)
Key statistics: Played 101 offensive snaps (16.6 percent) and 93 snaps on special teams (35.1 percent). … Missed the last two games with a knee injury. … Recorded three catches for 44 yards … Returned three punts for 31 yards. … No penalties.
Quotable: “The thing about DaeSean, he plays every position. He’s the next guy in any time we have to put him in. That’s definitely value when you’re a young guy. He’s not a Z, slot or X, he can play all three positions. He’s a great route runner and he’s got a really, really mature football IQ. If he’s in the football game, I feel good about DaeSean.” — Coach Vance Joseph
Bottom line: Hamilton’s footwork and route running is beyond his years, but has just one game with a reception. The emergence of fellow wide receiver Tim Patrick, Denver’s wealth of talent at the position and injury have limited Hamilton’s early impact. But the Broncos remain high on his potential.
Second-half projection: The Thomas trade should reverberate down the depth chart to allow more touches for Hamilton moving forward.
OL Sam Jones
Round (selection): Sixth (No. 183)
Key statistics: Played zero snaps. … Dressed on the active roster at Arizona in Week 7.
Quotable: “Sam’s a good football player or we wouldn’t have drafted him. He does everything right. … We just have to get him ready and make sure he’s confident and calm.” — Joseph
Bottom line: By mid-October, injuries up front gave Jones his first shot at playing time when he suited up at the Cardinals. It didn’t happen, but Denver’s trust in the Colorado native stems from an athletic 6-foot-5, 305-pound build and a still-developing skill set.
Second-half projection: If Max Garcia, Connor McGovern, Elijah Wilkinson or Billy Turner also get the injury bug, it should put Jones one step closer to playing time. He practiced at both guard slots and center during training camp.
LB Keishawn Bierria
Round (selection): Sixth (No. 217)
Key statistics: Played four defensive snaps and 167 snaps on special teams (63 percent). … Appeared in all nine games. … Recorded one tackle. … Penalized once for 10 yards.
Quotable: “One of my coaches always told me that special teams is the soul of the team. If you do a great job on special teams, it doesn’t matter if it’s offense or defense, you’re going to have a good opportunity to win that game and also have a great season. I just see it as I’m paying my dues.” — Bierria
Bottom line: Bierra received his first live-game snaps at inside linebacker versus the Texans, but has been utilized mostly on special teams. Bierria also brings maturity after starting 43 games in college.
Second-half projection: Depth concerns at Bierria’s position should give him more opportunities on defense, especially if Jewell is unable to play.
Note from WSOE.Org : This content has been auto-generated from a syndicated feed.