The Denver Broncos did a good job in the 2014 NFL Draft addressing needs while also getting some good values. For a team that’s already stacked with marquee veteran names on a Super Bowl-caliber roster, there’s a good chance a few of their rookies could see some early playing time this fall.
After watching the defensive debacle in the Broncos back-seven in the championship game, there will be high hopes for first round CB Bradley Roby (Ohio State) to come in and play right away. He certainly has the athleticism and speed to make an impact right away, but he’s still incredibly raw and undisciplined in his reads. For all the unbelievably good plays he made in college, he would give up just as many.
Roby will be a good schematic fit in DC Jack Del Rio’s aggressive defense, which calls for corners to be able to play both press and man at a high level. Roby can do that. There’s no denying his potential and upside, but fans will need to have patience in letting him develop. I imagine he’ll start the season as the teams’ nickel back, but with some maturation and development during the season, he could be a starter opposite Aqib Talib by seasons end.
Second rounder Cody Latimer (WR, Indiana) could also potentially make an impact this season, but like Roby, is very raw and needs some seasoning. But also like Roby, Latimer has a very impressive physical skill set with good upside, so how early he can make an impact will depend on how fast he can pick up the offense. He’ll be a little bit behind the 8-ball early on as he’s still recovering from a broken foot, and Denver has a deep stable of receivers, so I expect him to see more and more playing time as the season progresses.
With RT Orlando Franklin moving inside to guard, third round OT Michael Schofield (Michigan) could step into the starting lineup sooner rather than later. Schofield is a strong run blocker who plays with good leverage and technique and has the footwork to defend the edge. He’s also a heady player who makes good reads on blitzes, so his maturation speed could be quicker than most rookie linemen.
Middle linebacker is a relatively thin area for the Broncos, so fifth rounder Lamin Barrow (LSU) could also work himself into the rotation sooner rather than later. He has solid range, good instincts, natural leadership skills and a plethora of experience playing in the SEC, so he could very well make an impact in the middle of Denvers defense this fall. Nate Irving is in the last year of his rookie deal and has largely underwhelmed thus far, so John Fox and co. will likely give Barrow every opportunity in the world to win the job in camp.