Plenty of Broncos have had fantastic rookie seasons throughout the years. Running backs Clinton Portis, Mike Anderson, Olandis Gary, and Terrell Davis each broke the thousand-yard plateau in their freshman NFL campaigns. Von Miller bore fear into the hearts of opposing quarterbacks from his first snap, capping off his rookie year with the 2011 AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Even last season’s first-round pick, cornerback Bradley Roby, showcased his talent and played an integral role on defense.

Which rookie will step up this season?

The Broncos drafted center Max Garcia in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-4, 309-pound Garcia played left tackle for Maryland for two seasons before transferring to Florida. When the Gators entered 2014 without a starting center, Garcia volunteered, demonstrating the type of leadership and character that prompted John Elway to draft him.

The Broncos brought in center Gino Gradkowski this off-season to fill that position on the offensive line, but injuries or poor play could result in Garcia seeing his first in-game action or even starting. Playing left tackle before making the switch to center, Garcia provides the Broncos with depth across the offensive line. As made evident by left tackle Ryan Clady’s season-ending injury in May, offensive line depth will be very important for the Broncos.

Shane Ray, drafted by the Broncos with the 23rd pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, is expected by many to develop into Von Miller’s partner in crime. Ray was a potential top-5 pick going into the draft, racking up 14.5 sacks in final year at Missouri, but fell to the Broncos at 23 because of character concerns stemming mainly from a marijuana arrest.

Ray, the cover athlete of the current issue of Mile High Sports Magazine, has a quick first step and lofty ambitions.

“I don’t see anything less than Defensive Rookie of the Year. I mean that’s my goal,” Ray said via “I’ve always set high goals for myself, just like I did in college and that is something that I’m looking to prove, that I’m the best defensive rookie here.”

Ty Sambrailo, a former Colorado State standout, is a gifted athlete who moves well in space, ideal for the zone blocking system Denver is likely to run. Sambrailo was taken in the second round in 2015 with the hope that he would start the season as the Broncos’ starting right tackle.

Following Clady’s injury, the 6-foot-6 Sambrailo has been moved to left tackle and has taken first-team reps in the Broncos’ organized team activities. He is the rookie with the most important role, and therefore, the rookie who has a chance to make the biggest impact. Sambrailo must take advantage of the opportunity.

“We actually had a little scuffle in practice,” DeMarcus Ware said of Sambrailo via “He’s waking up. His aggressiveness is coming out. That’s what it’s about. When you’re playing that left tackle, you’ve got to let guys know that you’re that cornerstone of the offense. That’s what he’s doing.”

Karl Schmitz, the YouTube kicking sensation, was signed by the Broncos to compete for the position of punter and kickoff specialist. The 28-year-old hasn’t played more than one season of organized football, but posted impressive videos highlighting his talent to YouTube.

Schmitz might seem like a big risk, but he also has a chance to be a very big story.

So, which rookie will have the biggest impact?


Bryce Rudnick, a Mile High Sports intern and CU-Boulder student, contributed to this report