The Denver Broncos (6-6) have a legitimate shot at the playoffs, but if the team wants to secure a wild card berth, the 2018 draft class is going to have to step up in a big way.

In the last month, the Broncos have lost Chris Harris Jr. with a broken fibula, Emmanuel Sanders with a torn achilles and a variety of other key contributors have been banged up as well. After also moving on from Demaryius Thomas and Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones, the Broncos will now be relying on an extremely young core to lead Denver to the postseason.

As Mike Klis noted, the Broncos will be starting six rookies in Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers, three on each side of the football.

Running back Phillip Lindsay will be starting in the backfield and both rookie wide receivers, Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton will be on the outside. On defense, Bradley Chubb and Josey Jewell will be starting as linebackers and Isaac Yiadom will be in the secondary.

The Broncos have already relied on its first-year players for most of the season so it is not as if the young guys will be asked to do something they are not prepared to handle, especially considering Denver’s favorable schedule in the final month. But inexperience can certainly be a factor in high-pressure scenarios, and with the Broncos looking to make a push for the playoffs, Denver is likely going to have a few of those in December.

We know that guys like Chubb, Lindsay and even Sutton are ready for this moment. If the Broncos want to be able to play football into January though, the other young players are going to need to keep pace.

After being limited by injuries for most of his rookie campaign, Hamilton is going to need to earn his keep and prove why the Broncos used a fourth round pick on the former Penn St. starter.

Obviously it would be crazy to hold Hamilton to the same standard as Sanders as No. 10 has been one of the most consistent wide receivers in the NFL since signing with Denver in 2014. Hamilton definitely needs to step up his production and help fill the void that Sanders’ injury leaves in the passing game though.

Defensively, Yiadom does not even belong in the same sentence as ‘Strap Harris’. That said, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound cornerback has shown promise this year and should not be written off prematurely.

Sunday’s contest against the 49ers will be the first of four tests for this inexperienced Broncos unit. Broncos Country will find out whether the rookies can step up and guide Denver to the playoffs for the first time since winning Super Bowl 50 or whether the injuries will be too much for the team to overcome.