Grading the Broncos rookies through three preseason games

Jul 28, 2018; Englewood, CO, USA; Denver Broncos wide receivers Courtland Sutton (14) and Corey Brown (5) and Isaiah McKenzie (16) during the first day of training camp at Paul D. Bowlen Memorial Broncos Centre. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Denver’s 2018 draft class is already viewed as one of its best in recent memory. The team will need for that to be the case if they want to bounce back from a disappointing 2017 season. Now three games into the 2018 preseason, the rookies are making impact plays for the Broncos and appear to be taking big roles from their veteran counterparts.

Day One: Grade: B+

Bradley Chubb was the Denver’s lone pick on the first day of the 2018 NFL Draft, and the rookie linebacker has certainly lived up to the hype so far. In Week 1 against the Vikings, Chubb was unable to record a sack, but he did pressure the quarterback frequently and made multiple plays against the run.

Against the Bears, Chubb had an even better performance, as he was able to record his first career sack/safety and led the team in tackles with four.

Going against perennial Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams, Chubb was limited in Friday night’s game against Washington and had a fairly quiet night, which was somewhat disappointing but he still made his presence felt by tying for the team-lead in hits on the quarterback. Considering who he was going against on the offensive line, Chubb’s performance should be satisfying for the Denver coaching staff.

Day Two: Grade: A

Philip Lindsay may prove to be the Broncos’ greatest steal, but wide receiver Courtland Sutton is giving him a run for his money. The SMU standout has impressed with a variety of ridiculous catches in training camp and the rookie wide receiver had his best game yet against Washington.

Running back Royce Freeman continued his touchdown streak with a 24-yard scamper up the middle Friday. More importantly, Freeman split many of the first-team carries with Booker and was easily the more impressive back of the two. If Freeman does not have the job locked up by Week 1, he will have it soon after.

Out of the Day 2 picks, cornerback Isaac Yiadom has had the worst preseason. It has not necessarily been bad, but it has definitely not been good either. He has been beaten several times by more talented and experienced receivers, but in most instances, his coverage has been strong. Despite Yiadom’s middling efforts, the Broncos’ Day 2 class appears to feature two offensive cornerstones for the future.

Day Three: Grade: B

Despite being undersized, the Broncos found another potential starter in linebacker Josey Jewell, who has looked incredibly instinctive and has shown impressive reaction time this August.

Offensively, as Sutton looks to replace Demaryius Thomas as the Broncos’ primary red zone target, DaeSean Hamilton will look to replace Sanders on the other side. Entering the draft, Hamilton was widely viewed as the top slot receiver in the draft but fell due to his size. Hamilton has looked fantastic in camp so far and should take over the slot duties sooner rather than later.

Fellow fifth-round pick, tight end Troy Fumagalli will likely be buried behind Butt on the depth chart. Jones should make the team as a backup guard but hasn’t stood out in preseason action. Linebacker Keishawn Bierria, and running back David Williams may find themselves as the odd men out in crowded positions groups. The Broncos may have missed on Williams and Bierria, but managed to find a solid contributor in Fumagalli, and two potential future starters in Hamilton and Jewell.

Undrafted College Free Agents: Grade: A-

The Broncos signed nine undrafted college free agents after the 2018 NFL Draft. Of the nine, edge rusher Jeff Holland, running back Philip Lindsay, and linebacker A.J. Johnson have the best odds of making the final roster.

Lindsay took multiple snaps with the starters Friday night making it a possibility he will be the Denver’s starting third-down back this season. Before Lindsay came out of nowhere, Holland was seen as the Broncos’ most promising undrafted college free agent though. The Auburn edge rusher could be a replacement for Shane Ray if he departs after this season. Lastly, you have A.J. Johnson who has not played in three years, but has the talent level to be a starting caliber linebacker. Johnson has not done much in the preseason but the amount of money he has guaranteed and relatively high ceiling should earn him a spot on the final roster.

The Broncos 2018 draft class looks to be among the top of the league. In every portion of the draft, Elway was not only able to find future starters but first-year contributors. It is good to remember that it’s only the preseason and that all of these players could bust in real play. Heck, Browns’ burnout Brandon Weeden would be a first ballot preseason Hall of Famer(Pat who?). However, it’s impossible to not see the high potential of the players in this draft, and the value the Broncos got from their selections.

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