Solid rookie seasons have Janovich and Dixon locked into starting positions

An effective draft class isn’t always finding a slam dunk franchise quarterback or future Hall of Fame player. Often, teams who find serviceable Pro Bowl-level players with its mid/late round draft picks that are crowned the “winners” of a draft.

As with any team sport, the importance of a particular position varies on the type of philosophy that a team adapts.

Even though the Denver Broncos didn’t turn many heads with the play of its early round draft selections from 2016, two rookies stood out among the rest: Andy Janovich and Riley Dixon.

Most people don’t even know who the fullback or punter is on their team and most groan and shake their heads if their team uses precious draft picks on one of these players.

But the importance of a solid punter and fullback in football cannot be overlooked.

One of the biggest pieces of the game of football is the constant battle for field position. Making other teams travel greater distances to score points is one way to easily take control of a game or wear a team out down the stretch.

Play calling, clock management and fatigue are just a handful of ways that a team can use field position to their advantage. And one of the best ways to capitalize on field position is having a great punter.

In 2016, Riley Dixon was selected in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. At the time, the Broncos had punter Britton Colquitt on the roster, but were looking to save money by replacing him with a cheaper option.

Dixon, despite preseason and training camp struggles, didn’t disappoint. Dixon’s total yards punted ranked 4th in the NFL, while averaging 45.7 yards/punt. For a team with offensive struggles, Dixon was tremendous in putting the Broncos’ defense in the best position to succeed by making offenses gain more yards to score.

Of course, Dixon wasn’t afraid to move the sticks himself either.

Fullback Andy Janovich caught the attention of fans’ and media alike with his impressive debut during the Broncos’ regular season opener against the Carolina Panthers.

An all-around football player, Janovich continued to be an effective blocker, runner and even contributed on special teams.

Unfortunately, Janovich was derailed by injuries as the season wore on. After playing through a broken hand, Janovich injured his ankle on the first play against the Kansas City Chiefs and was placed on injured reserve.

If Janovich can regain his pre-injury form, he would be a huge lift to the Broncos’ running game.

Rarely ever talked about and hardly in the spotlight, punters and fullbacks are incredibly underrated and sometimes two of a team’s biggest assets. Luckily for Denver, two late round fliers turned into serviceable starters who should continue to contribute to a team looking to improve from a 9-7 season.

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