ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – If you’re a Denver Broncos rookie, the numbers game in front of you will soon be clear.
As in the Broncos have won 38 games over the last three seasons, they have won the last four AFC West titles and their roster, despite the presence of one 39-year-old future Hall of Fame quarterback and a soon-to-be-33-year-old sack artist, is still fairly young with 33 players 25 or younger even before the 18 rookies were added this past weekend.
As in the Broncos are a playoff contender, a team that’s at least in the Super Bowl conversation, so roster spots will be difficult to come by.
Shane Ray, the Broncos’ first-round pick, is certain to have one if all goes as planned. Ray figures to be in the mix quickly in the defense as the Broncos work through the idea they have three edge rushers in Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and Ray. But it is Ware who will turn 33 just days into training camp this summer, so Ray will be in the mix quickly.
But down the board in the Broncos’ draft class, as in third-day picks, they’ll all have a chance to carve out a spot if they excel on special teams, but two players, in particular, to keep an eye on will be cornerback Lorenzo Doss and nose tackle Darius Kilgo.
Doss was the Broncos’ fifth-round pick and Kilgo was the team’s sixth-round pick this past weekend.
Each was singled out a bit in the post-draft discussion by Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway, which if you’re a rookie on a team that doesn’t need a full-scale makeover, is a good thing.
“Lorenzo Doss is a good corner with tremendous ball skills that’s going to come in and compete,’’ Elways said following the draft. “Darius Kilgo brings some size at the nose position. We really got some guys that can come in and compete.’’
At 5-foot-10 3/8-inches tall and 182 pounds, Doss falls into the category of a big cornerback. He was electronically timed at 4.50 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine and then ran a 4.49 at his pro day – he did run for the Tulane track team.
And when scouts look at cornerbacks they certainly love that kind of athleticism, but they have a special place in their hearts for those who pull footballs out of the sky. Doss had 15 interceptions in his career at Tulane, far more than many of the top defensive backs in this draft.
That total includes seven interceptions as a junior in 2013.
“I think my strength has been changing the game, changing possessions,’’ Doss said. “That’s one thing I’ve been able to take little steps with is giving the offense a great opportunity with the ball.’’
For his part Kilgo played a position in college the Broncos are on the hunt for in the new defense – nose tackle – and the strength of his game is the job that is considerably open at nose tackle and that’s an early down player against the run.
The Broncos believe Sylvester Williams and Marvin Austin Jr. can play nose tackle, but there is some thought the two may be better fits on passing downs or when the Broncos are in their specialty looks. Kilgo was considered a good fit for a team looking for an early down option who could play head up on the center.
“I think when we looked at him, we thought obviously he’s got great size and he’s long and he’s got some athleticism to him and he plays hard,’’ Elway said. “ … But we believe that he’s a guy that with what was left on the board, he was as good as there was on the board and our top-ranked nose at that point in time. So we think he can come in and compete.’’
Compete, yes, but there is a crowd for both of those players, all of the Broncos rookies beyond Ray, really, to work through to find a roster spot. The Broncos have three top-end cornerbacks in Chris Harris Jr., Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby while a fourth, Kayvon Webster, was a third-round pick in 2013.
With a 3-4 look on defense it’s also likely the Broncos would have just five defensive linemen active on gameday. Already the Broncos have six veteran players in Williams, Austin, Derek Wolfe, Malik Jackson, Vance Walker and Antonio Smith at the position who will be difficult to unseat.
“I’ve played nose tackle the last three years at [Maryland], so I have a lot of experience in that position,’’ Kilgo said. “So I definitely feel like I can come in, learn the system and definitely contribute immediately … Just taking advantage of the resources that the NFL and the Denver Broncos provide for me, I think I can definitely take full advantage of it and be able to contribute immediately.’’
It’s why the Broncos have an eye on their 10-man practice squad with many of their picks, but if the Broncos do want to add some additional youth to the roster and Doss and Kilgo perform as they hope, the two could force their way into the eventual roster decisions.