NFL Nation reporter Jeff Legwold assesses which rookies on the Broncos could earn a starting berth this season.
Why Ty Sambrailo could start: Sambrailo is already a starter in that when Ryan Clady suffered a season-ending torn ACL in an organized team activity in May, the Broncos tossed Sambrailo into the huddle to see if he was up to the challenge. Sambrailo, a former competitive freestyle skier, has the flexibility in his hips and the movement skills for the job, as well as the football intelligence to have dialed in on the team's new offense. Sambrailo was a second-round pick because the Broncos saw a player that fit their zone blocking scheme, and coach Gary Kubiak said Sambrailo was "ahead of the curve" in his understanding the game. Initially, the Broncos had hoped Sambrailo would have more time to improve his strength on the way to being a starter in 2016, but circumstances have started the clock sooner. Unless he stumbles unexpectedly in training camp, Sambrailo will start at left tackle this season.
Why Shane Ray could start: Ray was the hey-look-what-we-found pick for the Broncos in the first round of this year's draft. Ray, who was the No. 10 player on the team's draft board, slid down the round because, in part, of a toe injury he suffered in his final game at Missouri and a citation for possession of marijuana just days before the draft. The Broncos, however, after making the calls they felt they needed to, moved up five spots to the No. 23 pick to select Ray. He will immediately be in the rotation in pass-rush situations and used to spell DeMarcus Ware at times. So, "starting" could be semantics at times, but the Broncos have plans for Ray to play premium downs in important situations. They are already working on ways to have Ray, Ware and Von Miller in the formation at the same time. Also Ware, who will turn 33 at the end of July, led the Broncos' defensive linemen in snaps played last season -- 68.9 percent -- and the Broncos would like to monitor that number a little better this time around, and Ray will be a part of that solution.
Why Karl Schmitz could start: Schmitz is not your average rookie. First off, the kicker/punter has not played in a game since 2008, at Jacksonville University. Schmitz is 28 years old, a British citizen as a native of Bermuda, and the Broncos signed him after seeing him in a tryout camp for kickers earlier this year. The Broncos kept three kickers on the roster at the end of the 2014 season -- Brandon McManus to handle kickoffs, Connor Barth to kick field goals and Britton Colquitt as a punter. The Broncos would like to keep just two kickers this time around and see Schmitz as an option to punt and handle kickoffs -- he's also kicked field goals in workouts, but the Broncos want him to concentrate on punting. Barth does not have the leg strength to kick off the way the Broncos want it done and Colquitt has never done it. So, that leaves room for a long shot like Schmitz to make it. He will have to show more as a punter. Some of his work early in the team's offseason program was choppy, and that's to be expected from a player who has essentially worked out on his own for much of the past six years. But if he shows consistency and confidence in training camp, he could win the job.