ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – When the Denver Broncos open their first set of organized team activities on Tuesday, it will be the first time the team’s decision-makers get to see their draft class in 11-on-11 situations.
And it will be the beginning of the evaluation process of the eight draft picks and where they land on the depth chart of the defending Super Bowl champions. Coach Gary Kubiak has said repeatedly “we feel like we have a good football team … and we think we helped ourselves get better.’’
There may not be that many roster spots open on a team that believes it can defend its title, but here’s where each of the eight draft picks could fit by the time each has navigated the OTAs, minicamp and training camp:
QB Paxton Lynch (first round): No less than executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway has said the Broncos believe Lynch can be ready to the team’s starter “sooner’’ than others. But look at his game video from college, see how he'd fit in the Broncos offense and the work he has to do to be the starter, and the most likely scenario is the Broncos play Mark Sanchez this season as part of their investment in Lynch over the long term. Former Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer may have put it best when he said, “If they take care of him he could be the guy for a long time.’’ Injuries could always change the timetable, but the Broncos figure to handle Lynch with care.
DL Adam Gotsis (second round): Gotsis, in comparison to many of his peers, was a fairly late arrival to American football – he is a native of Australia – but the Broncos see him in the rotation on the defensive line. His physical traits are rare: he's a 300-pounder who moves well and plays with upper-echelon power. He is a work in progress, but is expected to be fully recovered from ACL surgery he had last season by training camp and be working in the lineup by the regular season.
S Justin Simmons (third round): The Broncos want somebody to fill the role of David Bruton Jr., on defense and on special teams. Simmons doesn’t have Bruton’s top-end speed, but the Broncos see him as a coverage player in some of their specialty packages. Simmons will push for playing time, and Darian Stewart is in the final year of his deal in 2017.
RB Devontae Booker (fourth round): When all is said and done, Booker, along with Gotsis, could see the most playing time among the rookie class. The Broncos matched an $18 million offer sheet to keep C.J. Anderson as the team’s primary back, but Booker’s combination as a runner and receiver should put him in line to get plenty of snaps. He is expected to be back by June from knee surgery that cut his 2015 collegiate season short, so he will be on the field enough to carve out a role in the offense because he has the potential to play on third down right away and that gives him an edge.
G Connor McGovern (fifth round): McGovern is a powerful player with the movement skills the Broncos want on the depth chart in the offensive line. He has positional versatility because while he projects to be a guard in the NFL, he started games at both tackle spots at Missouri. The Broncos will look for two new starting guards this season – they cut Louis Vasquez early in the offseason and Evan Mathis moved on in free agency – so McGovern could battle his way into the mix. But he projects to play later rather than immediately.
FB Andy Janovich (sixth round): At the moment he’s the only guy at a position Kubiak has promised to use more in the offense. The fact the Broncos expended a draft pick on him shows how much they wanted him. He has some skills as a runner, but he’s a willing blocker, is a core special-teams player in waiting and has plenty of potential as a receiver. It will be a surprise if he's not a regular by the time the season rolls around.
S Will Parks (sixth round): He was one of the better tacklers among the safeties on the board, but the Broncos believe he could play either safety spot. But he’s going to have to force his way into the mix on special teams.
P Riley Dixon (seventh round): The Broncos used a draft pick on a punter – he was one of just three punters taken -- and are in search of salary cap space with a punter (Britton Colquitt) who is set to count $4 million against the cap. That puts Dixon squarely in the mix if the Broncos like what they see in the coming workouts and training camp.