Ranking Pat Surtain II, Javonte Williams, Whole Draft Class on Rookie Year’s Potential Impact – Sterling Journal-Advocate
Last year, 14 Broncos rookies combined to play 4,939 snaps, the fourth most in the NFL. Denver relied on the youngsters as wide receiver (Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler), center (Lloyd Cushenberry) and cornerback (Michael Ojemudia).
The projections are very different for this year’s 10-man draft class.
Only one rookie – cornerback Pat Surtain II – could start Sept. 12 with the New York Giants, and up to four may not be part of the original 53-man roster.
As training camp begins on July 27, here’s our ranking in terms of rookie year impact for the Broncos Draft Class:
1. RB Javonte Williams (round 2)
Five rookies finished in the top 20 for rushing yards last year, including Jonathan Taylor of Indianapolis (third at 1,169) and James Robinson of Jacksonville (tied for fifth at 1,070). Melvin Gordon’s presence may keep Williams from reaching 1,000 yards, but once he gets used to the NFL Running Back job description, Williams will be around the 800-yard mark and lead the Broncos in the race.
2. CB Pat Surtain II (1)
Surtain, the ninth overall pick, could be the Broncos’ best cornerback at the start of the season – that’s how mind-blowing his game in Alabama was and how up-to-date he seemed to be during the offseason schedule. . If Surtain is in fact a quick study, it will be interesting to see how coach Vic Fangio uses him, especially against an opponent’s top receiver.
3. S Jamar Johnson (5)
Placing Johnson, the Broncos’ sixth draft pick (No.164), ahead of the others is a nod to his skills on the pitch, a trait this defense needs. He had seven interceptions in 31 games for Indiana, including four in eight games last year. If he shows he can cover, Johnson could become an option in a subset cover role.
4. LB Baron Browning (3)
Browning was drafted at No.105 and presented as an inside linebacker option. But a lower leg injury kept him off the training ground for the entire offseason schedule… then Fangio said Browning could train with both the outside and inside linebackers. If Justin Strnad shows he’s ready to cover effectively from an inside spot, Browning could move outside to provide some peak depth.
5. C Quinn Meinerz (3)
Division III starter at NFL Week 1? A big request for a player whose 2020 season has been canceled. But the Broncos are promoting the center as an open competition between Cushenberry (didn’t miss a shot last year) and Meinerz (No. 98 pick). He’s positioned at No.5 because we expect Cushenberry to start against the Giants.
6. S Caden Stern (5)
Sterns and Johnson could go head-to-head to start alongside Justin Simmons in 2022. For this year, however, Sterns is expected to be on the initial roster if he’s capable of special teams.
7. DL Marquis Spencer (7)
Listed at 6-foot-4, 295 pounds, didn’t immediately make Spencer, the Broncos’ final selection (No. 253), a player on the practice squad. The Broncos have an uncertain depth to play a stopping role, a place Spencer could grab with a solid performance in the preseason. He had eight tackles for lost yardage last year for Mississippi State.
8. OLB Jonathon Cooper (7)
A post-draft cardiac procedure prevented Cooper from participating in team exercises. He had 3 1/2 sacks for Ohio State last year and the Broncos are looking for some edge depth behind Bradley Chubb, Von Miller and Malik Reed. If Cooper is unable to catch up with the competition at camp, he will slip into the practice squad.
9. WR Seth Williams (6)
The Broncos have 15 receivers under contract – 16.7% of their current roster – and Williams will start training camp behind Jeudy, Hamler, Courtland Sutton (No. 1 receiver), Tim Patrick, Tyrie Cleveland and returner Diontae Spencer … and maybe some others. Williams (the 219th pick) will get plenty of pre-season snaps to show coaching staff there may be an option called out by the in-season practice squad.
10. CB Kary Vincent (7)
Vincent ran the 40-yard sprint in 4.33 seconds on LSU Pro Day, so the Broncos used the 237th pick (their first of three on lap seven) to build up his speed. But he also had six interceptions in three years for the Tigers. If Vincent plays for the Broncos’ defense in key situations, it will be due to multiple injuries.