As training camps begin around the National Football League, I continue my look at the potential impact rookies will have for their respective teams in 2014. The Denver Broncos are the team up. The Broncos were arguably the best regular season team last year behind their high-octane offense, but they got absolutely destroyed in the Superbowl. This team spent big money in free agency to secure proven assets especially on defense, but knew they needed to pad the depth chart in the 2014 NFL draft. Each pick of the Broncos will be graded on a scale of one to ten. One is a player with little to no impact this season and a ten is an immediate high impact player. The Broncos made six selections in the 2014 NFL draft.
Bradley Roby (Cornerback) – 1st round (Pick 31)
Roby has all the makings to be a solid defender for the Broncos. He has superb ball skills and good size for the position. Roby does a great job of keeping pace with the receiver and always being there to put up a fight for the ball. For a corner he does a great job of wrapping up tackles, showing some reckless abandonment on the field. Bradley plays with a passion on the field and will do anything he can to contribute to this squad. Roby could stand to bulk up strength wise to keep himself honest with the bigger style pass catchers. Bradley also must keep his head on straight and stay out of trouble, which shouldn’t be a huge issue on Peyton Manning’s team. Expect Roby to immediately start at the nickel corner spot all season.
Impact Projection: 7 out of 10
Cody Latimer (Wide Receiver) – 2nd round (Pick 56)
Latimer is an interesting prospect. He has the right measures (6’2”, 215 lbs) to be a solid target and is well-rounded overall as a receiver. He lacks elite athleticism to be a burner or down field threat, but has great hands and is a pure possession receiver. His route running and release from defenders needs to improve for him to be effective in the NFL. Expect that to improve quickly with his quarterback. Latimer will need to show serious strides to prove he is a better option than Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, and Emmanuel Sanders to get serious playing time. Latimer is likely to serve as the 4th pass catcher in wide shotgun sets. Even with this deep receiving core expect him to make a few plays this season.
Impact Projection: 5 out of 10
Michael Schofield (Offensive Tackle) – 3rd round (Pick 95)
Schofield is a great competitor with a quick first step off the line. He plays well in the run game, but leaves much to be desired in the passing game. Mike struggles with faster more athletic edge rushers and often gets over run by anyone with a two move arsenal. Schofield will have to show he can improve his pass protection skills and mechanics to get a real shot at protecting the sheriff. Expect a near full-time back up role unless the injury bug bites this season.
Impact Projection: 3 out of 10
Lamin Barrow ( Linebacker) – 5th round (Pick 156)
Barrow is a small framed athletic linebacker with some raw skills. He isn’t as quick as he should be for his size, and often gets caught up when blitzing. Barrow is more of a roaming linebacker with his ability to float sideline to sideline and chase down ball carriers. The biggest issue is his lack of play making skills. He doesn’t make many plays on the ball, or behind the line of scrimmage. He tackles and pursues well. That is the mark of a special teams contributor, what he will likely be for the Broncos before earning any significant playing time.
Impact Projection: 4 out of 10
Matthew Paradis (Center) – 6th round (Pick 207)
Paradis is a hard-working, high motor and high character player who will be a great locker room presence. As a lineman he does a solid job of driving the block and burying defenders. However his average athleticism and limited room to grow physically doesn’t leave a high ceiling for Paradis. If Matthew improves his strength as a blocker and his ability to take on more imposing defenders he could find a role as a backup lineman for this squad.
Impact Projection: 2 out of 10
Corey Nelson (Linebacker) – 7th round (Pick 242)
Nelson is another small framed athletic linebacker. He is also in the mold of a special teams contributor, doing his best work just roaming free to make a tackle. However his tackling skills must improve for Nelson to stick on the roster. Health is also a concern for Nelson who struggled to stay healthy at the University of Oklahoma. If he sticks on the roster it will be a special teams member.
Impact Projection: 2 out of 10
The Broncos made most of their big moves in free agency with the additions of DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, and T.J. Ward to add some much-needed help to the defense. However with the addition of Roby, a high impact rookie, as well as Latimer, puts the Broncos in a good place on the depth chart. These two will likely be the stars of this class for Denver. The rest of the Denver Broncos 2014 rookie class is likely to fight tooth and nail to remain a part of this team for the long-term, but don’t be shocked to see a few make the leap.
Look for the Detroit Lions rookie projections soon! Joe Kleine is also co-host of thefinsradio.com show The Direct Snap, alongside fellow PhinPhanatic and Rant Sports writer Tyler McMullen (also on facebook search Tyler McMullen – Rant Sports). Please check out our facebook at www.facebook.com/theofficialdirectsnap or check us out on Twitter at the handle, @Direct_Snap. Our free to listen show about the NFL is on blogtalkradio.com/finsradio is coming back July 26th, live 8:30 PM Eastern time, be sure to give us a shout!