The Denver Broncos are one of the most feared teams within the NFL because of Peyton Manning and the offense he runs, but the Broncos have also done a nice job of bringing in and sculpting talent in the draft.
Through three years of the John Fox era the Broncos have gone defense with their first pick and offense with their second pick in each of the three years, now the question is how are they playing?
For brevity's sake (since I could talk about these drafts for thousands of words) I will ignore anyone that has not played this year, but will list picks that are still on the team.
2012 Broncos Draft Class
Round 2 (36) Derek Wolfe, DL: Wolfe is getting a lot of good run already in Denver in year three, playing 60 percent of snaps for the Broncos. He’s in there to provide a rugged, run-stopping force along the Broncos defensive line and has done that, even though teams do not run a lot against the Broncos. I felt like he played his most effective game against Seattle, but he will give Bobby Massie a good test in run blocking.
Round 2 (57) Brock Osweiler, QB: Duh. He's not Manning
Round 3 (67) Ronnie Hillman, RB: Hillman is on my list because he played 14 snaps against the Seahawks where he did a whole lot of nothing. Thanks for burning words, Hillman.
If Hillman does play against the Cardinals, it will likely be in passing situations, as he either ran a route or pass blocked on 12 of his 14 snaps.
He’s been a disappointment. There isn't much more to say than that.
Round 4 (101) Omar Bolden, CB: The former ASU corner is getting his time on special teams where he has shown up a couple of times.
Round 5 (137) Malik Jackson, DL: Through three games, Jackson is playing nearly half of the snaps, and has been playing well in his snaps.
He consistently has been getting a nice push in the pass game, but like Wolfe, is better against the run, and just has not gotten the chance to show it. He’ll be a nice test for Jonathan Cooper if he starts, or more solid play will be needed from Ted Larsen to slow down Jackson.
Round 6 (188) Danny Trevathan, LB: Cheating slightly, Trevathan has not played in 2014 due to a fractured tibia, but he was a force in the running game in 2013, and if healthy poses a good test for the Cardinals run game.
2013 Broncos Draft Class
Round 1 (28) Sylvester Williams, DT: Part of a fearsome defensive line rotation has been the odd man out of sorts this year, playing in 39% of the defensive snaps so far. He has not been the wrecking ball the Broncos wanted, and can be run at fairly efficiently.
Round 2 (58) Montee Ball, RB: The workhorse back for the Broncos, Ball has been hit or miss through three games of the young NFL season, but he brings a nice, consistent ability to run between the tackles, and can move outside if he needs too.
Has been a small threat out of the backfield, but he’ll get the bulk of the carries if they decide to run the ball, which they will a little.
Round 3 (90) Kayvon Webster, CB: A surprise pick when it was made, Webster has lost snaps in Year 2 because the Broncos have brought in so much talent in the secondary.
Webster has only played 14 snaps so far and gave up two catches in two targets. Barring injury, he will not be a big player in the game it looks like.
Round 5 (146) Quanterus Smith, DE: Smith was one of my personal favorite prospects in the 2013 draft because of his pass rush ability upside, but through three games, he has not been completely effective, even if it is his rookie season.
He’s coming in in pass rushing downs and getting to pin his ears back and go after the quarterback. We’ll see if that continues in Game 4 against the Cardinals, but through three games his snaps have been consistent.
2014 Broncos Draft Class
Round 1 (31) Bradley Roby, DB: Roby is getting a lot of burn as a first round pick, playing 77 percent of the team's defensive snaps, and has looked excellent for a rookie through three games. He’s being move around quite a bit through a couple of weeks, but he has looked better when playing outside, at least to me.
I think if he’s in the slot, he could be vulnerable, matched up on the outside and he is able to use his athleticism.
Round 2 (56) Cody Latimer, WR
Round 3 (95) Michael Schofield, OL
Round 5 (156) Lamin Barrow, LB: He played 11 snaps in his first game work of the season, but has played on specials though, against the Seahawks. Noticeably unnoticeable in his snaps, had to search to make sure I found him. It's not a bad thing for a fifth rounder -- he didn’t hurt the Broncos when he was out there.
Round 7 (242) Corey Nelson, LB: Two snaps, but he made the roster as a seventh round pick.
The Broncos have a done a nice job of stacking talent, even if they are not making as big of an impact as they’d like, but it should make the transition post Manning a little smoother than what the Colts went through year one post-Manning.
I have been extremely impressed with the way the Broncos staff have value impact defensive players late in rounds to pair with their high end starting talent early.
They need Ball to become a more consistent threat in the run game and Williams and Wolfe need to continue to grow, but so far, the results are good.