Denver Broncos Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Devontae Booker, RB, Utah – Round 4
If it it weren’t for issues with learning the playbook, Booker would have been a second-round pick. Teams really love his skill set with the ability to hurt defenses on the ground using speed, power and physicality. Booker also showed skills to contribute as a receiver in the Utes’ passing game. Thus, he has the ability to develop into a three-down starter as a professional.

The big negative for Booker was teams thought he would struggle to learn the playbook. He had problems with that at Utah, and sources said that it was so bad teammates had to explain to him what direction to run in the huddle. Thus, Booker could have problems seeing the field early in his career until he has his playbook down. Learning blitz protection will be especially vital to Booker becoming a starter.

Denver was a great landing spot for Booker. Gary Kubiak runs a simplified offense with zone runs that fit Booker’s running style. Kubiak also doesn’t ask a tremendous amount from his backs in the passing game. Given Booker’s mental limitations, I think it could take him a few years to become a starter. Kubiak just won the Super Bowl and is developing a new quarterback, so he has plenty of time and is not on the hot seat. Thus, Denver should have continuity in schemes for Booker for many years to come and he can learn the playbook gradually to develop into a solid starter.

Most Likely To Bust

Justin Simmons, S, Boston College – Round 3
Prior to 2016 NFL Draft, sources from multiple teams told me that they had a late-round grade on Simmons. Obviously, the Broncos had him graded higher so they would disagree, but numerous teams thought that Simmons was a serious reach on the second day of the draft. I wouldn’t be surprised if Simmons ends up disappointing in Denver.

Simmons had problems in pass coverage in college, and that is why other teams had him graded later than where Denver took him. The 6-foot-2, 202-pounder had some good workouts leading up to the draft, and those helped to improve his draft grade. Sources said that they felt those workouts caused some teams to devalue the tape. They feel that Simmons could get picked on in pass coverage by quality receivers.

Denver needed some competition and depth at safety, so Simmons landed in a decent position group to earn playing time. T.J. Ward is firmly ahead of Simmons, but the Broncos have other talent at the position. Simmons should make the team as a backup and special teams contributor, but I could see him not developing beyond that and being a bust for Denver.

Potential Boom Pick

Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis – Round 1
Prior to the 2016 NFL Draft, I reported that the Broncos were making calls to gauge a trade up for Lynch. They followed through on that with a trade with the Seahawks, and Denver could have the makings of its next franchise quarterback. The 6-foot-7, 244-pound Lynch has a tremendous skill set with a ton of talent for John Elway and Gary Kubiak to develop.

Lynch is coming to a great situation. He doesn’t have to play right away, but if he does, there is tons of talent around him. He has a true No. 1 receiver in Demaryius Thomas, other talented wideouts like Emmanuel Sanders, a quality running game led by C.J. Anderson, and a decent offensive line. As if that wasn’t enough, the Broncos also have one of the best defenses in the NFL that will make his task easier in terms of point production.

Offensively, Lynch has great size, a powerful arm that can make all the throws, and quality mobility. Kubiak loves the play-action bootleg, and Lynch is a perfect fit for those plays. While Lynch has a lot to learn from an X’s and O’s standpoint coming from a college spread offense, Kubiak’s scheme isn’t overly complex and Lynch should be able to pick it up. There is huge upside with Lynch, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he is a boom for Denver.

Future Depth Player

Connor McGovern, G, Missouri – Round 5
The Broncos had some injuries hit their offensive line last year, so adding depth made sense. McGovern was a quality selection for that purpose in the fifth round, and many thought he would go higher. At Missouri, McGovern (6-4, 306) played some tackle, so he has versatility. In the NFL, McGovern should be a guard who is cross-trained at center. Being an interior backup with the ability move outside in a pinch could make McGovern a valuable sixth offensive lineman on game days. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if McGovern turns into a solid backup for Denver.

Walt’s 2016 NFL Draft Grades:

26. Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis B Grade
I’m not sure about Paxton Lynch. He’s very raw, and I don’t think he’s ready for the NFL. That said, I not only completely understand this pick; I’m in favor of it. The Broncos were very desperate for a quarterback. Mark Sanchez was the projected starter, for crying out loud. Denver absolutely had to make a move, and I’d rather spend the 27th pick in the draft than trade for either Colin Kaepernick or Sam Bradford. I think the Broncos need to bring Lynch along slowly, even if it means sacrificing the 2016 campaign, but he could eventually pan out. I should also note that while I’m usually not in favor of teams moving up, I get why the Broncos did it, given that the Chiefs were a serious landing spot for Lynch. The Browns were also a candidate to trade up.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Look up the definition of “reach” in the dictionary, and you might just… well, you won’t find this pick because that wouldn’t make any sense, but you probably should. This is a huge reach for sure. I can tell you for certain that one team whose information we highly trust told us that they were targeting Adam Gotsis in the Round 4-5 range. I hadn’t heard of anyone ranking Gotsis this highly, so I think this deserves a Millen, despite the fact that it fills a need.

98. Justin Simmons, S, Boston College A- Grade
This definitely makes up for the Adam Gotsis pick. In fact, I think it would’ve made more sense if the Broncos flipped their picks, and took Justin Simmons in the second round and vice-versa. The Broncos will have a starting safety (Darian Stewart) hitting free agency in 2017, so Simmons could step in as the starter right after that. He easily could’ve been chosen a round earlier, as he’s a highly athletic prospect who had plenty of starting experience at Boston College.

136. Devontae Booker, RB, Utah A+ Grade
This is certainly one of the top picks of the third day of the 2016 NFL Draft. Devontae Booker easily could’ve been chosen in the second round. Multiple talented runners have dropped for some reason, but it’s still a huge surprise. The Broncos won’t complain, as they needed someone better than Ronnie Hillman to be a change-of-pace runner behind C.J. Anderson. Booker should be able to be a starter some day.

144. Connor McGovern, G, Missouri A- Grade
The Broncos are getting solid value with Connor McGovern, who could’ve been chosen at the end of Round 3 without any protest. It’s not a surprise to see them select a player like this, as they needed a guard in the wake of losing Evan Mathis to Arizona. The McGovna is a very powerful blocker who should be able to help open some running lanes for C.J. Anderson and now Devontae Booker. McGovern will play guard, but has some potential at right tackle.

176. Andy Janovich, FB, Nebraska C Grade
I have no issues with a team drafting a fullback, or anything, but there were better players at the position available for the Broncos. They probably could’ve drafted Janovich in the seventh frame (or taken a superior fullback.)

219. Will Parks, S, Arizona State C Grade
I’m not sure where this pick is coming from. Will Parks didn’t seem like he was an NFL prospect. He has absolutely no athleticism, and he hasn’t shown any signs that he can play in the NFL. He’ll probably be a special-teamer at best.

228. Riley Dixon, P, Syracuse B- Grade
I won’t be mean to the Broncos for taking a punter in the seventh round. That’s perfectly fine. Better options are available, of course, but it’s not a killer like taking a kicker during the second day.

2016 NFL Draft Team Grade: C+ . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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