Optimism is brimming in Denver in regards to the 2010 draft class. Nine rookies made the final roster, while another five were signed to the team's practice squad. The 2010 draft was regarded by many as the best to have come along in quite some time, and it looks like the Broncos made good on a majority of their selections. In fact, all but one of the players Denver drafted (OLB Jammie Kirlew) made the final roster.
You have to consider yourself lucky as a front office if you can draft nine guys and come away with eight guys who have a chance as rookies to make some kind of impact, and then find another one in the crop of free agents.
It appears the Broncos have a solid foundation for the future with their 2010 class, but it's still certainly very early. Through one quarter of the season though, things are looking good for Denver. Here's one man's opinion of how the rookies in Denver have performed thus far.
1. Demaryius Thomas, WR (1st round)
I want very badly to give Thomas an A here. He has shown everything we thought he could be and more through four games. Despite missing nearly all of the offseason with a foot injury, as well as missing a lot of training camp and all of the pre-season, Thomas was activated for the team's second game of the season and broke out against Seattle, where he had eight receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown.
That is exactly what Denver fans envisioned as a replacement for Brandon Marshall, but something Marshall never had nor does he have now is game-breaking speed. Thomas runs a sub-4.4 40 yard dash, and at 6'3" 230 pounds, he is an absolute beast. Really, the only other players in the NFL I can think of with that combination of size and speed are Calvin Johnson and Andre Johnson, and the Broncos got lucky that Thomas fell to the later part of the first round.
Thomas has yet to make a significant impact in the passing game since week two, but the Broncos have found ways to get him involved. They put him as the kick returner against Tennessee, and it worked wonders as Thomas got them great field position every time he touched the ball, averaging over 35 yards per return including a 65 yarder.
This kid is a keeper, and has shown great playmaking ability through the first quarter of the year despite only playing in three games.
2. Tim Tebow, QB (First round)
Tebow got to do a couple of pointless running plays against Jacksonville, but that was just to give the fans what they wanted. I am a big Tebow fan, as should all Broncos fans be, and I think he is going to do great things in the future.
For right now, he has a chance to learn behind one of the best in the NFL in Kyle Orton, who is playing out of his mind. I think it's great that Tebow is going to get a year, maybe two to learn this system, to gain NFL experience, and just learn the nuances of the game. He is a very high profile player, and nearly every time the camera cuts to Josh McDaniels, there stands Tim Tebow right with him.
Tebow has been polarizing as one would have to have expected. He has sold an unbelieveable amount of jerseys, which in turn has made the Broncos a lot of money. He's already paying dividends financialy, but we will have to wait to see him on the field, which for now is not a bad thing.
3. Zane Beadles, OL (Second Round)
Beadles has been a mixed bag. He was solid in pass rush, and average at best in the running game. He has played well for a rookie though, so I added a nice little plus sign next to his grade. You would love to see Beadles get the nod at left guard, where Stanley Daniels has been very bad. That's not to say that Beadles would be an instant upgrade, but this team had to have drafted him in the second round for more than just depth at tackle and guard.
I think eventually, Beadles will either take over Daniels' spot at left guard or for Ryan Harris at right tackle. He showed solid pass protection when he filled in on the right side, and held the Indianapolis Colts almost completely in check in that regard.
I wasn't high on the Beadles pick when it happened. He was receiving fourth round grades or later, and we picked him up in round two. Obviously, our talent evaluators saw something in him, which was a solid pass protecting guy who has a ton of versatility. I think he can eventually make a solid impact for this team, and hopefully as a starting left guard. To me, keeping Harris and plugging in Beadles would be ideal, at least on paper.
4. J.D. Walton, C (Third round)
Walton is in almost the same exact boat as Beadles, though we've seen some of Walton's real nasty streak. Broncos fans will probably not forget Walton's great play from one yard out against the Seattle Seahawks, where he absolutely dominated both levels of the defense en route to a touchdown run from Correll Buckhalter.
Walton still has much to learn in this league, but he's a rookie making all the calls, and he's held up decently well in pass protection. That area is definitely his strength right now. I saw one article that compared Walton to a young Olin Kruetz, which is fantastic for Broncos fans if that comparison comes even close to fruition.
You've got to love the fact that this guy plays with a chip on his shoulder, and he has a great football I.Q. I really like this pick, and I think his grade will definitely improve throughout the course of the season.
5. Eric Decker, WR (Third round)
Decker is mistakenly playing on special teams as a blocker and tackler, in my opinion. It's great that they want to get him on the field, but that's why you kept 10 defensive backs on this roster. Decker has every tool to become a great receiver in this league. I look at a guy like Jabar Gaffney, and Decker has every bit of that ability and then some.
He finished off the pre-season with a dynamite performance against the Vikings, and he led all NFL receivers in the pre-season in receptions. I think he's definitely going to be a good player, but we are so deep at the wide receiver position that he has not even sniffed the field yet.
That will change. I think the Broncos have built good chemistry with their receiver group and Orton, so right now, it's a timing issue. Decker might not be a top target right now, but give him a full offseason with our starting quarterback, and you can bet he will see more of the field, and he will be very, very good. I graded him as a first round pick, and we stole him in the third. Absolute robbery.
6. Perrish Cox, CB (Fifth round)
It has been a learning curve so far for Cox, who has definitely made plays for the Broncos in his time here. He was replaced as the team's kick returner by Demaryius Thomas, and was shredded by Peyton Manning and Austin Collie. He also gave up the Titans' lone touchdown to Kenny Britt. I think Cox will be a fine player in the future, and it's good that he's getting the experience up front.
Cox made a great interception against the Seattle Seahawks, showing the closing speed he has as well as his ball skills. He also showed some stupidity after the play by making a throat slashing gesture, and he was fined by the league for it. Cox has all the tools needed to be a starting corner in this league, and he is learning from the best, undoubtedly. He has been a solid contributor through the first quarter of the season.
7. Eric Olsen, OL (Sixth round)
Olsen has not seen any action, and if he does, the Broncos probably have suffered a bunch of injuries. He was drafted to add depth at center and guard, and that's exactly what he will do until he gets an opportunity.
Many thought he would be cut in favor of Seth Olsen, but the Broncos opted to keep Eric around and we will see if it pays off for them.
8. Syd'Quan Thompson, CB/ST (Seventh round)
Syd'Quan did not play until last week against Tennessee, but he tied for the special teams lead with two tackles. That is why the Broncos drafted this kid. He showed some nice coverage skills in the pre-season, but he will be extremely valuable as a special teams player going forward.
Thompson has punt return skills as well as coverage skills, and he's not afraid to stick his neck out there and make a play in the return game.
9. Cassius Vaughn, CB/ST (Undrafted)
Vaughn has blossomed into one of Denver's top special teams players, including making two of the biggest plays of the season to date. He recovered a muffed punt in the Broncos' first home game against Seattle, and recovered a kickoff against the Titans on a fumble forced by David Bruton.
This guy has probably the best speed of any player on the team, and he is extremely valuable as a special teams gunner. He will be on this team for a while, and it's only a matter of time before he gets a chance to show what he can do on the defensive side of the ball.
Great find by our scouting staff.
Overall, I think this is a very solid class for the Broncos, one that will be part of the foundation of this team for years to come.