The Broncos came away from the 2015 NFL Draft by adding a myriad of players on the offensive and defensive side of the ball, but according to college football writer and analyst from NFL.com Bryan Fischer, only one of the players added by the team is expected to produce big in year one.
Coming in at #19 in his overall rankings was Shane Ray, who was the only Bronco to make the list. The teams first round pick is an explosive pass rusher, who amassed 47 tackles, 22.5 for lost and 14.5 sacks as a junior, to go along with three forced fumbles. He is recovering from a lingering toe injury that is a cause for concern, but the team expects him to be fully capable of participating in training camp a few months down the road and believe the sky is the limit for his potential once he sees his first action in the NFL.
In the video embedded in the article, NFL analysts Daniel Jeremiah, Charles Davies and and Curtis Conway have high expectations for Ray, who they both believe will be the rookie pass rusher to amass the most sacks in his first season. The reasons given include Wade Phillips’ aggressive defense and the ability for Son of Bum to get him on the field with DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller at the same time which will create mismatches and give opposing offensive lines consistent headaches and pressure to deal with.
A surprise to Broncos fans will be second round selection Ty Sambrailo’s absence from the list. John Elway and Gary Kubiak are very high on the rookie from Colorado State, who has been dubbed as a "quick study" and someone team decision makers believe and expect to start immediately as a rookie.
"As we said last night, we’re really excited that he’s on our football team. He’s going to come in right away and compete at the right tackle position. [He is] a guy on the field who is a tremendous athlete and, as [Head Coach] Gary [Kubiak] said last night, he’s a quick study. Again, we’re thrilled to have Ty as the next Denver Bronco."
It may seem as if the personnel makers for the Broncos are the only people who have high hopes for him as a rookie. As pointed out by Jeremy Mauss in an earlier article on Mile High Report, he has the athleticism and skills necessary to compete at a high level and function well in the Broncos zone-blocking scheme, but he too believes that the lack of functional strength will likely lead to Sambrailo spending his first year as a back-up, but will be poised to start in his second year after a season of strength and conditioning at a pro level. Additionally, the writers at Pro Football Focus do not think highly of him either and don’t expect him to make much noise any time soon in the NFL.
Lists like the one given in linked article are fun to enjoy, but at many times, the whole story is not given. Fans should not be alarmed that Ray was the sole Bronco to make this list. It is essential to realize that the Broncos are fielding a team that has most of its starting positions locked up. It is a roster filled with quality depth at most positions and boasts a tremendous amount of savvy veterans and Pro-Bowl players who have played at an extraordinary high level in 2014. Therefore, it is understandable for rankings such as these to not have many of our beloved rookies make the cut.
Additionally, Elway had stated leading up to the draft that the Broncos project players and give a grade based on not if they have the ability to start as a rookie, but if a given player can become starter in the second year. While I have been a strong advocate of selecting players whose LTI (length to impact) is short and immediate, it seems the Broncos (given their quality roster) may have a different approach in that regard. However, recent statements from those in the front office do lend credence to the idea that they aren’t afraid of playing rookies early, as long as they are capable of handling their responsibilities adequately.
It is also important to note that although only one Bronco made the list, it is far too early to make an indictment against the long-term capabilities of those who were drafted. It will take several years before we can adequately analyze whether or not the selections made this past April and May were the right ones for the team, but as always, hindsight is 20/20.
From my prospective, I feel that Ray and Sambrailo will be key pieces to the success of the Broncos this year and see a quality amount of playing time. There is an outside chance that fourth round selection Max Garcia out of Florida could make his way into the starting line-up if he is able to outperform Gino Gradkowski and Matthew Paradis in camp and the pre-season. Don’t sleep on Lorenzo Doss either, the fifth round pick from Tulane has tremendous ball skills and has a knack for the big play. If Bradley Roby does end up seeing time at free safety, Doss could work his way into the nickel cornerback roll and see a wealth of playing time throughout the season.
How do you feel about the article from NFL.com, Mile High Report community? Do you agree with the assessment given? Is there a player the Broncos drafted you felt should have been on that list? Will there be a mid-round selection that comes in and plays at a high level to prove the rankings wrong? What kind of statistic output do you expect from Ray in his first year as a Bronco? Fire off your feedback in the comments section.