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Vance Joseph expects big contributions from rookie class in 2018

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The Denver Broncos didn’t get much of an immediate impact from their 2017 draft class, but fans should see a lot more production from this year’s group of talented rookies.

NFL: Denver Broncos-Minicamp Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Broncos Country.

After five straight years of division titles, the Denver Broncos have fallen from grace over the past two seasons and have endured a significant makeover in regard to their coaching staff, roster and philosophy in that time frame.

There is no single recipe or quick and easy fix that will propel the franchise back to its past glory and success — but if they are serious about reclaiming their status atop the AFC West in 2018, there is one glaring issue from last season that has to be overcome in a significant way — the contributions and immediate impact from their rookies.

The franchise selected eight players in the 2017 NFL Draft, but the only player that had any significant playing time was first-round pick Garett Bolles. He started all sixteen games at left tackle as a rookie, but had a lot of issues in pass protection and was one of the most penalized players in the entire league. Every one else seemed to be missing in action, but what we did witness from players like Isaiah McKenzie are forgettable moments to say the least.

But a new season brings forth new opportunities. There has been a lot of praise and positive remarks about the Broncos’ 2018 draft class to date, which has stirred up a frenzy of excitement throughout Broncos Country. Needless to say everyone, including Head Coach Vance Joseph is expecting this year’s crop of rookie talent to contribute in a much bigger fashion than the tremendous letdown they experienced from the 2017 draft class.

“Hopefully, yeah. It was a good class. It’s a mature class, so hopefully we get more guys playing. Last year’s class, we had three or four guys that we thought would play for us, but last year’s team was pretty much intact,” stated Joseph.

While the 2017 Broncos did have a lot of incumbent veterans who were unlikely to get unseated from their starting roles, I’d venture to state that a lot of last year’s rookie woes (and lack of impact) can be attributed to injury (Carlos Henderson and Jake Butt) or egregious misuse of a player’s skills and abilities (DeMarcus Walker) — not because the team was ‘pretty much intact’.

The team parted ways with several well-known starters from last season, which should allow for several of the rookies to take advantage of the opportunity to earn significant reps in their initial NFL campaigns. One player that comes to mind is rookie running back Royce Freeman, who is poised to make an impact early on and could be the guy to replace C.J. Anderson’s role in the team’s new offense.

“This year, we’ve got more spaces for young players. Again, it was a good class and it’s a mature class so we expect those guys to help us.”

Even though it’s early on in the process, Joseph feels good about the team’s evaluation and progress of their rookie talent this year — and confident that they, along with last year’s picks will help them compete at a higher level in 2018.

“We’ve got a bunch of young guys that should help us this year, including last year’s draft class. Those guys have gotten better with each phase of the offseason.”

It would almost be impossible for this year’s rookies to not do better than hat we witnessed last season (which wasn’t much at all), but let’s come together and hope that the positive talk and rave reviews from the early offseason activities actually translates into production on the field from the team’s rookies in 2018.

As always, thank you for reading and here is today’s offering of Horse Tracks.

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