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Best Broncos’ rookies to watch as minicamp opens Friday

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Of course everyone wants to know how Drew Lock and Brett Rypien will do, but I’m more intrigued by a few lesser-hyped rookies.

Ohio State v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

Good morning, Broncos Country!

Rookie Minicamp starts tomorrow for the Broncos, and after another solid draft by John Elway, hopes are high that this new crew setting foot in Dove Valley this weekend will be another stellar class with a lot of immediate impact.

So who will be the most intriguing players to watch?

Although tight end Noah Fant will have a lot of eyes on him as the first-round pick and Dalton Risner will be popular because of his larger-than-life personality, probably the most-analyzed player - for better or worse - will be quarterback Drew Lock. And to a lesser extent but still probably more than should be will be Lock’s apparent competition for backup, Brett Rypien.

Obviously not a lot happens during the minicamp to give us a ton of information for predicting how these players will do once the real football starts, but it’s always interesting to watch the process from beginning to end.

But there will be a few lesser-hyped rookies in particular I’ll be most interested in paying attention to this offseason, beginning this weekend:

Dre’mont Jones, DT

Ohio State knows defensive linemen, and although Dre’Mont Jones was not talked about much since his teammate Nick Bosa (second overall pick) grabbed most of the headlines, Jones was a force to be reckoned with.

In 2018, Jones recorded 8.5 sacks, 40 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, two passes batted down, one forced fumble and a 28-yard pick-six.

But while so many Broncos fans were still analyzing John Elway’s move up to get Missouri quarterback Drew Lock at No. 42 in the second round (Broncos’ third pick overall), they didn’t realize Elway was already onto his next pick - Dre’Mont Jones.

Gene Ross, blogger for Land-Grant Holy Land, notes that Jones is “not your typical interior defensive lineman” used primarily to stuff the run and eat up blocks. Instead, the athletic Jones is often used to rush the passer.

“He is far more athletic and plays a style much more fitting of an edge rusher,” Ross wrote. “Jones has very strong and quick hands, allowing him to toss aside offensive linemen to create havoc in the backfield. Of all draft eligible Big Ten interior defensive lineman, Dre’Mont Jones was the best pass rusher.”

I look forward to seeing this.

Alijah Holder, CB

If you’re saying, “who?” that’s because Alijah Holder was an undrafted free agent out of Stanford who will join a long list of players in the secondary trying to crack the roster.

If you’re saying, “why him?” then pay attention to The Draft Network’s scouting report for the 6-foot-1, 190-pound corner:

“Strong press coverage corner who looks to win within the first five yards. Generally plays with sound footwork through the kick-slide and to the hip turn, rarely lunging or over-extending in his punch. Strike is well located and does well to jar receiver into sideline; does well to maintain leverage when squeezing vertical stems into the boundary.”

He was also given the biggest signing bonus of all the Broncos’ UDFAs at $18,000 (though quarterback Brett Rypien ended up with more in total) plus another $12,000 in guarantees, so Elway and the coaches definitely see something in him.

Ahmad Gooden, EDGE

Another UDFA, Ahmad Gooden intrigues me because you can never have enough edge rushers, right?

But also because he comes from Samford University - a tiny Southern Baptist-affiliated school of 5,000 that is not known for its football program. I know. I lived in its neighborhood for a time and had friends at that school. PeeWee football teams in Texas probably have more scouts paying attention to them than the Bulldogs.

While Gooden clearly didn’t go up against the toughest competition by playing at Samford, the fact that the Broncos thought enough of him to bring him along speaks volumes, in my opinion, so I’m excited to see how he transitions to not just playing in the NFL, but playing with and against much higher level players.

Noah Fant, TE

Finally, a guy to watch on offense!!

The first-round pick is always highly scrutinized, but I am genuinely excited to see if all the hype over Noah Fant is for real and if the former Hawkeye makes the impact we hope he does/need him to.

Plus, I’m tired of every other team having a seemingly unstoppable tight end while the Broncos can barely keep one healthy through an entire game.

It will also be fun to watch how Rich Scangarello uses Fant, given the talk that the tight end would easily be a good third wide receiver in the slot.

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