We are several years into the George Paton era in the Mile High City. If there is one big conclusion we can make—it’s that he clearly values investing resources in the secondary.
The Denver Broncos have continuously added players to their defensive backend over the past few years. Paton has drafted Patrick Surtain II, Kary Vincent, Jr., Faion Hicks, and Riley Moss to bolster their cornerback corps the last three drafts. He has also went to the draft well four times to pick up safeties.
Caden Sterns and Jamar Johnson were fifth-round selections in the 2021 draft. J.L. Skinner was chosen in the sixth-round of this past year’s draft. In 2022, he chose Delarrin Turner-Yell out of Oklahoma in the fifth-round.
The franchise is currently six deep at safety with Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson, Caden Sterns, P.J. Locke, J.L. Skinner and the aforementioned Turner-Yell. I don’t see a scenario where six safeties make Denver’s final roster—I’d venture five at most—so someone out of that list won’t be with the squad in 2023.
Turner-Yell is one of those guys who is fighting for a job. But what will he have to show in order to earn a final spot on the 53-man roster? Let’s take a deeper look and try and find out.
Height: 5’10” | Weight: 192 pounds | Age: 23 years old
40-yard dash: 4.47 seconds | Broad Jump: 122 inches
Arm Length: 31-3/4 inches | Hands: 10 inches
In his rookie season, Turner-Yell played in 14 games. He registered no defensive snaps, but logged 251 snaps on special teams—the sixth most on the entire team. He had 8 tackles and two fumble recoveries.
How does safety Delarrin Turner-Yell fit with the Denver Broncos?
Turner-Yell was a productive player during his time at Oklahoma. A three-year starter at strong safety for the Sooners, he amassed 190 tackles [10 of them for loss] and reeled in 4 interceptions—with 3 of them coming in his senior season.
He was a core special teams player for them and used that experience to his advantage during training camp. His prowess in that regard earned a spot on Denver’s 53-man roster last season. However, he didn’t log any snaps for the Broncos defensively last season—so it’s hard to ascertain where he is currently at progression-wise in that regard. It’s hard to grow and make progress if you aren’t seeing live on-the-field reps, but training camp will give us a much better idea of his development to date.
That being said, Turner-Yell appeared to be at his best in zone coverage in college, but also brought a good dose of physicality and decisiveness when playing the run. That sort of aggressiveness plays for NFL teams. Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph likes to have a wide mix of looks in his coverage shells, so he is going to have to prove his versatility and improve in man coverage to carve himself a role on the team.
The battle at safety during training camp is going to be one to watch.
Justin Simmons is an obvious mortal lock to be on this year’s 53-man roster. I’d also bet Kareem Jackson makes the team based on his experience, leadership, and versatility. And even though he was just a sixth-round pick, I find it hard to believe Denver would abandon the chance to develop Skinner several months into his pro journey. He just has too much potential. Let’s call them Denver’s Top 3.
The final two spots will go to the best out of Sterns, Locke, and Turner-Yell. Sterns looked good when he got his chance to start, but has had problems staying healthy in the NFL. Locke has been a core special teams player too, but we haven’t really got to see what he can do defensively either.
With all that in mind, Turner-Yell’s biggest competition will be with Locke, whose playing-time strength is the same. He is going to have to show out in camp and prove to coaches he has the chops to see meaningful snaps if the Broncos’ starting strong safety is gone. That’s what can set him apart in the race to make the final 53.