The Denver Broncos didn’t have a first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and only five total selections. With that in mind, I didn’t have high expectations from their rookie class. Overall, I was hoping for a bit more production that we saw, but it’s far too early to write off or make significant judgments based on what we saw this year.
Truth be told, it usually takes a few years for most players in the National Football League to hit their stride. That is one reason I won’t give any letter grades relative to their performance and will strictly focus on what they did or didn’t do—as well as what I’d like to see from them in their sophomore campaigns in 2024.
Reviewing the 2023 Broncos Draft Class
Marvin Mims Jr. — 2nd Round Selection — 63rd Overall
The Broncos moved up to select the former Oklahoma Sooners wideout. It didn’t take long for him to make an impact early on as a rookie. In just his second game of the season, Mims Jr. caught two passes for 113 yards and a touchdown against the Washington Commanders. He followed up those two games with decent performances against the Miami Dolphins and Chicago Bears, but after that—there wasn’t much to write home about.
Mims Jr. was virtually absent from the Broncos’ passing attack from October throughout the rest of the season. He finished the season with 22 catches for 377 yards and 1 touchdown—with a majority of those numbers coming in the first four games of the season. There is no doubt he is an explosive receiver, but it was disappointing to not see him utilized more in the passing game. A lot of his routes were down the field and he will have to work on expanding his route three in year two, but that being said, I certainly feel like he should have had a larger role than what we witnessed.
Nevertheless, he earned Pro Bowl honors as a return specialist as well as All-AFC and All-Rookie Team honors from the Pro Football Writer’s Association. I believe Mims has the chance to blossom next season in an expanded role in the offense, but a lot of his success will be determined by who is throwing him the ball. And as of right now, that is the biggest question mark surrounding the franchise this offseason.
Drew Sanders — 3rd Round Selection — 67th Overall
Sanders was one of the most intriguing picks in the entire draft. Several well-respected draft analysts had a first-round grade on him with a majority of rankings showing he was a sure-fire Top 50 selection.
All things considered, I thought he was excellent value for a third-round selection. His collegiate tape at Arkansas showed top-tier athleticism and playmaking ability. However, there was no doubt he was rough around the edges and still coming into his own as an off-ball linebacker. We saw that this year with Vance Joseph moving him between EDGE and ILB—similarly to the way Baron Browning had been deployed in his rookie season. Either way, his traits and potential certainly were worth betting on in the third-round.
With Josey Jewell and Alex Singleton being incumbent starters at ILB, Sanders only saw 258 defensive snaps which is roughly 28-percent of the team’s total defensively. On the flip side, he was a focal point of Denver’s revamped special teams performance and notched 297 snaps in 17 games which was the fourth highest mark on the team. I would expect similar snap totals for him in that regard (if not more) next season.
The big question moving forward is if Sanders will become the sum of all his parts. The aforementioned Jewell is scheduled to hit free agency and it’s uncertain whether or not the Broncos will retain him. If they don’t, I’d expect Sanders to fill the void and get a chance to be a full-time starter next season. The more reps for him the better. More experience will help the game slow down for him in order to take the mental leap forward to be able to process things at the position.
If he is able to do that—the sky is the limit for him down the road and he could truly develop into a plus starter at the position given his skills and athletic ability.
The #Broncos made the most of their #NFLDraft Day Two, adding Marvin Mims, Drew Sanders, and Riley Moss to the fold. Denver earns the #PFN365 Draft of the Day honor.— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) April 29, 2023
Draft Hub ➡️ https://t.co/9ojRIs3h6g pic.twitter.com/u0mQuoMPZy
Riley Moss — 3rd Round Selection — 83rd Overall
The Broncos packaged multiple selections including a 2024 third-round pick to draft Riley Moss out of the University of Iowa. He tested off the charts and showed tremendous ball skills and a knack for creating turnovers with the Hawkeyes. Unfortunately, a core muscle injured sidelined him throughout most of training camp and the preseason.
That set back his length to impact tremendously. If he was healthy, there was a good shot he would have gotten a lot of reps opposite of Patrick Surtain II. Alas, he only played 23 defensive coverage snaps in 2023 and saw 265 snaps on special teams.
I’ll reserve judgment on Moss until we see what he can do defensively at corner. I believe he has the traits and potential to be a good boundary corner, but his trial by fire at the position will have to wait until 2024. That being said, situations like this are why I’m very hesitant on trading future draft capital to move up on Day 2 of the draft.
Whether it’s fair or not, many fans in Broncos Country will question whether or not Moss will ever be worth the two Top 100 selections they gave up for him. We just have to hope that he can become a full-time corner and start making plays sooner than later.
JL Skinner — 6th Round Selection — 183rd Overall
The Broncos have drafted a surplus of defensive backs, especially safeties, during George Paton’s time as general manager. At 6’4” and 220 pounds and with great range and athleticism, Skinner was an absolute enforcer for the Broncos at Boise State and made plays all over the field. His physicality and tenacity is something that popped out on tape and was something I had hoped to see in his rookie season—even if it was just on special teams.
However, he only saw action in two games this season and was a healthy scratch for most of the year. Like Moss, he was recovering from injury and had multiple veterans on the depth chart ahead of him. All and all, there isn’t anything we can take away from Skinner’s on the field performance this season because the snaps just aren’t there.
I still feel he has starting ability at the NFL level and he will have a chance to earn an expanded role next season. We will see what the Broncos do with P.J. Locke in free agency, but as of now Skinner’s main competition for 2024 is Caden Sterns and Delarrin Turner-Yell, who both suffered season-ending injuries in 2023.
Alex Forsyth — 7th Round Selection — 257th Overall
The Broncos took Forsyth in the seventh round of last year’s draft. His tape was pretty good, but multiple injuries and medical concerns caused him to slip on draft day. He was a healthy scratch for the entire season with Lloyd Cushenberry III holding down the center position and Luke Wattenberg earning backup honors on game day.
That being said, Paton spoke highly of Forsyth and thinks he can be a starter in the NFL. However, I’d be surprised if the Broncos didn’t bring in outside competition this offseason if Cushenberry ends up signing elsewhere. I’m not too sure I’d feel confident having him or Wattenberg as the two options to man the interior of the Broncos’ offense line next season.
Final Overall Thoughts on the Class of 2023
It’s too early to give any significant judgment on the 2023 class. I felt that Mims Jr., Sanders, and Moss all performed well on special teams. That trio was a big part of why that unit turned things around this past season. My expectations moving forward is for all three of them to carve out starting roles next season and make an impact on their side of the ball.
With respect to Skinner and Forsyth, anything is better than what we saw this season. The floor is already set pretty low and there is nowhere to go up for both of them. At the end of the day, we really won’t know what the Broncos have with their 2023 draft class until a few more years down the road, but if three of them can become long-term fixtures for the franchise—that would be a success.