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From free agents to rookies, here are 11 'Broncos to watch' as OTAs get under way

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It's getting ever closer to Training Camp as 10 days of OTAs get underway this week, which means 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. And although no contact is allowed yet, there are still some key positions/players to keep an eye on as Broncos get back to football.

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Good morning, Broncos Country!

Broncos will enter Phase Three of the offseason workouts this week as OTAs start on Tuesday. And just in case you haven't memorized the Broncos' offseason schedule (what's wrong with you???), here you go:

  • OTAs: May 24-26, May 31, June 1-2, June 13-16
  • Mandatory minicamp: June 7-9

The beginning of OTAs means the beginning of team drills and that means something more like football. As the remaining members of the defending champs squad start to mesh with the acquired free agents and rookies, there's a lot of competition to look forward to, so here are the positions and/or players I'm most interested in watching this early.

QB Mark Sanchez

I know, I know...most Broncos fans are excited to see what rookie sensation Paxton Lynch can do (besides ridiculous TD dances), and so am I - eventually.

So right now I'm much more interested in how Sanchez takes to this offense, barring any more weight room thumb injuries, of course. I'm less interested in that he "can make all the throws" because that will certainly be a common cliché in the news conferences. I'm more interested in any info on how he's picking up the playbook, running the plays and continuing the on-field leadership he showed immediately after signing.

Mostly I'll be curious to see if it's obvious Kubiak still plans to make him the outright starter or if there are hints that the rookie may compete for a legitimate shot at starting or if it's mostly just for competition. And, of course, there's still a third quarterback to pay attention to as well.

WRs Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler and Jordan Taylor

I have to think this needs to be the year for Latimer to prove his worth for this offense. He has shown toughness on special teams with some key blocks and tackles on kickoffs, but if he wants to show up anywhere close on the wide receiver depth chart, he needs to prove this offseason that he really knows the playbook and can run all the plays.

While Latimer is fighting to justify he was worth the second-round pick two years ago, the guy who caught Peyton Manning's last pass is looking to work his way into the offense even more. Bennie "b-b-bennie and the catch" Fowler had a very productive 2015 with 16 catches for 203 yards, plus five special teams tackles and one very important two-point conversion in the Super Bowl. I look forward to seeing this receiver get more touches this season.

And who doesn't want to see "Sunshine" Taylor on the 53 after getting Manning's praises last season?

TE Jeff Heuerman

We had to postpone our excitement for this tough tight end from Ohio State an entire year since he got injured one week after being drafted last season, but I'm interested to see if it was worth the wait.

RB Devontae Booker

I have nothing against C.J. Anderson (except his horrible grammar on Twitter) or Ronnie Hillman, but reading about and watching Booker already has me excited about this running back. So even in OTAs, I'll be interested to hear how he's progressing (and getting indications how fast he may move up that depth chart).

FB Andy Janovich

The question really should be who is not excited to see this guy in OTAs because that is likely a much smaller number. The moment the Broncos drafted a true fullback, several here (not mentioning any names, cough Whorfin cough!) were beyond ecstatic while even those less over-the-top about the move were intrigued by how - or how often - Kubiak would put an actual fullback to work in his offense once again.

P Riley Dixon

A commenter in a Q&A post with the Syracuse blog about Dixon noted that "you know it's a good draft when even the punter is a badass."

So true, which is partly why he'll be one to watch throughout OTAs and minicamp, but it is even more important considering Dixon will be competing to help the Broncos' bottom line as well as the roster.

LBs Todd Davis, Corey Nelson, Zaire Anderson

One of the few question marks on the defensive side of the ball is "who will take Danny Trevathan's spot?" Presumably it's Todd Davis' job to lose, but a seventh-round pick and former undrafted free agent in Nelson and Anderson (of the Zaire variety) could test him for that starting spot. And whichever two don't end up starting, you can bet they will likely both still see significant playing time in Wade Phillips' scheme.

Looking ahead

As we get into training camp, the offensive and defensive lines will be of high interest when the hitting begins and starters get decided. But both could certainly be interesting in OTAs as players start to stand out and the "line" gets formed.

So Broncos Country - who's on your watch list for OTAs?

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