Denver Broncos Rookie Minicamp: Who Are the Players to Watch?

Cecil Lammey@@cecillammeyContributor IMay 6, 2016

Denver Broncos Rookie Minicamp: Who Are the Players to Watch?

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The Denver Broncos kick off their rookie minicamp on Friday. The sessions aren’t open to the public, but the media will be allowed to watch some of the practices on Friday and Saturday. Plus, the Broncos will allow certain rookies to talk after practice.

    After preparations for the NFL Scouting Combine and pro days, there is a break in training for about a month. Usually, players will get back into football action quickly—which can lead to injuries. Last year, third-round pick Jeff Heuerman was injured only a few days into rookie minicamp. 

    Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak admits the team is looking to adjust what they do at the camp this year.

    “We want to do a lot of teaching. We’d like to come out of the weekend knowing exactly where our guys are and then put them with our football team on Monday and start to acclimate them with the guys. I think everybody has taken a hard look at [changing the procedure at rookie minicamp], and I think we have too.”

    It’s an exciting time of year for these players as they get their first taste of the NFL. The rookies may be early-round picks or undrafted rookies added by the team after the draft. The camp is also open those who have not yet played a full season in the NFL.

    Guys like second-round pick Adam Gotsis (knee) and fourth-round pick Devontae Booker (meniscus) are likely to be quite limited in rookie minicamp. The Broncos will have plenty of other players on display over the weekend as the rookies get their first shots to prove themselves in the pros.

    Who is worth watching during rookie minicamp? Let’s take a look.

QB Paxton Lynch

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The rookie conversation about the Broncos is going to heavily revolve around first-round quarterback Paxton Lynch.

    The Broncos moved up in the first round so they could secure a potential franchise quarterback, and now they’ll get to see him for the first time in action at team headquarters.

    Lynch is tall, athletic and has a strong arm. He sees the field well and does a good job of keeping plays alive with his feet while keeping his eyes downfield. Lynch is not afraid to challenge a defense vertically but has also proved to be quite safe with the football.

    Kubiak couldn’t contain his excitement when talking about Lynch after the team selected the young passer.

    “I tell you honestly, for me, I am just excited for the kid. John [Elway] and I talked about him, we love his energy, he has a passion for the game, he is young coming out and I think this growth is going to take place quickly and I can’t wait to get started [at rookie minicamp].”

    The Broncos want to microwave his learning curve, and it starts this weekend. Lynch will be given a crash course and as many reps as possible in order to speed up his growth and development as a pro. If Lynch responds well over the next few months, it won’t be surprising to see him begin the regular season as the Broncos' starting quarterback.

FS Justin Simmons

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The Broncos defense lost two key defenders in defensive end Malik Jackson and linebacker Danny Trevathan. Those two were starters and stars, but the Broncos also lost some role players in safeties Omar Bolden and David Bruton.

    In the draft, they added safety depth and a potential future starter in the third round when they selected Justin Simmons out of Boston College.

    Simmons is a rangy player who can make plays in coverage, as evidenced by his five interceptions in 2015. He can be classified as a ball hawk at the safety position, but Simmons really stands out as a run defender. Simmons rarely lets an opponent get free from his grasp and is known as a sound tackler. While not a thumper, Simmons will bring down his man quickly and cleanly.

    Pro Football Focus had Simmons listed as one of three sleeper safety prospects in this draft.

    Simmons has patterned his game after two great safeties.

    “Growing up, I was a huge Brian Dawkins guy, mainly just because of his passion, his immense passion for the game. Nowadays, I actually watched a lot of Eric Weddle—you know, kind of like that ball hawk, really smart, high-safety position role, and trying to learn the best I could from him.”

    The rookie will begin his pro career as a reserve safety behind T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart. With Stewart entering the final year of his contract, it may not be long before Simmons gets a chance to prove himself as a starter on the league’s best defense.

FB Andy Janovich

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    The Broncos surprised some when they selected Nebraska fullback Andy Janovich in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL draft.

    He’s a bullish runner who can break through tackles with ease and a hard-nosed blocker who can blast open holes for the running back behind him.

    Kubiak likes what Janovich can bring to the table.

    “I feel very fortunate to get this young man. He did a great job in Nebraska. He catches the ball well. He’s very physical.”

    In addition to how he can help the offense, Janovich should immediately make a strong impression as a special teams player. His 12 tackles on special teams in 2015 were tied for second-most among any draft-eligible player in college football.

    Not many teams need—or even want—a fullback anymore. The league may be pass-happy, but the Broncos are going to run the ball early and often. Janovich won’t show up in the box score much—if at all. However, he’s going to benefit the players around him on offense and might have the biggest impact of any rookie on the team not named Paxton Lynch.

TE Henry Krieger-Coble

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    After the draft, the Broncos worked quickly to add almost two dozen of the best college free agents. They were able to sign 21 undrafted free agents to the roster, and some of these players may develop into solid backups and perhaps even key contributors.

    This team has a long history of finding quality talent from the ranks of the undrafted. Two of the biggest stars on their roster, cornerback Chris Harris Jr. (2011) and running back C.J. Anderson (2013), were first added to the team as undrafted free agents.

    There is one UFA this year who may stand out above the rest. Iowa tight end Henry Krieger-Coble could be the best bet to make the 53-man roster as a rookie.

    An all-purpose player, the Hawkeye prospect can work well as an in-line tight end or a move tight end. He’s not freakishly athletic, but Krieger-Coble does sell his routes well and works hard to get open underneath. As a blocker he has strength at the point of attack and shows the ability to be a “sticky” blocker when asked to get to linebackers at the second level of the defense.

    The Broncos tight end position is going to have a much different look this year. Virgil Green is back as the blocking tight end, while Jeff Heuerman is going to get a shot to be the team’s primary pass-catching tight end. Krieger-Coble has the ability to give the team the best of both worlds.

    It won’t be a surprise if he eventually emerges at the position when he fully develops.

OLB Eddie Yarbrough

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    Duane Burleson/Getty Images

    Earlier this year, the Broncos held a local pro day workout for prospects who played high school or college football in the region. One player who stood out during that day was Wyoming defensive end Eddie Yarbrough.

    In the pros, Yarbrough has the skill set to develop into a pass-rusher as an outside linebacker. He had a productive college career at Wyoming, constantly making plays on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

    Yarbrough did not get an invite to the combine, but his test numbers would not have been that impressive. He’s not the biggest, strongest or fastest pass-rusher in this class, but Yarbrough thrives on technique, heart and hustle. The Cowboys star will get off the line of scrimmage quickly and can diagnose plays quickly as they unfold in front of him. This ability puts him around the football more often than not.

    Kubiak had nothing but praise for the scouting department after seeing the rookies they were able to add in the draft.

    “John [Elway] and [Director of Player Personnel] Matt [Russell] do a great job. The scouts, [were] very impressive for me. I think one of the things that really impressed me is I told John we’ve got a Super Bowl football team, but yet you look at this draft and I think we’ve got some guys that are going to help our football team immediately. That’s very impressive.”

    The Broncos drafted well, and by picking up guys like Yarbrough after the draft they continued making quality decisions. He could make the practice squad this year as a developmental pass-rusher like CSU’s Shaquil Barrett did a few years ago.

    All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record/statistical information provided by the Broncos' media department unless otherwise noted.

    Contract and salary-cap information provided by Spotrac. Transaction history provided by Pro Sports Transactions. Draft grades provided by NFLDraftScout.com.

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