The Denver Broncos have not been shy about giving reps to their rookies this year, including reps with the starting units on both sides of the ball.
The Denver Broncos drafted a high-impact rookie class in 2018, and it appears they have done exactly the same in 2019.
Although the 2019 class doesn’t feature a prospect quite the caliber of Bradley Chubb, it could be a very critical class for the Broncos in building for the future.
Thankfully, the coaching staff understands that. The coaching staff understands the importance of not strictly playing starters in every first-team rep because, as Vic Fangio noted, the starters won’t always be able to be in the games.
The Broncos — like every team in the NFL — are going to have to rotate players on and off the field. They are going to have to deal with injuries, whether short term or long term.
They also understand the only want to find out if you’ve got ‘something’ in a specific player is to actually put him on the field with the starters and see if they can go up against the ones or play with the ones.
With that in consideration, the Broncos have rotated a ton of young players through their first-team offense and defense. Some, however, have had way more time with the top units than others. Here are the guys who have continually gotten a lot of reps with the starting offense and defense, including some obvious ones.
Dalton Risner, LG
The Broncos’ second-round pick out of Kansas State has been working with the number one offense since OTAs. He’s entrenched as the starting left guard and hasn’t been rotating reps at all. That’s his job.
Noah Fant, TE
The Broncos have been rotating a number of tight ends in with the first unit, and Fant is still doing some work with all of the quarterbacks it seems, but I’ve also been seeing him catching a lot of passes from Joe Flacco in practice highlight reels, and it sounds like the Broncos have been steadily working him in with the top offense.
We don’t need to worry about whether he’s going to get a lot of reps in the offense — he is.
Austin Fort, TE
With all of the injuries at tight end, the Broncos have worked the undrafted Austin Fort in with the number one offense on occasion. He’s definitely fourth in the pecking order behind Fant, Jeff Heuerman, and Troy Fumagalli, but Fort has been turning heads and earning these reps.
Juwann Winfree, WR
Perhaps the wide receiver we should be paying the most attention to among this group of three included here is Juwann Winfree, who has been vastly outplaying his sixth-round draft status through camp.
Obviously, there’s only so much you can tell from practices, but Winfree is catching everything and has earned a lot of respect from his teammates out there. He’s been taking advantage of every rep with the first offense he’s been getting.
Kelvin McKnight, WR
The Broncos have had a number of injuries to their slot receivers so far in camp. River Cracraft has missed time with an oblique injury, and DaeSean Hamilton has more recently injured his hamstring.
The undrafted McKnight has stepped in and done a phenomenal job. He’s also working as one of the punt returners in camp.
Trinity Benson, WR
Undrafted wideout Trinity Benson has impressed the coaching staff with his vertical speed, but he’s also making big plays when he’s given opportunities in camp.
Benson, like McKnight, has also been working as a punt returner.
LB Justin Hollins
The Broncos selected Hollins in the fifth round of this year’s draft out of Oregon, and he’s been racking up first-team reps on defense at inside linebacker as well as off the edge.
He’s also been taking first-team nickel reps.
Hollins is a player the Broncos feel can be very versatile for them, and they’re putting him in a variety of situations.
LB Josh Watson
On the hunt for ILB depth, the Broncos signed Watson as a UDFA out of Colorado State. The former Rams star has been stellar through the start of camp, and has gotten a lot of first-team reps in Todd Davis’ place.
I am not sure if he’s out-snapping Alexander Johnson in that regard, but he’s certainly done a lot of work with the top defense.