With training camp and the preseason officially wrapping up this week, rosters around the league have finally found their place. The 53 best players (and 17 Practice Squad players) have kept their uniforms, bracing for the new season. Under Sean Payton's watch, four undrafted rookies (and all five draft picks) have made the 53-man roster, a team record.
Yes, it is now down to three with OT Alex Palczewski going on short-term IR. Despite having only five picks in this past Draft, the Broncos found a way to infuse young, electric talent onto the roster with few resources. Here are three reasons why the 2023 rookie class could end up being one of the most impactful in recent memory.
3 reasons Denver Broncos 2023 rookie class is one of the best in recent memory
Reason #1: Setting the tone
When Sean Payton strolled into New Orleans in 2006, the team was ravaged by on and off-the-field turmoil. Inheriting a 3-13 team, Payton went to work quickly to address the various woes found on his roster. Knowing that he needed an injection of talent on the roster, he found players who could be foundational pieces to form his vision. That draft class resulted in one that was one of the best of that entire era. That draft haul included Reggie Bush, Roman Harper, Jahri Evans, Rob Ninkovich, Zach Strief (that name sounds familiar), and Marques Colston. With the exception of Ninkovich (who carved out his path in New England), they all became long-time starters and/or Pro Bowl players for New Orleans. The boost from that class was quick as the 2006 Saints went on to win 10 games and reach the NFC Conference Championship game.
Naiing a draft is more than just acquiring talented players. It's also bringing in guys that can establish your culture on the field. For example, in that class, New Orleans found their starting guards with Evans and Strief for several years. Considering how much Payton valued the offensive line this off-season, it's easy to see why those picks were paramount to their success. That influence remains today as Strief has become the Broncos Offensive Line Coach. Buying into a culture is everything for a football team; winning a championship without a strong one is nearly impossible.
So, how does this sentiment echo to the current Broncos roster? Well, look at the kind of rookies that they brought in. Many of them were 3+ year starters in college. Many were considered to be great leaders and had immense discipline. Finally, many of them were battle-tested (one way or another) during their college tenures.
This isn't a group that "needs seasoning" or "isn't ready for the big time." Sure, guys like Sanders and Skinner may be a bit raw at their position, but make no mistake, their impact will be felt on the field sooner rather than later. This rookie group looks to be one that's ready to strap on their helmets and put in the work.
Payton's teams have always been tough, disciplined, and ready to take on anyone. Whether it's Marvin Mims or Jaleel McLaughlin, this rookie class has shown they're ready to immediately buy into the culture and amplify it with their play on the field. That kind of buy-in from your rookies can result in immediate results on the field.