Though the Broncos didn't select a player in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, they've enjoyed near-immediate returns from this year's class of rookies. Sunday's win against the Kansas City Chiefs may have been the best example of just how impactful Denver's rookies have been so far and why the future is looking bright for the Broncos.
On special teams, wide receiver Marvin Mims Jr. ripped off a 31-yard punt return to set the Broncos up in Kansas City territory for their first drive of the game, while inside linebacker Drew Sanders recovered a muffed punt in the fourth quarter that led to a Courtland Sutton touchdown reception and a 21-9 Denver lead. Running back Jaleel McLaughlin continued to impact the offense's performance, averaging 8.3 yards per carry along with a pair of receptions.
The 24-9 win was just the latest instance of the Broncos' rookies making their presence felt.
Mims, the Broncos' top pick in the draft, has already earned multiple Rookie of the Week nominations and is one of two players to record a kick-return touchdown this season. The Oklahoma product also averages 20.3 yards per punt return and has emerged as one of Denver's offense's most dangerous big-play threats, with a team-leading 22.4 yards per catch.
The offense's other standout rookie, McLaughlin, has continued his incredible journey from breaking into the league as an undrafted free agent to securing a valuable role in the Broncos' backfield.
McLaughlin ranks second on the Broncos in rushing yards and ranks second in the NFL in yards per carry (7.1) among players with at least 30 carries. Denver has utilized McLaughlin in the passing game as well, and he's recorded 12 receptions and two receiving touchdowns at the halfway point of the season. In the Broncos' 31-28 win over Chicago, McLaughlin totaled 104 yards from scrimmage on 10 touches and found the end zone on a screen pass.
Defensively, Sanders and cornerback Riley Moss have also seen playing time in their first season in Denver, as have undrafted free agents Nake Adkins and Thomas Incoom.
After the bye week, the Broncos will look for these impactful rookies to continue their growth and contributions over the second half of the season.