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'We're playing the best players': Broncos' 2023 rookie class will get chance to compete for early playing time


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — A fair assessment of the Broncos' 2023 NFL Draft class will take a little while.

A few years must pass before evaluators can truly look back at the Broncos' five-player class and make a judgment.

That won't stop them from trying.

"Tomorrow's the day that all the draft grades come out," Head Coach Sean Payton said Saturday following the conclusion of the draft. "I love tomorrow. Truly, I hope three years from now when all of us will have a better idea of how this draft went, the reports will be good. Again, we heard it a million times: 'We got our guy today.' Half of them are lying."

Yet while there is no immediate answer about the future of this class, the Broncos are optimistic about where the roster stands following the bulk of free agency and the draft.

"The draft just ended, and I'm really excited," Payton said. "I think that's an honest answer."

The Broncos' excitement stems from the opportunity to add five draft picks — WR Marvin Mims Jr., LB Drew Sanders, CB Riley Moss, S JL Skinner and C Alex Forsyth — and a veteran tight end in Adam Trautman via a trade. All five rookies will be given every opportunity to contribute as they arrive in Denver.

As Payton explained Saturday, the Broncos had a plan to acquire talent via a variety of methods. But once players enter the Broncos' facility, they're on equal footing.

"Once they're sitting in that meeting room, how they arrive is of no importance to us at that point," Payton said. "We're playing the best players. … They'll all have a piece of tape on the front of their helmet with their last name, and we're just going to go by what we see."

Payton's New Orleans teams featured their share of rookie contributors — most notably Marshon Lattimore and Alvin Kamara, who made the Pro Bowl in their first season with the Saints.

Whether as a Pro Bowler or special teams player, Payton said it's important the team has a vision for any potential contributor. 

"Can he help in the kicking game?" Payton said. "There's only a handful of players on an NFL sideline that don't go in. The backup linemen, if you stay healthy, they might go in for the field-goal team. Your backup quarterback might have a clean uniform. And then you start looking at — you guys have covered college football, there's 110 people. In the NFL, it's a very quiet sideline area. So you've got to be able to look and say, 'All right, how many plays do we see this player playing if he's not starting?'"

While it's not possible to fully judge the Broncos' 2023 draft class for several years, the five players could soon earn a chance to start making their mark.


The Broncos drafted Skinner with the 183rd-overall pick, and General Manager George Paton said the team felt that a pectoral injury pushed him into the sixth round. 

When healthy, Skinner's tape showed a higher level of play that the Broncos felt lucky to add to their roster.

"I think we all felt that," Paton said. "We've liked him throughout the process. I think the first thing you see is the size. He's almost 6-[foot]-4, and then the athletic ability for that size, we thought was unique. The short-area quickness, the range. You see the ball skills on tape. The thing that really sticks out is his physicality and playing downhill in the run game. You see that all over the tape. He's a fun watch, and Sean and I have watched a lot of tape on him. He's a fun watch. I think the injury did impact where he was drafted. We felt very fortunate to get him where we did."

Payton said Skinner was a "joined-at-the-hip player" that both he and Paton gravitated toward during the pre-draft process.


Forsyth — a seventh-round pick — played several positions at Oregon, but Paton said the three-year starter profiles mainly as an NFL center.

"We see him as a center that can flex, and he's going to compete, just like all the rookies and the entire team," Paton said. "… [He's] tough, smart. [I] just love the way he plays the game. So he's going to compete like everyone else."

Payton said when the Broncos completed mock drafts, they saw simulations where Forsyth came off the board in the sixth round. As such, the Broncos considered using a sixth-round pick on a player who did not allow a sack in 2022. Instead, they were able to trade for Trautman and add Forsyth with the 257th-overall pick.

"We felt real fortunate to have a chance at [Forsyth] that late in the draft," Payton said.

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