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Charting development of Broncos’ 2018 NFL draft class

This dysfunctional Broncos season has brought one significant positive to light in the bye week.

Denver’s 2018 rookie draft class is developing toward a runaway success.

Of the Broncos’ 10 selections back in April, four now have starting experience — linebacker Bradley Chubb, wide receiver Courtland Sutton, running back Royce Freeman and linebacker Josey Jewell — while just one pick, seventh-round running back David Williams, is no longer on the roster. And, the jury is still out on fifth-round tight end Troy Fumagalli, sidelined on injured reserve since September with a groin injury.

The Broncos overall rookie success is no fluke based on a 3-6 record, either. Several first-year players, including undrafted running back Phillip Lindsay, have carved their niche as the foundation  of Denver’s long-term plans.

“They are our guys right now. We’ve got seven or eight rookies in major, major roles,” coach Vance Joseph said. “If they play good, we win, so it’s not a balancing act. They are playing. They are our headliners right now. They’ve got to play well. They have no choice.”

Here is a closer look at how the Broncos’ 2018 rookie draft class has performed through their first nine NFL games.

LB Bradley Chubb

Round (selection): First (No. 5)

Key statistics: Played 461 defensive snaps (77.6 percent) and three special teams snaps … Appeared in all nine games … Recorded 30 tackles, nine tackles for loss, eight sacks, 11 quarterback hits, one pass deflection and one forced fumble. … Penalized three times for 15 yards.

Quotable: “I’m just trying to go out there and not think as much as I was in the beginning of the season, just being the player that they drafted. That player wasn’t thinking … he was just out there playing, having fun and that’s what I’m trying to do now. I feel like it’s been successful.” — Chubb

Bottom line: Chubb is a legitimate candidate for defensive rookie of the year after exploding for 6.5 sacks over his last four games — putting him on pace to break the rookie sack record (14.5, Jevon Kearse). If Denver can learn to play with leads late, watch out, because Chubb is proving among the most NFL-ready players in the entire 2018 draft.

Second-half projection: Chubb will continue to pair mostly with Von Miller on the edges, especially on third downs, allowing him to flourish in clear passing situations. Chubb has effectively passed Shaq Barrett and Shane Ray as the team’s second best option at outside linebacker behind Miller.

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