Denver Broncos GM George Paton’s second draft class has been met with mixed reviews. After years of drafting in the top-10 and walking away with upper-tier prospects, things were different this year as the Broncos sent a majority of their premium draft capital to Seattle for franchise quarterback Russell Wilson; an absolute bargain if you ask me.
Given the reality that the Broncos were not officially on the clock until all the way down at pick 64, of course the 2022 draft class isn’t going to compare to the value of selecting blue-blood talents such as Patrick Surtain II, Javonte Williams , Jerry Jeudy, Noah Fant (in a trade-down at that), and Bradley Chubb.
A chance at picking at the top of the draft is a consolation prize that no fan base would choose compared to the alternative of making the playoffs only to make selections late in the draft.
Still, without a top-10 pick this season, let alone a top-50 selection, the Broncos ’draft class seems to lack those sizzle picks that hit so emphatically for Paton just one draft ago.
However, if you’re feeling down about the Broncos’ recent draft haul, fear not because a majority of media analysts thought Paton did well overall given the reality of what draft picks he possessed. Pro Football Focus even gave the Broncos a very solid B + grade for their 2022 draft class.
Perhaps somewhat graded on a curve given that PFF’s first line of analysis discusses how the Broncos’ Day 1 of the draft was basically sending the ninth overall pick to Seattle for Wilson. PFF believed the Broncos did well overall on Day 2.
Nik Bonitto is a phenomenal value for the Broncos. He was PFF’s 38th-ranked player on the draft board and one of the most productive pass-rushers in the country. He earned a 92.5 PFF pass-rushing grade and a 27.3% pass-rushing win rate in 2021. He’s a pure speed rusher that should immediately come to Denver as a designated pass-rusher on obvious passing downs. This is one of the best picks of Day 2.
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As discussed in a recent article, Bonitto’s value and ability as a speed rusher is as unquestioned as he was not selected until the middle of Day 2. What will make or break Bonitto truly becoming a steal will largely depend on his ability to improve and find usage on rushing downs in the NFL.
The Broncos also got positive marks for adding Greg Dulcich to add a dynamic tight end option in wake of moving on from Noah Fant this offseason.
The Broncos traded away Noah Fant and needed to add a body to the tight end corps and Dulcich can fit that bill. He has excellent ball skills and shows real wide receiver chops in a tight end’s body. He has excellent athleticism and a really good feel for finding space and getting open. He will contribute to this offense.
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Wilson has not historically used the tight end at a very high clip, even when having Jimmy Graham on the roster. Graham’s overall volume of targets, usage, and production dropped precipitously going from New Orleans to Seattle. Still, Dulcich’s big-play ability both after the catch and vertically in the pass game matches with Wilson just fine.
On Day 3 of the draft, the Broncos appeared to focus on special teams upside and doubling up on positions to increase the odds of finding a viable player on the interior defensive line and at defensive back. As Mike Renner stated in PFF’s Tailgate podcast, “picks after the fourth round really don’t matter” (as in being any different than undrafted free agents in terms of their probability of making a roster and becoming a legitimate contributor).
PFF was quite impressed with Denver landing Pittsburgh defensive back Demarri Mathis at pick 115, though.
Mathis, a top-100 player and the 13th-best corner in this class, was a big part of the Pitt Panthers’ success last year. He snagged two interceptions, recorded four pass breaks and only allowed a 50.0% completion percentage on the way to a 68.0 defensive grade.
Mathis possesses solid length and tested well in the pre-draft cycle. He is also physically both at the catch point and in the run game and made a number of plays on the football during his college career.
Mathis will need to clean up his technique as his current playstyle will land itself to be penalized at the NFL level. Still, he’s a great get for the Broncos and a discount version of Cam Taylor-Britt, a player of the Broncos were allegedly targeting in Round 2 if he had fallen to 64.
All-in-all, a team’s draft grade is only as good as the individual grading draft. It’s an exercise in futility this early.
At this point in the process, the best things to grade would be the process of the types of players and skill-sets the Broncos targeted and any sort of movement the team made during the draft. Given that the Broncos went after a dynamic pass rusher, arguably the best receiving tight end in the class, and traded back from 96 overall, receiving a future third-round pick and a 2022 fifth-rounder, the B + grade makes sense from PFF in this instance.
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