Perhaps not as futile as assigning grades before a single prospect takes the field, with the NFL draft now in the rearview mirror, the media goes from its weekly cycle of mock drafts and transitions to its new favorite weekly talking point: power rankings.
Most of the teams’ rankings should be unchanged based on what occurred in the draft. Certainly, there will be rookies who can come in and, from day one, completely change the landscape of the NFL just like Ja’Marr Chase did for the Cincinnati Bengals and Micah Parsons did for the Dallas Cowboys last season.
For the most part, though, the draft is about the future. Just like buying seeds from the local greenhouse to plant and grow rather than buying a fully bloomed plant.
Given that the Denver Broncos didn’t have much in terms of premium draft capital this season, it would have been surprising to see the general view of this squad change much after the draft. However, in comparison to the meandering franchise most folks believed the Broncos were at the conclusion of last season, where does the national media believe the team to be now?
According to NFL.com’s Around the NFL writer Dan Hanzus, the Broncos are a legitimate contender for not only the very talented AFC West but also have a chance to take home the Lombardi Trophy next season. While being ranked behind such obvious darlings like the Buffalo Bills, Los Angeles Rams, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Broncos find themselves only one slot behind the reigning AFC West-champion Kansas City Chiefs at No. 8 in the power rankings.
Previous rank: No. 8
The blockbuster trade for Russell Wilson was a massive lift for the franchise, and it’s hard to quibble with any transaction that ends with the arrival of a potential Hall of Fame passer in his prime. One minor drawback of the deal was the departure of tight end Noah Fant, who was sent to Seattle. Denver addressed this hole in its attack through the draft, selecting UCLA’s Greg Dulcich in the third round. Dulcich was a downfield playmaker in college, and he should have a clear path to an immediate role in Nathaniel Hackett’s offense.
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Even before the draft, the probably biggest question on the Broncos’ roster after the acquisition of Wilson was the quality of the offensive line and specifically that of the right tackle. While Hanzus makes a good point about the Broncos acquiring Dulcich to help soften the blow of losing Fant in the Wilson trade, the team’s churn of stop-gap, one-year options at tackle is likely set to continue after Denver bypassed selecting an offensive tackle for a fifth straight draft.
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It’s not that the options at right tackle for Denver are barren. The team did re-sign Calvin Anderson while also signing free agents Tom Compton from San Francisco and Billy Turner from Green Bay. The floor for the position is relatively high, but the ceiling is not that far away from the floor.
What will the Broncos do to combat the surge of additional pass-rush talent in the division this season? While the Broncos may have issues at right tackle, that’s also probably true for every single other team in the division as well.
With the Chiefs set to start Lucas Niang, the Chargers having some options in Trey Pipkins, Storm Norton, and Matt Feiler, and the Raiders’ choices of Alex Leatherwood and Brandon Parker, the Broncos are no worse off than any team in the division at the right tackle position.
That should be somewhat comforting for the Broncos County, who seems to be a tad on the edge with the Broncos not addressing the right tackle spot to a majority’s liking. What should put fans right back on the edge of their seat, though, is while Chiefs rank no. 7 and the Broncos rank No. 8 in these power rankings, the Chargers and Raiders are literally right behind at 9 and 10.
As the power rankings indicate, the AFC West in 2022 is set to be an absolute bloodbath. While teams like the Buccaneers and the Bills and the Packers get to enter this season as obvious tiers above their divisional foes, who survives the AFC West is anyone’s guess. The Broncos could just as easily win the Super Bowl this season as they could finish a game under .500 and miss the playoffs entirely.
Until the games are played, how the AFC West will shake out and where the Broncos will fall in the NFL hierarchy is to be determined. Given how irrelevant the Broncos have been viewed since Peyton Manning rode off into the sunset, Denver ranking in the top 10 is a sign that good things are in the future in the Mile High City.
How it will all play out will be revealed over time but without a doubt, when it comes to relevancy, the Broncos are back.
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