If you know me, you know that I do not sugar-coat my opinions. Who has that kind of time? While I love the Broncos’ organization, I would not say that I liked their draft if I did not truly believe it.
Well, I can say confidently that this was an absolute robbery of young talent at great value. I am excited about it. I understood almost all of their picks and I thought the team got terrific value.
Simply put, I thought this was John Elway’s best draft.
Let’s take a closer look, pick by pick.
ROUND 1, NO. 20 OVERALL: NOAH FANT, TE, IOWA
Before I get into Fant specifically, I give the Broncos credit for drafting guys with high character and significant experience. When players have character and experience, that tells me that they are able to adjust and that they have overcome adversity. Those two qualities are a great foundation for any NFL draft pick.
Not only is Fant a talented pass-catcher and blocker, but one additional thing that will impact his career and life comes from the fact he took a class in decision-making. For a football player, decision-making is everything. From pre-snap to post-snap and including the ability to make adjustments on every play, Fant is a great decision-maker and that will prove critical against top-flight NFL defenses.
From a personal standpoint, I like that Fant’s brother already lives in downtown Denver. He’s been living here for two years. The importance of family can be seen in another rising star of the Denver sports scene, Nikola Jokic. An independent, experienced sounding board can be critical for the development of an NFL player and Noah has that a few miles away. I also love that Fant has played on the defense in high school, ending his career with all-state honors.
I love two-way players because that experience allows Fant to know what defensive ends are looking at. When you have that knowledge of what the opponent is expecting, you can deceive them. You know where they have responsibilities and you know to attack their next move.
ROUND 2, NO. 41 OVERALL: DALTON RISNER, G/C, KANSAS STATE
As someone who played football for 17 years, I can tell you nothing will be more important to an offensive lineman than experience.
Risner has that key experience. He was a four-year starter, a three-year captain. This tells me that he knows how to communicate, how to make decisions, how to evaluate what he is seeing pre-snap and how to adjust on the fly.
We had him on our show and I love when he told the story of puking his guts out after one of his first real workouts with other top prospects of Colorado. Instead of quitting, he made the 90-minute drive the next day for more. That mentality will pay dividends in a year, and in a league, where failure lurks around every play.
Risner played center in college, but he has also played tackle and has seen time across the offensive line in his career. He gives the Broncos an insurance policy in case Garett Bolles does not continue to improve, AND if Ron Leary does not kick the injury bug. Above all, he gives the Broncos some flexibility.
Additionally, you can hear the excitement in Risner’s voice when he says he is excited to be here and will contribute in any way he can. As for me, I’m excited to have him.
ROUND 2, NO. 42 OVERALL: DREW LOCK, QB, MISSOURI
I did not like Drew Lock as a potential top-10 pick. But at 42nd overall – I love it.
Pro Football Focus had Lock with 33 big-time throws, meaning throws that they see being made consistently by NFL quarterbacks. Pro Football Focus also listed him as the 4th best passer grade in the nation for throws over 10 yards. These numbers project accurate, downfield, defense-stretching throws. Add the talent at positions the Broncos have and Drew Lock has potential to play QB at a high level in the NFL.
Now, I do have issues with Lock. Against Georgia and Alabama last season, he had three of his eight interceptions. So, his decision-making will have to improve.
But right off the bat, he shows up as a rookie with NFL arm strength. And when you listen to him talk football, he has a technical understanding of the quarterback position that someone like Paxton Lynch never displayed during his time in Denver.
I also love that John Elway did not panic by taking Lock at No. 41. He stayed true to his board and took Risner, a player the team desperately needed, and then came back for a promising quarterback a few minutes later.
ROUND 3, NO. 71 OVERALL: DRE’MONT JONES, DT, OHIO STATE
I talked to three NFL teams that had a first-round grade on Jones, meaning three teams almost picked him on the draft’s opening night!
Jones will be the heir apparent to Super Bowl Champion Derek Wolfe. He has great hands. His 2nd most pressures in college football last year demonstrates he knows how to get to the quarterback. His NFL ceiling is a guy with double-digit sacks. Broncos fans, this may be your new Malik Jackson.
ROUND 5, NO. 156 OVERALL: JUSTIN HOLLINS, LB, OREGON
Hollins was the only Broncos draft pick that raised my eyebrows.
Let me be clear, to get drafted into the NFL you are an ELITE college talent.
When I watched the film on Justin, he left much to be desired. In the field of play he is slow, which surprised me as he ran a 4.5-yard dash in college. He relied on other players on the Oregon defense to make plays for him. He’s underweight. He needs to put on a solid 20 pounds.
And his production was underwhelming – 13 sacks over four seasons. Additionally, he did not pass the frame test. This is a tactic scouts use to find who is in the final frame after a tackle is made. Justin will have to improve on finishing plays and trying to make the tackle. He also needs to figure out some professional pass rush moves.
Unfortunately, I do not think Hollins is going to play much. I have seen 100 guys like him struggle to make a name for themselves in the NFL. I hope that I am wrong.
ROUND 6, NO. 187 OVERALL: JUWANN WINFREE, WR, COLORADO
I love this kid. He provides awesome value as a sixth-round pick. He catches the ball with his hands, he can grab the ball at its highest point. Many college receivers catch the ball while using their body, which becomes problematic in the NFL when QB’s are slinging fastballs right at the numbers.
Winfree averaged 13.5 yards per catch in college. And that was in the Pac-12, a Power 5 conference. He went against great competition and still performed at a high level. This was a terrific pick for Elway and the Broncos and the cherry on top of a really, really solid draft.