The NFL draft is in the books but the grades keep pouring in for George Paton’s second class as the general manager of the Denver Broncos. Given the Broncos’ first selection this draft cycle wasn’t until the very last pick in the second round, and Paton’s desire to accumulate 2023 draft picks in 2022, the team was never going to walk away with a mind-blowing draft class as far as national perspective.
When teams like the New York Jets draft four plays in the top-40, the Kansas City Chiefs accumulate premium picks by trading away the single most dynamic offensive playmaker in football this season, and the Baltimore Ravens just being themselves and walk away with value at nearly every pick and trade, it makes sense why the Broncos wouldn’t be getting that much attention at this point.
Hindsight will tell the tale as draft classes shouldn’t receive a final grade until four to five years into the future, but the immediate post-draft grades do serve a valuable purpose: they’re fun.
Overall, it seems like many draftniks think the Broncos did fine in the 2022 draft, but perhaps no one is as high on what Paton did this past weekend as NFL.com analyst Chad Reuters.
Given that Reuter is one of the few in the draft media that regularly mocks and analyzes the draft well beyond the first round, he should be considered one of the better analysts out there to judge how the Broncos did in 2022. Receiving an ‘A’ grade for Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3, Denver has a big fan in Reuter across the board this year.
Russell Wilson was a big part of Denver’s draft class, which is fine with the Broncos, as it should be. They used a pick acquired in the Von Miller trade to add an explosive pass rusher in Bonitto. The team found a potential replacement for pass-catching tight end Noah Fant (who was sent to Seattle in the Wilson deal) in former walk-on Dulcich.
Mathis builds cornerback depth for the Broncos, as he can play in the slot or outside. Uwazurike and Henningsen are polar opposites as defensive linemen, with the former Cyclone a powerful player and Henningsen a high-motor pressure machine. Wattenberg could compete for the starting center job in 2022.
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Honestly, if the Broncos traded away their entire draft class this season for Wilson, the grade should still have been an A (doing so might have been a better trade for Denver considering that they would have meant it would still have its 2023 first- and second -round picks). In the NFL, if you don’t have a star quarterback, you either need a generational unit (such as the 2015 Broncos’ defense), an extraordinary amount of luck both in games and injury-wise, and an outstanding coaching staff.
While it’s hard to find a franchise quarterback, it’s even harder to bank on any of the other possible avenues bearing fruit. There are questions about the long-term pathways to starting for a few of the Broncos’ draft selections this year, but it would be surprising if four of Denver’s first six picks this season — Nik Bonitto, Greg Dulcich, Eyioma Uwazurike, and Montrell Washington — weren’t logging heavy reps in 2022 in their specific niche roles.
With the Broncos entering a Super Bowl window this season and acquiring Wilson (who is in line for a large contract next offseason), the best time to go for it might be right now. How will the Broncos’ 2022 draft haul look years down the line?
A lot of that will likely come down to just how well this staff can develop these players and if the rookie class can develop from “specific role” type to full-blown quality starters. Regardless, the Broncos’ roster got better last weekend.
If Reuter believes the Broncos’ got straight As for all three days of the draft, then that means as much as any post-draft grade could mean.
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