Today we continue our annual 90 player roster breakdown in 90 days. If you missed the previous player breakdowns, you can check them out here.
Name: Derek Wolfe
Height: 6'5" Weight: 285
Age: 26 Experience: 5th
Derek Wolfe was the Broncos' first pick of the 2012 draft, in which they traded back several times into the early second round before making a pick. Wolfe logged 6 sacks in his rookie season and looked to be on his way to becoming the dominant player he is today.
However, a freak injury in the 2013 preseason caused him problems all throughout the year leading to a seizure in November and landing him on IR during Super Bowl 48. Mile High Report chronicled the injury and events of that season. After battling depression, health scares and losing 20 lbs, Wolfe looked to get back on track in 2014 and carry some momentum into the 2015 season. Then, he was suspended for PEDs for the first four games of the 2015 season.
Despite all that adversity, Wolfe came off of the suspension and played extremely well last year, really turning it on over the last few games of the season, and into the playoffs. He and Malik Jackson were a dominant force on the inside for Denver's run and pass defense.
His play in 2015 earned him a new contract towards the end of the season, which looks to be a great deal for both sides. We get Derek for the next four years at a yearly rate that is slightly below what he would have made on the open market, and he got over half of his contract guaranteed, and is likely to play all of it out.
Since signing his deal, Derek has really become a fan favorite and leader on this team. His no nonsense attitude and tireless work ethic is something that is needed on our defense and the willingness with which he negotiated his contract definitely earned him some brownie points with the fans.
Where do I start, I already touched on his attitude a little bit, but I really appreciate Wolfe’s nastiness and, at times, downright scary demeanor on the field. He is by no means a dirty player and rarely draws penalties, but between the whistle, you don’t want to mess with this guy.
He has always been one of our best run defenders, showing active hands, and strength at the point of attack. He was a big part of why Denver was so good against the run last year.
Derek Wolfe and Co. just dominated the LOS. Watch him win the B gap then shed inside to tackle the RB in C gap. Whew pic.twitter.com/ULoCbHPo0i— Brandon Thorn (@VeteranScout) February 8, 2016
He showed no signs of letting up last night either in the few snaps he played against the 49ers.
In addition to his run defense, his pass rush ability improved this last year as well.
Beautiful technique with a swipe/swim here. Wolfe is much more than just a run-stuffer. His contract is stealing.. pic.twitter.com/XRhF0MUy2G— Brandon Thorn (@VeteranScout) April 20, 2016
Pro Football Focus agreed as well naming him one of their breakout players of 2015.
Derek Wolfe, DE, Denver Broncos
2014 grade: +10.0 in 780 snaps
2015 grade: +20.3 in 422 snaps
Wolfe was a good, if one-dimensional, piece in the Broncos’ defense his first three seasons. He’s elevated his game in 2015, despite a four-game suspension to start the season. The arrival of Wade Philips has brought more predominantly odd fronts to the Broncos, and Wolfe looks a more natural fit at five-technique than he did on the end of a four-man line. Overall, he’s our 10th-ranked 3-4 defensive end, despite taking only 422 snaps. He’s No. 1 in run stop percentage at the position, with 26 tackles around the line of scrimmage from just 172 reps. Wolfe has done more as a pass rusher (+4.8) than he has in any previous season, too. In the eight 2015 games he’s played, he has six “green” graded games (above +1.0) and just one negatively graded outing. The Broncos’ incredibly rich defense just got richer.
Gosh, I don’t know that I have ever done on of these where I didn’t have anything to put. We had a bit of a scare the other day when Wolfe came up limping in practice, but it turned out to be just a sprained ankle and he played a few days later.
Outside of injury, I do not see anything stopping Wolfe this year, as he continues to solidify himself as one of the key cogs on our defense.
I don’t think it’s crazy to say we haven’t seen the best of Wolfe yet; and that’s a scary thought (for Tom Brady and his kids).