For the Denver Broncos, they needed a big time draft class coming off a disappointing 5-11 season. John Elway and his staff have been hit or miss over the last five years, so many of us were worried they might somehow screw this up.
Those worries ended up being unfounded. Elway and his team stuck to their draft board and picked the best available player at every step of the way.
2018 Broncos Draft Class
|1||5||Bradley Chubb||OLB||North Carolina State||Scouting Report||Video|
|2||40||Courtland Sutton||WR||SMU||Scouting Report||Video|
|3||71||Royce Freeman||RB||Oregon||Scouting Report||Video|
|3||99||Isaac Yiadom||CB||Boston College||Scouting Report||Video|
|4||106||Josey Jewell||ILB||Iowa||Scouting Report||Video|
|4||113||DaeSean Hamilton||WR||Penn State||Scouting Report||Video|
|5||156||Troy Fumagalli||TE||Wisconsin||Scouting Report||Video|
|6||183||Sam Jones||OG||Arizona State||Scouting Report||Video|
|6||217||Keishawn Bierria||ILB||Washington||Scouting Report||Video|
|7||226||David Williams||RB||Arkansas||Scouting Report||Video|
Pundits around the league agreed as the Broncos earned high marks and praise for their draft philosophy this year. One headline today even claimed the Broncos came up “Aces” with their draft. That’s the kind of stuff we’re just not used to reading about the day after an NFL Draft with the Denver Broncos.
Here’s how many of the big sites out there graded the Broncos draft class in 2018.
Getting Bradley Chubb and to go along with Von Miller sets Denver up with one of the best pass rush pairs in the NFL. It was a surprise that Chubb was still available at fifth overall. He’s a player who is just as good against the run as he is rushing the passer. Maybe more importantly, he can keep some double teams off Miller.
Denver also took mirror versions of some wide receivers they already have on the roster. That would be Courtland Sutton being the new Demaryius Thomas and DaeSean Hamilton the new Emmanuel Sanders. It makes you wonder what they’ll do with the veteran players, because Sutton and Hamilton are NFL starters.
The Broncos got another weapon on offense in the third round with Oregon running back Royce Freeman. He’s a power back who can carry the load for Denver. He’s a better runner on the edge than you’d think. Cornerback Isaac Yiadom is a nice back of the roster dime player, at worst. Fourth round linebacker Josey Jewell is a tackle machine. He could push for a spot in the starting lineup.
The knock on this draft class is that the offensive line wasn’t really addressed.
Reaction: Dan Kadar’s note that the Broncos ignored the offensive line is something many Broncos fans have echoed over the last three days. This is also something I’ve argued at length about with fans. The offensive line issues last year were part poor offensive line talent and part poor quarterback talent. Elway addressed the biggest problem by trading for veteran tackle Jared Veldheer. That alone will shore up the single biggest problem the offensive line had in 2017, albeit if Veldheer stays healthy next season.
Day 1: Bradley Chubb is one of the draft’s best all-around players and he’ll continue to the pipeline of productive edge rushers in Denver. He’s outstanding in the run game, playing with good leverage and technique and as a pass-rusher, he attacks offensive tackles with a full array of moves. The question for Chubb is whether or not he’ll every become an elite pass-rusher as his peak college pass-rush grade of 86.4 from last season is more indicative of a mid-tier rusher at the next level. However, his size and burst could be utilized on the interior in nickel situations, and if he can exploit guards as a pass-rusher, it makes the Broncos’ defensive front all the more dangerous.
Reaction: The Broncos now have two pass rushers who were drafted in the Top 5 overall. Chubb is also considered one of the best overall players in this draft and ESPN’s Louis Riddick even said he would have taken Chubb over Myles Garrett last year. In short, the Broncos have a frightening pass rush duo now and that alone is “winning the draft” in my opinion.
Day 2: Denver adds another big playmaker to their receiving corps with Courtland Sutton who has a massive frame, but also impressive quickness as evidenced by his 6.57 3-cone drill. He can make defenders miss after the catch, forcing 26 missed tackles on only 143 catches over the last two years, and he ranked 13th in the nation with 574 yards on deep passes in 2016. Sutton’s strengths and weaknesses compare favorably to current Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas. Royce Freeman had an up-and-down career at Oregon, posting an excellent 92.4 overall grade back in 2015, before struggling in 2016 (77.1 grade) and bouncing back in 2017 (86.3 grade). He ranked 14th in elusive rating last season at 76.1 and he has the balance and vision to be an efficient next-level runner. Isaac Yiadom brings good size to the cornerback position, and he capped his career with two solid years, grading at 83.9 in 2016 and 83.6 last season.
Reaction: Many felt the Sutton pick is just another Cody Lattimer or Bennie Fowler - a big, slow wide receiver. Sutton isn’t slow, though. He has elite quickness and many draftnik types saw him as a first round talent that some team would “steal” in the second round. Well, the Broncos stole him. The Freeman pick is way underrated too. Devontae Booker and Freeman will be the one-two punch that the Broncos had been hoping for from Booker and C.J. Anderson. The Broncos offense is going to find an easier time putting pressure on opposing defenses in the red zone with both of these Day 2 picks.
Day 3: Josey Jewell had a fantastic career at Iowa, grading between 85.9 and 87.9 in each of the last three seasons. He finished his career with 15 pass breakups and six interceptions while not allowing a touchdown as the primary defender in coverage. DaeSean Hamilton could see the field early as he’s a polished route runner and adept at varying the speed of his routes to set up defenders. He gained 845 yards from the slot last season, eighth-most among FBS wide receivers. Troy Fumagalli ranked fourth among draft-eligible tight ends with 1.87 yards per route and he’s one of the better blockers in the draft class as he has experience blocking in-line and he can at least get in the way of bigger, more athletic defensive ends. Sam Jones’ best overall grade came in 2016 (84.9) and he ranked 36th among draft-class guards with a pass-blocking efficiency of 97.9 last season.
Overall grade: Good
Reaction: Jewell was a steady, consistent player in college. While I’m not overly confident any Day 3 selection will make an impact long term for the Broncos, there is always a chance one of these guys balls out like a Danny Trevathan or Malik Jackson. I liked all of the picks the Broncos made. They did a great job filling out the depth of their roster with these selections and who knows, maybe they’ll hit pay dirt on one of these players.
The skinny: Chubb was the best value on the board for this team. Putting him and Von Miller on the same defense makes them dangerous again, like when DeMarcus Ware and Miller were doing their thing. Case Keenum’s two-year deal took QB out of the equation here, and Paxton Lynch still has an opportunity to grow into a starter. Sutton’s going to be a playmaker at the next level because of his quick feet and size. The Broncos also needed a running back after letting C.J. Anderson go, and found one in Freeman, who looked more explosive later in the 2017 season. He might be getting back to his former self after struggling through injury; if he returns to form, the team got a steal. Trading Aqib Talib meant the Broncos were in need of a corner with length. Yiadom is a good fit. Jewell was a fine fourth-round pick at inside linebacker for the Broncos. He’s solid and able to cover space due to his instincts. Adding Hamilton a day after picking Sutton should make Keenum very happy. Fumagalli and Jones should have been picked a round or two earlier; both fill huge needs for the Broncos.
Overall grade: A
Reaction: The NFL flagship site has consistently loved the Broncos draft class each step of the way. I am with them on that. The biggest issue for Elway and the Broncos has been their hit rate on premium draft picks in the first three rounds. I feel like they finally hit on most of them and then used late round picks on finding diamonds in the rough. That’s the kind of draft strategy I’d prefer, honestly.
John Elway resisted the urge to move down or go for a quarterback, and it paid off with a stellar draft. Chubb was a steal to pair with Von Miller, and they still got their offensive help for Case Keenum with Sutton, Freeman and Fumagalli. Sutton and Hamilton also give them present support and future alternatives to Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Yiadom can be groomed as an Aqib Tailb replacement, and they unearthed a 3-4 tackling gem in Jewell. Denver’s needs were met, and nothing close to a reach was made.
Denver Broncos: A
Reaction: Sporting News absolutely loved Elway’s draft here. Their headline said “Broncos, Cardinals come up aces; Bills, Seahawks flop” and that is some high praise indeed. I’ll be completely honest and say that I am so used to arguing that media draftniks don’t know what the hell they are talking about each year that I am unsure how to respond to all of this draft love the Broncos are getting this year!
We thought Denver might take a quarterback at No. 5, but with Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold off the board, they went best player available. Bradley Chubb is the best pass-rusher in this class by far. He’s not a perfect fit for Denver’s 3-4, but you have to find a way to get him on the field next to Von Miller. He’s too talented. The Broncos’ defense regressed in 2017 -- the Rams say “thanks” for Wade Phillips -- and ranked only 22nd in the league in sacks with 33. With Miller and Chubb on the field, they’ll get after quarterbacks.
Reaction: Mel Kiper had the Broncos taking Josh Allen. And as usual, Mel Kiper was wrong. To be fair, no one thought Chubb would fall to Denver - not even Denver. With the Broncos top quarterback choices off the board, they decided to focus on returning the defense to 2015 championship levels. Von Miller’s reaction to the Broncos drafting Chubb is one of the ages.
Running back was one of the Broncos’ biggest needs after C.J. Anderson was released, and there weren’t many guys available at 71. Royce Freeman isn’t a big factor in the passing game, but he was the best back left on my board. He had 60 rushing touchdowns at Oregon and packs short-yardage punch at 230 pounds. John Elway & Co. took two receivers to help out new quarterback Case Keenum. Courtland Sutton (pick 40) is a big, raw target. McShay called him a “finesse” receiver, and I agree. You want to see him use his frame better to block off cornerbacks. DaeSean Hamilton (pick 113) impressed me at Senior Bowl practices and tested better at the combine than I expected. Possible steal.
Denver dealt Aqib Talib in the offseason, and I expect former first-round pick Bradley Roby to take that spot. But Isaac Yiadom (pick 99) is a solid player and big, 6-1 corner who should get snaps. I like Josey Jewell (pick 106) as a dependable two-down inside linebacker, but he doesn’t have the speed to cover running backs or tight ends. Troy Fumagalli (pick 156) could fill a role as a second or third tight end.
There’s a lot of value in this class, and Elway & Co. deserve credit for taking the best player available in spots while also filling needs.
Denver Broncos: B+
Reaction: Value. That seemed to be a recurring theme, which is quite the opposite of the “Reach” that seemed to be the Broncos tendencies in previous drafts. There is a lot to love about this draft class, but even more to love about the apparent shift in the Broncos draft philosophies. It should be exciting to see that play out in future drafts.
As for the fans, I ran with a poll in our final Broncos draft results on Sunday and most of us generally love this draft with 92% (as of this writing) graded the class out with an A (57&) or a B (35%). The Chubb pick alone is going to make an immediate impact, but the value picks on Day at wide receiver and running back could have the biggest impact from a scoring points stance in 2018. I am pretty excited about next season. How about you?
How would you grade the entire 2018 Broncos draft class?
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