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Grades for Day 1 & 2 of the Broncos Draft

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If you thought 2018 was good... 2019 is shaping up to be an amazing draft class. Here are how the first two days have been graded.

It’s nigh impossible to accurately tell you what picks will hit and miss out this close to the selections. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying, so much as I’m well aware that there’s a distinct possibility this looks silly a year or three down the road. With that in mind, I try to follow three main criteria when grading picks.

  1. The opportunity cost of the pick.
  2. Does it fit a short or long term need?
  3. What I think of the player.

So let’s start off with a quick re-hash from Day 1.

NFL Draft Grades 2019: Grading all 32 picks in the first round - Mile High Report

20. Denver Broncos - Noah Fant - TIGHT END

If you would have told me before the draft that Elway was going to trade back and pick up a 2019 2nd and 2020 3rd and get a guy that I debated as TE1? I would have told you you were lying. In the end I had Hock higher on my final Day 1 Big Board in part because I thought he was a better inline tight end and run blocker. I wonder what would have happened if Detroit had gone after Oliver or a offensive line help.

In the end, it won’t matter. Woody Paige was right and the Broncos wound up with a true mismatch weapon. Fant is going to be too fast for linebackers to deal with down the seam and too big for most safeties to body up on. He’ll need to improve as a blocker, route runner, and there are some concentration drops on his tape, but I love this pick. Fits an immediate need with an elite talent and Denver received extra capital in a very deep talent tier (20-60 is loaded) and got 2020 capital to help chase a franchise QB.

To go a bit further on Fant, I spent some time today looking back over his 2018 tape. Two things stood out to me that I remember thinking at the time but really excite me for his fit in the Scangarello offense now that it’s a reality.

1. Fant is nowhere near a bad blocker. He isn’t in a world beater like Hockenson but in Denver’s outside zone heavy scheme he’ll do well. He has the the footwork, size, and willingness to be an effective blocker in time. I do think he’ll need to improve his technique, specifically with his hands and angles. Luckily Denver has a coaching staff that should help in this regard.

2. Iowa used him everywhere, so when you hear me talk about how he’s a mismatch weapon it isn’t a new term for him. He played big slot and out wide as well as where you normally expect a tight end to play. Fant comes into the league at a time when a flex tight end is one of the best ways to test nickel and dime defenses. As Joe Mahoney mentioned earlier today.

This is what The Draft Network’s Kyle Crabbs said about Fant, who he ranked as the 4th best player in this draft.

Noah Fant has the physical skills and receiving chops to be the next big thing at the TE position in the NFL. The league has never been friendlier to flex targets and Fant runs like a receiver and leaps like a basketball pro. Fant is a nightmare in space and will excel in a vertical passing offense that can implement him in the middle of the field. With soft hands and elite athletic ability, Fant should be a volume target at the NFL level and will have an impact fairly early into his pro career.

So yeah, I’m excited about this one. Elway got great value at 20 and there’s a great chance Fant is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.

Joe’s Grade: A

When it came to the second day of the draft I went into it cautiously optimistic. Because of the Devin Bush trade Elway had extra ammo to play with and I found the 2019 class had a real sweet spot at the 20-60 range. In fact, I still had 3 first round talents on the board as the 2nd round opened.

41. Dalton Risner - OFFENSIVE LINE

Anyone who’s paid attention this spring knew that the interior offensive line was a pressing need for the 2019 Broncos. Connor McGovern was slated for either guard or center and Ronald Leary would start so long as he can stay healthy, but depth and talent would help.

For this reason I mocked Risner to Denver in my Day 2 Mock draft. Up until the pick happened though Tim Lynch and I debated if Elway would go for a cornerback like Greedy Williams because of the potential impasse between Chris Harris Jr. and the team.

So I was relieved the Broncos GM didn’t create an additional issue with the pick at 41, but instead worked to solve one. Dalton Risner was one of my favorite people coming out this year and famously grew up a diehard Broncos fan.

As a player, he’s even more exciting. He was a 4-year starter at Kansas State, a strong pass blocker, and an exceptional fit in Scangarello’s outside zone.

Needless to say, this was an exceptional pick. Risner is the kind of lineman you draft and forget about, and I mean that in the best possible way. He’s versatile enough to fill 4 of the 5 line positions in a pinch and should start from the opening day of training camp.

Joe’s Grade: A+

42. Drew Lock - QUARTERBACK

Immediately upon the Risner pick hitting Twitter word broke that the Broncos had orchestrated a trade with the Cincinatti Bengals to move up from 52. Elway decided to deal 125, 182, and 52 in order to move up 10 spots in the 2nd round. From there he took the QB that most (including yours truly) had mocked to Denver at 10. The trade to avoid a situation where the Miami Dolphins at 48 took Lock from them.

I wrote at length about Lock for my Day 2 Winners and Losers post, but here are the parts worth reiterating here.

The rumors have circulated for months about Elway and Lock. For that reason I’ve watched more tape on Drew Lock than any other player in this draft class. I watched his tape 3 times before I wrote my first GIF Horse on him.

I believe Lock’s ceiling is someone like a Matthew Stafford level of player, a fringe top 10 quarterback who’s good enough to win if the supporting cast isn’t horrid. If Lock can reach that level of play, the Broncos are probably playoff contenders most years with a Fangio defense to bail him out on the worst days.

I stand by that, but also said this when I revealed my QB Big board, where I had Lock as my QB 2 behind only Kyler Murray.

A. I think Drew Lock is going to be the Broncos selection at 10th overall.

B. I think he’s an exceptional fit in what I believe Scangarello offense is going to look like.

C. He still scares the hell out of me.

My biggest concern with Lock is that he’ll be rushed into action too soon. Media and fan pressure will be immense from the minute Elway calls him on April 25th. The PR team will sell us on Joe Flacco as the starter, but it’s not as if Lamar Jackson didn’t just supplant him in Baltimore. I strongly believe that the Missouri Tiger needs a redshirt year to reach his ceiling. Rushed into action he’ll resort to survival tactics, and many of the crippling inconsistencies you see in his college tape will linger into his pro career.

If he has the time to truly iron out his issues, I think he has a franchise arm. The good plays are hard to ignore, but they don’t erase the bad ones.

Lock was the best remaining player on my Day 2 Big Board and thought there was a very real possibility the Broncos took him at 41. The value this far down the board is really good. When the pick came in Tim Lynch and I were doing a Twitch stream and my initial response was frustration. Not because I dislike Lock as a player.

The two parts of the move I don’t like are A) the move leaves Denver with limited picks to address all their needs this year. It’s a small problem if Lock develops into a franchise signal caller, but this is a very talent rich Day 3 compared to most years.

The second issue I took with the Lock pick is how Broncos Country will push for him to play far too soon. I totally understand the fan base’s desire for a true franchise quarterback, but every season the backup becomes the most popular arm in town. Remember Chad Kelly? After a hot preseason last year he was being thrown around as the next coming of his uncle by some. I fully expect the talk radio stations and others to start calling for Lock the first time Flacco throws a bad pass in camp.

My only fear is this pressure will cause mistakes to occur in the Flacco to Lock bridge plan that’s being thrown around as gospel right now. I truly believe Drew Lock needs to sit and learn behind Joe Flacco this year. He needs time away from the bullets flying to hammer out his mechanics. Pressed into duty I believe he’ll fall into bad habits in order to survive, which will only hurt his development.

So I love the pick at 42. I just hope Elway and the Broncos coaching staff do a better job setting Lock up to succeed than Paxton Lynch before him.

Joe’s Grade: A

Broncos Country had a long wait before Elway got back on the clock. Let me tell you that I found it well worth it. Fangio’s defense may have gotten one of the steals of the draft.

71. Dre’Mont Jones - DEFENSIVE LINE

Jones is one of those guys that falls under the national radar every year because he was never considered a serious Day 1 prospect and so the ESPN’s and others barely give him the time of day. That plays into the whole “this guy came out of nowhere” angle when 2nd and 3rd round guys blow up a year or two down the road, but let me tell you: Jones talent was hardly a secret.

Consider what I said about him a week ago:

In a 4-3 scheme, he’d be a standard 3 technique. A sub-300 lb tackle, but incredibly quick and shifty for a man his size. He’ll excel at the next level as a gap shooting, disruptive playmaker, but could get washed out at the point of attack. Where he excels is pass protection and pursuit. He’s like a rat pressing underneath the door, able to squeeze through the smallest gaps to arrive in the backfield. Could see him as a role player for Fangio’s nickel personnel, and a good one at that. Denver brought him in for a private workout.

Both MHR’s Christopher Hart and Scotty Payne had Jones among the top 50 players on their respective boards as well. For as much as we all loved Ed Oliver, Jones looked like a Day 2 version with a similar skill set. One big difference between the two is that he won’t be as versatile, at least early on. Jones needs to get stronger to thrive outside of passing situations, and may never be a real force against the run at the NFL level. But that’s okay if you stop to look at it a different way. If you focus on the kind of strengths he brings to the table it makes his weaknesses a lot more bearable.

Jones is a gap shooting force.

The Bears defense played in the nickel more than 60% of the time last year and I fully expect the 2019 Broncos to do the same. Nickel personnel in the Fangio D means the defensive linemen will usually attack the A and B gaps of the opposing offense. Dre’Mont Jones primary job will be to come in as a wave player in these situations to be unleashed and cause havoc. It’s a job he’s well suited for.

Joe’s Grade: B