A year ago, Denver Broncos fans were very pleased with the job John Elway did selecting the teams picks in the 2018 NFL Draft. Many of us thought this was due to the “Gary Kubiak effect”, since Elway has never really done particularly well drafting. Except, now Elway appears to have done it again in the 2019 NFL Draft all on his own.
In our own draft grade poll for the 2019 Broncos draft class, over 4300 people submitted their online grade as of this writing. 57% graded the Broncos an ‘A’ and another 35% threw down a ‘B’. That’s a winner.
2019 Broncos Draft Class
|1||20||Noah Fant||Tight End||Iowa||Scouting Report||Video|
|2||41||Dalton Risner||Offensive Line||Kansas||Scouting Report||Video|
|2||42||Drew Lock||Quarterback||Missouri||Scouting Report||Video|
|3||71||Dre'Mont Jones||Defensive Line||Ohio State||Scouting Report||Video|
|5||156||Justin Hollins||Edge Rusher||Oregon||Scouting Report||Video|
|6||187||Juwann Winfree||Wide Receiver||Colorado||Scouting Report||Video|
NFL Draft Grades
SB Nation: A-
Denver made one of the smartest first-round moves by trading back from No. 10 to No. 20. Despite that, the Broncos were still able to land Iowa tight end Noah Fant. He could star in that offense.
The Broncos got a steal with offensive lineman Dalton Risner in the second round. He can play right tackle, either guard spot, or center. He will plug into the line and be so effective you never notice him.
The Broncos then got quarterback Drew Lock, a pick some expected in the first round. He’s a good choice to groom behind Joe Flacco. John Elway’s history of drafting quarterbacks is pretty bad, though.
Just about every year, an undersized defensive tackle falls further than he should and makes a big impact. This year, that could be Dre’Mont Jones.
Reaction: I like Dan Kadar’s stuff, so I would have been troubled had he been troubled by the Broncos draft class. Instead, Kadar sees the Broncos having made one of the smartest moves in the first round this year and picked up a few steals in later rounds. We’ll ignore his comments about Elway’s history of drafting quarterbacks as that sample size is too small.
ESPN Mel Kiper: B+
I thought Lock, a four-year starter with a huge arm, could have gone in the top 10; I know he was there on some teams’ boards. He got caught up in the quarterback musical chairs, however, and might have ended up in the perfect spot.
It’s also important to note that the Broncos only had two second-round picks because of a smart move on Day 1. With Pittsburgh itching to move up to No. 10, Denver dropped down 10 spots and added No. 52 and a 2020 third-round pick. Elway then used that 52nd pick to move up 10 spots in the second round to add Lock and didn’t forfeit a ton of ammo. That’s a good move.
It says a lot that I have praised the Broncos’ third pick in the class and haven’t even mentioned the two guys who went ahead of him. Noah Fant (pick No. 20) is a 6-foot-4 athletic freak who will help as a pass-catcher in Year 1. He won’t block yet -- he’s essentially a big slot receiver -- but that could come in time. And we know how much Flacco loves to throw to tight ends. Dalton Risner (No. 41) is the rare offensive lineman who could play tackle, guard or center. He might be a favorite to begin his career at guard.
Dre’Mont Jones will likely play end in Fangio’s 3-4 defense, but he is already advanced as an interior penetrator. Justin Hollins (No. 156) is going to contribute as a pass-rusher.
All in all, getting two really good players before the player who could be the future quarterback feels like a win for Elway.
Reaction: Kiper’s final sentence is all we need to know about how well Elway navigated this draft. Every report that came out leading up to the NFL Draft suggested Elway was quite enamored with Lock’s potential and ability, which led to mock drafts to heavily favor the Broncos selecting him with the tenth overall pick.
Instead, Elway took a chance on Lock falling into the second round. He made a trade to secure an additional second round pick knowing Dalton Risner was a pretty high target on his list at 41. The Broncos ended up with Fant and Risner before they packaged some picks together to get ahead of the Green Bay Packers to select Lock at 42.
That was pretty damn impressive if you ask me. Old Elway would have panicked and pulled the trigger much earlier, so it is good to see him learning from his past mistakes.
Fant is an athletic freak who will stretch defenses. He’s not the complete package as a run blocker and receiver in the way former teammate T.J. Hockenson is, but he will be a weapon for veteran Joe Flacco. The Broncos made this pick after trading down in a deal with the Steelers, picking up an extra second-round pick this year (No. 52) and 2020 third-round selection in the deal. They did pass on a chance to pick Devin Bush, who could have been a great addition to the defense, but you can’t blame the Broncos for taking the draft capital and running.
The Broncos made a splash in Round 2, selecting a versatile offensive lineman in Risner and a fantastic value in Lock. This pairing could be the team’s battery for a decade if Risner lines up inside and the strong-armed Lock allows GM John Elway to move on from Flacco in two years. Jones is a five-technique in the making, at a place where the team needed to add depth.
Hollins is a fine pick in the fifth round as a backup pass rusher (something they really coveted) with movement skills to play in coverage.
Reaction: This post also graded each Day of the draft and the Broncos held steady with an A on all three days. I wasn’t all that pleased with the final day of the draft myself, but if we’re being honest on that it doesn’t really matter. The Oakland Raiders “won Day 3” of the draft, but winning on that day usually means you found some good backups - not elite starters. I’d rather my team win on Days 1 and 2. The Broncos certainly did that.
Sports Illustrated: A-
The Broncos’ biggest need was interior offensive line, so it would have been interesting to see if the team would have still taken TE Noah Fant at 20 if Garrett Bradbury and Chris Lindstrom were available. In Dalton Risner they still found what’s almost certain to be a Day 1 starter, but at what position? Risner can play anywhere up front, which raises the theoretical question of whether you should put your most talented player at HIS best spot or put your lesser players in comfortable positions and have your best guy fill the weakest remaining spot. If it’s the latter, then Risner’s position will depend on how the Broncos feel about Connor McGovern at center and Elijah Wilkinson at guard.
Risner will almost certainly start next season, but what about fellow second-round pick, QB Drew Lock? John Elway’s last two high-drafted QBs, Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch, rode the bench in Years 1 and 2, but, of course, neither ultimately developed into starters in Denver. Will that history have any bearing on this decision? More likely, the Broncos’ record come midseason will—if the team is 6–3 when the early November bye rolls around, expect Lock to stay on the bench. You don’t hire a 60-year-old head coach (Vic Fangio) and trade for a veteran QB like Joe Flacco if you don’t believe you’re ready to compete right now.
Whoever is under center will at least have a flexible receiving weapon in Fant, though the Iowa tight end’s lack of blocking prowess might limit his first and second down contributions. Some scouts also believe Fant is raw and needs route running refinement.
Lastly, Dre’Mont Jones is worth mentioning for the simple reason that Elway has a good record of drafting quality interior defensive linemen in the middle rounds. And two notable guys from his good record—Derek Wolfe and Adam Gotsis, as well as journeyman Shelby Harris—are in the final year of their contracts.
Reaction: It would seem Andy Benoit forgot about Ronald Leary when he talked about Risner’s role along the interior of the offensive line, but then again, who knows if Leary will even be starting enough games to matter in 2019. That has been a struggle for him throughout his career. If he can remain healthy, then the Broncos line looks fairly solidified with Risner added into the mix.
The addition of Drew Lock should have fans fairly excited. First, they spent very little draft capital on him when considering where most analysts had the Broncos selecting him tenth overall a week ago. If he doesn’t work out, then all the Broncos wasted was a second round pick and time. A lot can happen in the 2020 NFL Draft, so why risk coming out of this without any quarterback of the future to work with?
As far as when Lock could start, I wouldn’t expect to see him at all this year unless Joe Flacco turns out to be as bad as or worse than Case Keenum was in 2018.
Washington Post: A-
John Elway did well by helping his new QB, Joe Flacco, and giving the Broncos a potential replacement for the former Super Bowl MVP. Getting TE Noah Fant in the first round and T Dalton Risner early in the second round boosts Flacco’s chances of success. Elway moved up to stop QB Drew Lock’s draft plummet 10 picks into the second round. It’s a good situation for Lock, but will this work out better than Elway’s other recent attempts to find a long-term solution at QB?
Reaction: I love this paragraph. It’s short and nails it. Flacco shouldn’t be worried about the Drew Lock pick at all for the very reason WaPo noted here. The Broncos went all-in on a deep defensive draft class by getting talent the Broncos offense desperately needed to help improve efficiency. Both picks will help Flacco succeed in 2019 and that’s what really matters.
USA Today: C+
GM John Elway seemed to get off on the right foot, first-round TE Noah Fant and second-round OL Dalton Risner near-optimal selections to prop up veteran QB Joe Flacco. But then, true to form, Elway couldn’t resist rolling the dice on another passer, Missouri’s Drew Lock, at the expense of three picks. You could argue he’s justified to continue throwing resources at the QB quandary, but at some point he’s also undercutting the rest of the team. Third-round DT Dre’Mont Jones doesn’t seem like a guy ideally suited to Vic Fangio’s defense, but he certainly has skills.
Reaction: One outlet has consistently disliked everything the Broncos did this year. Nate Davis completely ignores the entire class to gut punch Elway for having drafted Paxton Lynch and Brock Osweiler. Because those past decisions will automatically make Drew Lock a wasted NFL talent. Good job, Nate.
Bleacher Report: A-
The Broncos picked up a sure-fire starter in tight end Noah Fant in the first round, and Dalton Risner looks like a solid offensive tackle. The key to the draft may be the selection of Drew Lock in the second round. Many thought the strong-armed quarterback could go in the first round, and he could turn out to be the Broncos’ quarterback of the future.
Best Day 3 selection: Outside linebacker Justin Hollins has impressive size at 6’5” and 248 pounds, and he also has the athleticism to make that size pay off. If he can improve his technique, he could make a solid contribution.
Reaction: You are almost certain to win the draft if your team selects what everyone views as surefire starters in the first two rounds. The Broncos did that and by taking a flyer on Lock after he slid into the second round is a low risk, high reward move.
How would you grade the entire 2019 Broncos draft class?
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