This is my best attempt at relaying both realistic expectations as well as tempering some of the runaway hype that has already started to creep in for some of the 2019 class. One of the things that’s really easy to do this time of year is to drink the Kool-Aid on every one of the additions your favorite team has made. It’s fun and harmless, but can lead to a lot of disappointment without proper perspective. For the most part, I did not include injuries in these scenarios. One last thing: I found inspiration for this while digging into Alex Kozora’s version over at Steelers Depot, so if you’re interested in the Draft in general, I highly advise checking it out.
Let’s get started.
Round 1 - Noah Fant - TIGHT END
Best case scenario:
The “other” tight end at Iowa last year proves he’s every bit the athletic mismatch players like Eric Ebron and Evan Ingram have been at the NFL level. Early in training camp, it becomes clear that he has a preternatural chemistry with Joe Flacco that helps ease his adjustment to the more advanced route tree he’ll encounter in the pros and concerns over his ability to catch in traffic prove overblown. All the knocks on his blocking by the national media show how out of touch they are by following group think.
Evaluations: NFL Draft TE Rankings - Fantasy Columns
He’s a tall pogo-stick type athlete who looks like a thick dunking shooting guard on the field. All that makes sense, as Fant has a track and basketball background. John Wall entered the NBA as a 6’4/198 mega athlete. Fant has 50 pounds on him, and posted a vertical jump in Indy of 39.5 inches, a half-inch higher than Wall’s max. Other NBA stars who Fant out-leaped: James Harden, Jimmy Butler and Russell Westbrook. Oh, Fant also has 4.5 speed.
Even before the first preseason game, Fant emerges as TE1 on the depth chart and he sits when the rest of the first team does. Fans in Broncos Country are upset because they want to see what all the hype is about, but have to wait until week 1 when 87 punks the Raiders Johnathan Abram on Monday Night Football. It’s only the beginning of a monster season as he settles in as Flacco’s favorite target and red zone threat, demanding enough attention in the middle of the field that Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton, and Emmanuel Sanders get more favorite looks on the perimeter than they dared dream for in 2018.
As the years go by, Fant becomes a huge fan favorite as one of the most versatile tight ends in the league. He can move into the slot, backfield, or play from the line, and he proves impossible to cover for safeties and linebackers alike.
Drew Lock to Noah Fant with a bullet near the right sideline as practice closes. Glimpse of the Broncos’ future, perhaps?— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) May 20, 2019
Worst case scenario:
Fant’s lack of play strength is apparent in training camp as he struggles to separate against more physical coverage. He winds up playing behind Jeff Heuerman and is listed as TE2. The most optimistic in Broncos Country warn that it isn’t the end of the world, but the troubling signs continue into the preseason where Fant has a penchant for drops with bodies around him. Jeff Essary and I both do film dives to look into his issues and find his 9.3% drop rate staring back at us. We conclude that Fant had many of the same issues at Iowa last year, which is a big reason why Hawkeye QB Nate Stanley didn’t target him in the middle of the field.
The rookie tight end finishes his first season in the Broncos with less than 500 receiving yards and never really establishes himself as the kind of go-to red zone threat John Elway had envisioned when he passed up the chance on Devin Bush for him. Meanwhile, the Steelers linebacker looks like a superstar in replacing Ryan Shazier. 2019 concludes with Fant still clearly behind Jeff Heuerman on the depth chart.
In a move to save money, Elway cuts ties with the veteran tight end in the off-season with the belief that it will only take one off-season of work for Fant to emerge. Instead, he finds himself in a tight competition with Jake Butt, who’s fully recovered from yet another injury. The two split duties in camp and neither really emerges as more than a tertiary target.
Once his rookie contract expires, Fant is allowed to leave Denver. He signs on with the Oakland Raiders and turns into a superstar for Trevor Lawrence. Meanwhile, Devin Bush goes on to a Hall of Fame career.
Iowa TE Noah Fant:— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) March 26, 2019
Fantastic speed that challenges the secondary at all levels, however a few notable numbers
-21 "explosive" plays (15+ yards)
-Only forced three missed tackles on 78 career catches
-14 drops on 92 catchable targets
-Only four contested catches
Round 2A - Dalton Risner - GUARD
Best case scenario:
Risner proves worth the immediate starting job he’s stepped into in OTAs and adjusts to more advanced assignments like the seasoned blocker he is. He’s a fish to water in Rich Scangarello’s zone blocking scheme, and while he isn’t the quickest player, he’s mobile enough to pull when called upon and strikes fear into second level defenders with his tenacity. In addition to his work with the 1s, Risner also looks like a capable depth player at tackle and center, which helps to solidify the depth at both.
Mike Munchak molds Bolles and Risner into the most formidable left side of a line in football. Risner brings the kind of immediate pass protection prowess that places like PFF have been touting for months. With it, Bolles comes to trust his inside help more and looks like a worthwhile first round pick. The protection off the blind side is good enough that Flacco stays upright for an entire 16 game season and Royce Freeman, Phillip Lindsay and the Broncos’ running game is devastating.
Worst case scenario:
Turns out blocking Maurice Hurst, Jerry Tillery, Kenny Clark, and Akiem Hicks is a lot harder than Big 12 defensive linemen. While Risner’s positional flexibility is touted as a valuable asset, his stiffness makes him a weak fit in the Broncos scheme. He starts as a rookie because of the lack of competition on the 2019 Broncos, but is a weak link all season long.
Going into his second season, he shows a great deal of growth but can’t overcome his physical limitations to turn into an even average starter. Because of this, Bolles (on his fifth year option) has to cover for him and both players look weak for it. Drew Lock spends his first full season as a starter running for his life. By year 3, he’s starting only because Elway can’t find a better replacement and is considered a 6th linemen at best around the league.
▬▬▬.◙.▬▬▬— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) April 29, 2019
█▄ █ █▄ ███▀▀▀▀▀▀▀╬
╬═╬ just dropping in to say
╬═╬ @DaltonBigD71 only gave up
╬═╬ one sack in 4️⃣ seasons.
╬═╬/ \ pic.twitter.com/86UoDQYq0O
Round 2B- Drew Lock - QUARTERBACK
Best case scenario:
Despite the media’s best attempts to stir up drama, the rookie, Joe Flacco, and the coaching staff navigate a minefield to keep the heat off Lock to perform. He has the benefit of learning the finer aspects of quarterback play from an offensive coordinator with little pressure to play him and is able to truly refine his footwork. Broncos Country continues to react as they do to backup quarterbacks based on “throw reports” by local media and there’s mild hysteria every time he throws an interception, but the reality is Lock is learning how to diagnose coverages and test his limits at the professional level.
Much like the Kansas City Chiefs did with Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes, Lock sees his first real action against the Raiders in week 17 and shows promise. There’s flashes of the arm talent that Elway drooled over as well as much better decision-making than his critics feared when he came out of Missouri. The statline is modest, yet encouraging.
In year 2, Lock is given the reigns and Broncos Country loses their collective minds as he shows the kind of vertical throwing prowess that opens up the 9 route throws to Courtland Sutton and deep posts to Noah Fant. Film nerds like me love how quick he is to find his help against pressure, and DaeSean Hamilton feasts on intermediate routes all season.
By year 3, it’s clear 3 is the true heir to 7.
Worst case scenario:
Joe Flacco gets hurt three plays into training camp. He broke his left pinky toe and is out for the year. Drew Lock is thrown into the fire and looks how every realist knows he will in such a situation: promising throws mixed with baffling interceptions. Because he has to survive from week to week, it isn’t until late November that he has his first game where there isn’t a clear interceptable pass, and only because Lindsay and Freeman run wild over the Buffalo Bills.
Denver finishes the year with a top 3 pick in the NFL draft, but the win over Buffalo keeps them out of the Herbert derby. Defenders and Tigers fans preach patience in Lock’s second year, but throughout camp, backup Brett Rypien looks like the more polished passer. No matter, Lock has the arm talent and can make plays outside of structure. Rypien is traded for a late day 3 pick so as to avoid controversy and Lock goes on to lead another 10+ loss campaign.
2021 rolls around and once again the Broncos are bad enough to bring quarterbacks like Trevor Lawrence in for visits, but they ultimately won one game too many to have a chance to take a another swing at a real franchise quarterback.
A look at Drew Lock and Brett Rypien: pic.twitter.com/a85rr7m2Pi— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) May 11, 2019
Round 3 - Dre’Mont Jones - DEFENSIVE LINE
Best case scenario:
Early in camp, Jones flies under the radar outside of a blurb here and there by people like Andrew Mason. It’s a deep group and he’s a rookie making the jump. Come preseason, film nerds start to proclaim that he’s going to be really exciting to watch this year. Still, Broncos Country as a whole mostly sleeps on him because he isn’t playing much and doesn’t notch many wow plays.
During the 2020 off-season, I continue crying for people to start paying attention to him. I lay out that the second year tackle fits the Fangio’s nickel defense as well as Shelby Harris does (and he just had an All Pro season), and those two between Von Miller and Bradley Chubb should make Philip Rivers’ ancient body quake in fear. With a thinner group in front of him, Jones jumps off the gate out of camp and it’s clear he’s come to work and has learned a new repertoire of pass rush moves to make magic happen. Much like Shelby Harris in 2018, he doesn’t get a lot of praise early, as it’s far too easy to miss interior defensive linemen for casual fans, but the diehards see him.
Year 3 swings around and he’s starting to pick up a lot of the slack Von is leaving as he ages. The national media notices as he emerges as one of the better interior pass rushers in the league.
DreMont Jones is quick and smooth off the ball. Prototype 3tech— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) November 3, 2018
Lost in the shuffle in camp behind Derek Wolfe, Harris, and Adam Gotsis, Jones struggles to do much with the reps he has and doesn’t do enough to convince coaches he’s a good fit for the nickel defense. Even worse, all the problems he had at Ohio State with gap discipline continues to play him. Because he’s not an ideal fit for the 5 technique and is too light to play the nose, he’s a player without a home and some begin to wonder if he’s another DeMarcus Walker.
Going into his second year, he shows some improvement but fails to adequately replace the three veteran defensive lineman Elway let walk in the off-season. Journeyman and rookies pass him on the depth chart and he fails to make any sort of noticeable impact with his time on the field except for when he proves to be a complete liability against the run.
Round 5 - Justin Hollins - EDGE/LINEBACKER
Best case scenario:
I looked at Justin Hollins at length for GIF Horse last week, but long story short?
Worst case scenario:
Even with all of the positive feedback from Fangio and other members of the Broncos coaching staff, Hollins is lost in the shuffle come training camp. He finds himself as a backup edge player behind Jeff Holland and behind second year inside guys like Keishawn Bierria. His rookie season is mostly spent as a special teams player with a couple of edge snaps mixed in.
In year 2, the coaching staff comes out and says that perhaps moving him back and forth between two positions put too much on his plate. Because of concerns over his weight and play strength, he is moved to off-ball backer full-time to take advantage of his ability to play in space. Unfortunately, he’s long and struggles at the point of attack here. He isn’t good enough at disengaging off blockers to shine at the professional level.
By the end of his rookie contract, Hollins is mostly known for his early hype and being a serviceable special teams player.
Round 6 - Juwann Winfree - WIDE RECEIVER
Best case scenario:
Winfree finds health luck and is able to stick to a promising but mostly unproven wide receiver corps as a rookie. He makes the most of his reps in camp, and while he plays sporadically, he carves out a niche on special teams. The coaches are excited by his growth as the year goes on.
In year 2, Elway thinks enough of the young talent that he doesn’t go out and throw major draft assets or cash at the position, instead choosing to give players like Hamilton and Winfree step up to replace the production lost by Emmanuel Sanders’ departure. Winfree rewards this decision.
Worst case scenario:
Winfree finds himself buried by the numbers game. He’s locked in a tight competition for attention behind names like Sutton, Hamilton, and Patrick and has the more experienced River Cracraft and UDFAs like Trinity Benson and Kelvin McKnight nipping at his heels. He fails to catch Scangarello’s eyes. The rookie receiver out of Colorado is a late cut in camp due to his draft status but never showed enough to impress other teams around the league and his NFL career ends before it ever even started.
Senior WR Juwann Winfree left his mark over two season with the Buffs— Colorado Buffaloes Football (@CUBuffsFootball) January 26, 2019
⚫️13.2 yards per catch ⚫️
⚫️ 26 receptions of 10+ yards ⚫️
⚫️ 4 receiving touchdowns ⚫️
Check out @OnlyOne_JW highlight reel pic.twitter.com/wMHGAQTOEN
Your Broncos links
Rookie expectations: Roles for Broncos’ first-time players | 9news.com
If all goes well he will get one start – the final game of the regular season after Joe Flacco has already led the Broncos to a playoff spot.
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One thing I've long wondered about the #Broncos long term concerns over Chris Harris Jr. He shows every sign that he'd be able to transition to safety if need be.— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) May 19, 2019
Could age pretty gracefully, barring injury.
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The Broncos’ legendary cornerback will enter both the Hall of Fame and the Ring of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
Former CB Champ Bailey elected to Denver Broncos Ring of Fame
“To see the way Champ’s career has been appreciated over the last four months — first by the Pro Football Hall of Fame and now as our newest Ring of Famer — is very special for us. We congratulate Champ on this well-deserved honor and look forward to celebrating everything he’s meant to the Broncos in October.”
Champ Bailey joins @ChrisHarrisJr on the list of cornerbacks who have seen 500+ targets and grabbed more interceptions than the number of touchdowns allowed in coverage. #BroncosCountry pic.twitter.com/0Je7QaydmN— PFF DEN Broncos (@PFF_Broncos) May 20, 2019
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He has a sky-high ceiling and found a perfect place to reach it.
A few notes from Monday’s Broncos OTA (also found here: https://t.co/GzRY5F28nY) pic.twitter.com/xhmU50wbpP— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) May 20, 2019
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There were not many under the radar moves the Denver Broncos made this offseason, but drafting Justin Hollins is probably a good one.
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Thinking about what that means for Chubb and the Broncos defense is incredibly exciting.
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Shane Ray likely would have qualified for the 2020 compensatory formula if the Ravens signed him before May 7, while Pernell McPhee would have been on the bubble of qualifying. https://t.co/kAYu7DFfl7— Nick Korte (@nickkorte) May 20, 2019
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Vic Fangio, Broncos I think there’s always an element of pressure in working for John Elway, though this seems to be a better match than some of Elway’s previous hires. Fangio comes with an impressive résumé and inherent respect in the business. However, there’s still a question mark at quarterback and very high expectations on defense.
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Incredibly awesome thing the Broncos are doing: The STEM School, where one student died and eight others were wounded in a shooting, reached out to the team late last week about the possibility of hosting its graduations at UCHealth Training Center.
— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) May 16, 2019
The Denver Broncos, for hosting multiple graduation ceremonies for the STEM school at no charge last week. On May 7, two students opened fire at the school, killing one classmate and wounding eight others. It’s a small gesture, of course, considering the magnitude of the tragedy on that campus, but a strong one. Good job, Broncos. And while we’re on the subject, here’s a hero for you.
Pass Rush of the Day: Speed Stab by @VonMiller #DLIsBringingTheEnergy pic.twitter.com/8qZvMqM1Ha— Willie Cashmore (@WillieCashmore) May 19, 2019
Just missed: NFL players outside the top 25 under 25 | NFL Analysis | Pro Football Focus
EDGE BRADLEY CHUBB, DENVER BRONCOS
Age at kickoff: 23 years, 2 months, 13 days
From a box score standpoint, Bradley Chubb couldn’t have done much more for the Broncos in his first year in the league. He racked up 13 sacks, eight hits and 37 quarterback hurries across his 456 pass-rushing snaps on the year, and his 58 total pressures not only ranked first among rookie edge defenders, but they were the 19th-most among all players at the position.
Bradley Chubb is a bully. He wins with his hands, can run through OTs and long-arm his way to the QB.— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) May 20, 2019
He needs to win with more consistency and perhaps add an explosive outside move to his arsenal to take his game to the next level, but his floor is really, really high. pic.twitter.com/lYVGeg0jyr
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So a big part of the Houston game the #Broncos had Chris Harris follow DeAndre Hopkins around the field. The results:— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) May 18, 2019
With @ChrisHarrisJr on him: 3 catches - 18 yards
W/O: 7 catches - 87 yards, 1 touchdown. pic.twitter.com/jTGIMzp2CX
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Even franchise legends can’t live off their old legacy forever. Eventually there has to be some recent success for them to stick around.
Down seven. Ball at the two-yard line. Then Elway. (1986 AFC Championship) #FBF pic.twitter.com/zD2eotgwCk— NFL Throwback (@nflthrowback) May 17, 2019
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Joe Flacco and Noah Fant, Denver Broncos: The Super Bowl XLVII MVP gets a chance to rebuild his career in Denver in an offense that closely resembles the Gary Kubiak scheme that helped him play at his best during the 2014 season. Flacco is a middle-of-the-field thrower who is at his best targeting tight ends between the hashes. Fant is a dynamic pass catcher with the speed and athleticism to overwhelm linebackers and defensive backs, particularly on vertical routes down the seam or on deep crossers running diagonally across the field. Should offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello, formerly the 49ers’ QBs coach, successfully use some of the concepts that helped Pro Bowl TE George Kittle rise to prominence in San Francisco during his time there, the Broncos could see Fant emerge as a difference maker in Year 1.
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Joe Flacco needs ... Drew Lock to have a quiet summer. Sure, there are millions of humans who deserve your sympathy ahead of multimillionaire Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Flacco, but I imagine he’s pretty annoyed that the second half of his career is turning into a “Groundhog Day” sequel. Last year around this time, when he was quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens, Flacco had to answer a never-ending line of questions about a hotshot rookie who was expected to push him for his starting job. Different city, same s--- for Joe. Now, Flacco’s in Denver, and second-round pick Lock is in Lamar Jackson’s role from last season. If Lock earns raves in training camp and combines that with a strong preseason (he figures to get the majority of live-action reps), Flacco will be under immense pressure to get off to a hot start with the Broncos.
The #Broncos running game finished 5th in DVOA last year, ahead of the Bears & Colts. Tarik Cohen will be a stud in PPR but is mostly projection after that. He's never had 100 carries in a season to date. Rookie behind him. Mack hasn't broken 1k & Hines is another PPR guy. pic.twitter.com/6YuPu8zOLM— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) May 19, 2019
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Did I inspire this roundtable?— Brandon Miller (@BMiller4164) May 18, 2019
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STUDS - KANSAS CITY CHIEFS DEFENSE
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Not only is the passing game more important than the running game in the #NFL, but EPA/play in the passing game is growing faster than EPA/play in the running game. pic.twitter.com/YsIHrMLoBd— Lee Sharpe (@lee_sharpe) May 19, 2019
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I believe the Chargers are the most talented, balanced and complete team in the NFL.
Quarterback— Mike Payton (@POD_Payton) May 18, 2019
＼( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
/ / ＼＼Are Not
ﾚ ノ ヽ_つ
| 丿 ＼ ⌒) Real
| | ) /
ノ ) Lﾉ
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If the Rooney Rule is to have teeth, minority candidates need to boycott the sham interview process.
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99% of people who say their "...phone was hacked" are lying.— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) May 18, 2019
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Matt Boling would leave Ted Ginn in the blocks.— Jonathan Keller (@JKeller5) May 20, 2019
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Defensive end Chris Long announced his retirement from the NFL on Saturday night after spending the last 11 years playing for three teams in the NFL. The final two years of that career were spent with the Eagles and saw Long win both a Super Bowl and the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
I’ve covered the NFL for more than two decades. When I retire, I will remember @JOEL9ONE as one of the more impactful figures I dealt with: a white man who stood with his black brothers to fight social injustice. #respect #biggerthanfootball https://t.co/Ul2pdwoCx1— Jim Trotter (@JimTrotter_NFL) May 19, 2019
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My new favorite picture book pic.twitter.com/rr7SRSSPAw— Aaron Nagler (@AaronNagler) May 19, 2019
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So sorry he went to the media to make the statement.
May 19, 2019