The way rookie contracts are capped and structured in today’s league makes them huge bargains if the player thrives. It’s why drafting well is such a priority for the long term health of any team. It’s also just one reason why draft season never ends.
Personally, I love nerding out over the NFL Draft. Among my favorite parts is taking each player’s strengths and weaknesses into consideration in order to project how they’ll fit in the league. A rather underappreciated aspect to this is identifying how a player fits into specific offensive and defensive systems. For example, when the Broncos hired Pat Shurmur to replace Rich Scangarello it required going back over the former’s offense in order to better understand what he wants from his players. Without being a fly on the wall in team meetings and interviews, it’s an imperfect process for any who attempt it, but a vital one to the lifeblood of every NFL team.
I say all this because today’s MVB list is littered with rookies.
A quick reminder as to the guidelines I follow:
1. What do I expect them to bring to the roster going forward?
2. Positional value
3. Salary compared to both past and expected future performance
Players 48-43 can be found here.
Players 42-37 can be found here.
Players 36-31 can be found here.
Players 30-25 can be found here.
24. Justin Hollins - Edge/ Linebacker
Did you know Hollins was my favorite draft pick last year? With the exit of Shaq Barrett and Shane Ray, I knew the Broncos would be wise to add some edge depth and saw Hollins as the perfect fit for Fangio’s defense.
Over his rookie year Hollins split time between off-ball backer and the edge. He only played 267 total snaps at both, but saw his role on the edge grow over the final month of the season. Recently he told KOA’s Benjamin Allbright and Ryan Edwards that he’s been working at edge for 2020. The decision makes sense, as he looked stronger on the Edge than trying to leverage gaps and fill from so far off the ball.
While the Broncos re-signed Jeremiah Attaochu and drafted Derek Tuszka, neither provides the overall versatility the 6-foot-5 248 pound former Duck does. It can’t be overstated how important that is to Fangio, as he often asks his edge players to drop in coverage. Hollins can do that, and if he’s able improve on his hand usage, it’d do wonders for Von Miller and Bradley Chubb’s workloads.
23. McTelvin Agim - Defensive Lineman
A former five-star recruit, the decision to draft Agim signaled a clear priority to stockpile the defense with versatile penetrators who could thrive on stunts. Arkansas played him all over their defensive line, from the wide nine edge to a head up nose tackle. He’ll need some seasoning, but the tools are there for him to develop into a menace.
22. Lloyd Cushenberry - Center
In the days after the NFL Draft, reports emerged that Elway and the Broncos tried to trade up to acquire Matt Hennessy before he was scooped up by the Atlanta Falcons. While I considered Cushenberry the second best center to Cesar Ruiz, it was close enough that I went back and forth.
What may interest only me in the “what-if” situation is how the two had vastly different strengths as prospects. Hennessy is a very good move blocker who played on a Temple team that rarely left him to block opponents one-on-one in pass protection, while the LSU Tigers routinely left their offensive line isolated on opponents in their lead up to the National Championship.
Graham Glasgow and Patrick Morris mean Mike Munchak has options if the rookie isn’t ready, but by year’s end, he should have the starting center job locked down.
21. K.J. Hamler - Slot Receiver / Returner / Weapon
If everything goes according to plan, at this time next year the Broncos will have one of the most explosive three receiver sets in football. How Pat Shurmur maximizes the diminutive Nittany Lion will have a huge impact on this.
Hamler’s so-so catch radius but lethal short area quickness will mean that the Broncos’ new offensive coordinator will need to find ways to get the ball in Hamler’s hands in ways that he can make things happen in space. If he can do that while the rookie improves at route running and slipping the more physical defensive backs he sees, the sky is the limit.
20. Melvin Gordon - Running Back
Back when the Broncos signed Gordon, I looked back through the last two years of his tape to determine how he fits the new offense. His size, contact balance, contract, and ability to pass protect will help him see a majority of the offensive snaps. Look for Shurmur to give Gordon a heavy dose of Inside Zone plays where he can use his vision to create positive yardage.
19. Phillip Lindsay - Running Back
Last year’s offensive ecosystem was hell for Phillip Lindsay.
Consider that he spent the whole year behind one of the iffier tackle situations in football. Or that his right guard missed the final four weeks. Or that the receiving corps was a one man Courtland Sutton band. Or that Lindsay’s quarterbacks were washed Joe Flacco and Brandon Allen for 11 games. All told, it’s remarkable Lindsay came out of it with his second consecutive 1,000-yard season.
Playing behind a questionable tackle situation with a washed Joe Flacco handing him the ball for eight weeks, Lindsay saw his yards per carry, yards per reception, and overall efficiency decline in his second season. All told, those issues aren’t the reason Lindsay slid from third last year to 19th today. What hurts his value more in my mind is how the signing of Melvin Gordon and Pat Shurmur’s history of riding workhorse backs puts a glass ceiling on his workload.
A couple of weeks ago Shurmur expressed an intent to get both Lindsay and Gordon on the field together in 2020. This sent me off to go back over Shurmur’s offense and Lindsay’s second season to try and sort out how it’d be anything but a bad idea. I came to two conclusions:
- Any play with both Gordon and Lindsay on the field will be less threatening to a defense than personnel with three receivers or two tight ends.
- Lindsay is a far more explosive runner than Melvin Gordon.
Your Broncos’ Links
What do (and don’t) we know about the Broncos’ third year edge rusher?
The MHR Radio Podcast looked into a possible hidden strength for the Broncos
Pro Football Focus has determined something the rest of us Denver Broncos fans already knew ... that the 2015 Broncos defense was the best defense of the decade.
Dalton Risner had an outstanding year under O-line coach Mike Munchak, and the Broncos are expecting the left guard to become a multi-year Pro Bowler over his career in Denver.
Getting a baptism-by-fire in Vic Fangio’s defense last year, the second-year outside linebacker has some great experience heading into year two.
The Denver Broncos found out in their final two games in 2019 that they have a solid backup at safety in Trey Marshall.
1+1=2 premier backs, so why not? Right?
“I don’t want to say I’ve got something to prove, but I’ve got something to prove to myself,” Callahan said. “I’ve never been more excited to get back out on the football field. This was my first year in 20-something odd years that I didn’t play football, so it’s a big year for me. I’ve never worked this hard in the offseason.”
Miller, like Mack, slumped big time last season. Eight sacks? That’s the second-lowest total of his career, only more than the five he logged in 2013, when he missed seven games due to suspension and injury. Miller would be the first to tell you that last year wasn’t up to his standard. And the number crunchers over at Pro Football Focus would agree. Over his first eight years in the league, Miller never posted a PFF season grade below 90. But last year, he ended up below 80 — at 79.3, to be exact.
While the hype is understandably building around Drew Lock and the Broncos’ offense — after Lock’s inspired play last December and an offseason full of weapons upgrades — the calling card for Vic Fangio’s team still needs to be the defense. And that means Miller must get back to his elite level. It’s also worth mentioning that Miller holds a $22.2 million cap hit in 2021. Another eight-sack season, and the $4.2 million dead-cap hit could be a pretty enticing alternative.
The NFLPA doesn’t have to sign off on the length of the preseason, however. The 2020 labor deal states only that the league may, in a season with 16 regular-season games, hold no more than four preseason games. If the NFL wants to cut the preseason from four to two, it can.
The NFL’s supplemental draft allows teams to bid on players who, for various reasons, had their college eligibility affected and did not enter the regular spring draft. Teams bid the following year’s draft picks on eligible players. The club submitting the highest pick is granted that player, forfeiting the corresponding pick in the coming year’s spring draft.
NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported Tuesday on NFL Total Access that Jones has “always viewed himself as a $20 million-plus” per-year player, but that the Chiefs have never seen him in such a light and have never offered him that substantial an amount. Hence, Garafolo added there is “a lot of work to be done,” if a long-term pact is to be had and Garafolo’s not confident it will happen.
Jones, a 2019 Pro Bowler, replied via Twitter to a reply to a video of Garafolo’s report that a holdout might be in store.
“Or I won’t play. Le’Veon Bell told me about this,” Jones’ tweet read.
In a demonstration of the Packers’ confidence in Love’s future with the team, Green Bay signed him to a fully guaranteed four-year, $12,383,470 contract with a signing bonus of $6,566,160, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported. It’s the first time the No. 26 pick has received a fully guaranteed deal under the current rookie contract system, Garafolo added.
Daniel Kaplan of TheAthletic.com reports that the league is considering a requirement that fans sign liability waivers protecting the league from lawsuits based on contracting COVID-19. The potential waiver “likely” will be forwarded to teams by the middle of next week.