Whether it’s been John Elway or George Paton running the show, the Broncos haven’t been shy about investing in their interior offensive line since 2018. They’ve invested four draft picks into the group in addition to signing the Detroit Lions’ Graham Glasgow to a four-year, $44 million contract. The glut of talent means competition for playing time could become fierce, with the hope that a weakness becomes a strength in time.
If Netane Muti can reach his potential, it’d go a long way towards ensuring it.
Netane Muti’s profile
Weight: 315 lbs
Born and raised in Tonga before his family moved to O’ahu, Hawaii in 2008, Muti came to football late. After a year in band, he joined the Junior Varsity team as a sophomore and logged snaps at defensive tackle, left guard and tackle. After questions about a test score put admission to Hawaii on hold, Muti chose to sign with the Fresno State Bulldogs and found his way to the starting lineup after a redshirt season.
2017 was a special year for Muti as he started 14 games an looked like a future All Pro on tape. It also marked the last time he played in every game. Thanks to injury, he played in just five games across the remainder of his collegiate career. Despite this, he elected to forego his senior season to declare for the NFL Draft in 2020 and joined the Denver Broncos as a sixth round pick.
Muti took his time getting onto the field. Inactive through the first half of his rookie season, the Broncos brought him in for special teams snaps in Atlanta and he made it to the gameday roster against Miami before an injury to Graham Glasgow opened the door to playin time in week 14 against the Carolina Panthers.
After Muti’s first start, he went back to a healthy scratch until the Broncos had him step in for Graham Glasgow in the week 17 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Muti finished his rookie season having played 122 snaps on offense and 22 special teams snaps.
Raiders block McManus' kick at history. Netane Muti stops Ruggs from punishing the Broncos for the attempt. pic.twitter.com/2zkqL3MoSS— Joe (R-E-L-A-X) Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) January 3, 2021
Potential is a good part of Muti’s appeal. He hasn’t played much and still served as a team captain his junior year. His Fresno State tape was some of the best in last year’s class and he possesses tantalizing gifts for the position. He’s a good athlete with the quickness and agility to become a standout lead blocker. He displays good foot speed and the kind of anchor necessary to hold up in pass protection. He doesn’t hesitate to seek out extra work and clearly enjoys inflicting punishment.
Muti displays good play strength to create vertical displacement in the phone booth and hold up to Derrick Brown’s bull rush. When he lands a punch on a defender, he displays very good grip strength to lock down and control them, and his wrestling background suggests he should improve at this.
It’s impossible to ignore the durability concerns, as Muti’s missed more games than he played for the Bulldogs because of injuries to both Achilles as well as a Lisfranc. The injuries and late start mean Muti’s game lacks refinement across the board.
Muti’s short arms are a weakness he may never completely outgrow, as he can have trouble landing clean punches on longer opponents. This creates opportunities for defenders to slip off him and muck up running plays, and also leaves him hurts his ability to stay in front of defenders in pass protection.
Beyond the issues above, Muti’s on the ground too much and his inexperience shows up against games and run blitzes. Defenders are able to bait him to overset and work back across him to space far too easily. These things should improve with reps and Mike Munchak’s coaching, but he could have some rough games if pressed into duty against the wrong opponent in 2021.
Netane Muti’s roster status with the Broncos
The Broncos currently have four interior offensive linemen who look like developmental starters. They also have an established veteran in Graham Glasgow, which makes the numbers game fascinating. As I mentioned when I broke down the offensive line as a whole, seven players look locked into what may be as few as eight spots.
There’s been rampant speculation through parts of Broncos’ Country that Muti could beat Glasgow for the starting job, but that may be at least a year too soon. Muti’s rookie tape hints at promise, but Glasgow is better pretty much all across the board.
With Glasgow and Dalton Risner locked into starting jobs, Muti’s set to battle Austin Schlottmann and Nolan Laufenberg for a backup spot. Laufenberg is an undrafted rookie free agent who will probably need a little seasoning on the practice squad before he’s a real competitor for the active roster, but Schlottmann has played 674 snaps over the last two seasons, 530 of those coming on offense. Rookie third round pick Quinn Meinerz could also factor into the guard competition if he’s unable to beat Lloyd Cushenberry for a starting job.
If Muti can build off what he showed last season, he should have a good chance at making the roster thanks to the promise his foundational tools offer. If he can’t, the Broncos will probably try to sneak him through waivers.