Broncos fans tend to have an understandable fascination with homegrown talent. And it’s a process that happens particularly easily when that player is as friendly and open as Dalton Risner. You can see his heart for fans, and especially for kids, through his RisnerUP Foundation and a whole series of camps, events, and charity appearances the big man has dedicated a huge chunk of his summer to.
#66 Dalton Risner, LG
Age 26. 6’5”, 312 lbs.
College: Kansas State
Born in Branson, Missouri but raised in Wiggins, Colorado, Risner is as well known for embracing his community as he is for his reliability on the field. That’s no small feat for a guy who is 1 of just 7 Broncos draft picks since 2000 to start all 32 regular season games in his first two seasons in the NFL.
Going back to his college days at Kansas State, 2019’s 41st overall pick has started 82 out of 83 possible games, and he’s poised to continue that streak in 2021. Draft evaluators pegged him as a quality day 1 starter, and he’s been exactly that.
My heart is heavy and full of joy from seeing everyone come out to my camp last week. Wiggins is family and seeing the smiles and laughter from all the kids who came out for it made it all worth it ❤️ @RisnerupF pic.twitter.com/YwzHBFwb4W— Dalton Risner (@Dalton_Risner66) July 20, 2021
One of the exciting elements for Risner in 2021 is the simple fact that he’s going into year 3. Offensive line development in the NFL often follows a pattern of guys reaching their primes in their 3rd or 4th season. If Risner follows that pattern to build on a great rookie season and good sophomore campaign, the left side of the Broncos’ offensive line will be among the best in the NFL.
Risner has plenty of the power and anchor that’s critical as an interior offensive lineman, and brings a physicality and aggressive demeanor that can beat back pass rushers and clear running lanes. And, as mentioned above, he brings durability that’s critical for creating consistent play from the offensive line throughout the season.
While the Broncos clearly wanted to bring Risner inside to guard, a number of pre-draft evaluations noted him as a guy who has enough athleticism that remaining outside at right tackle in the NFL was a possibility. Instead, Risner gets to use that ability getting to the second level and helping block in space. And, occasionally, by physically throwing a running back into the end zone for the touchdown.
Dalton Risner literally threw Phillip Lindsay into the end zone @I_CU_boy pic.twitter.com/qFrAQaliAk— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) September 26, 2019
Coming out of Kansas St, run blocking was noted as Risner’s weaker area of play. But he’s flipped that script in the NFL, making mental and technique adjustments under the tutelage of Mike Munchak on his way to becoming one of the better run blocking guards in the NFL.
It’s hard to find a whole lot bad to say about a guy who stepped in as a quality starter from Day 1. There’s always something to improve, though.
That flip of the script from earlier goes both ways, unfortunately, with Risner somewhat underperforming expectations in pass blocking. That’s not to say he’s actively bad there, but it’s one area I’m certain he’ll want to address as he looks to really come into his own in 2021.
Risner’s play also dipped slightly last year in comparison to his excellent rookie season. That may well prove to have been due to the impact of Covid on the team’s ability to prep for the season. Though if I had to bet, I think that the downgrade at center from the experienced Connor McGovern to a rookie Lloyd Cushenberry probably had more to do with it.
Dalton Risner has the Denver Broncos’ starting left guard spot locked down in 2021. The question with him is how he’ll respond to that slightly lackluster 2020 season. Between a full training camp & preseason this year, Mike Munchak’s coaching, and improvement beside him at center, don’t be surprised if Risner steps up to become one of the better guards in the NFL. The potential is there.