The Denver Broncos offensive line on Sunday was absolutely terrible. They made DeMarcus Walker look like Von Miller, but I’m not going to be too harsh on them. When the right tackle and the center have about one combined one game’s worth of offensive snaps between them, bad things are going to happen for your offense. That led to 10 total points, six sacks and a plethora of QB pressures.
NFL franchises can choose to build their offensive lines through the draft of through free agency. Relying too heavily on one or the other is unwise. The Broncos over the past 10 drafts have chosen to rely heavily on free agency and have mostly neglected the offensive line in the draft.
There have been 425 offensive linemen drafted over the past 10 drafts and the Broncos have taken 13 of those, which is about average, but those 13 picks represent the 29th lowest draft capital investment over the last 10 drafts in the offensive line.
|Rank||TEAM||OL drafted 2013-2022||OL Draft Capital Invested||Capital per Pick|
With 66.3 units of draft capital invested in those 13 picks the Broncos per pick investment of 5.1 actually ranks 21st mainly because of using the 41st overall pick on Dalton Risner (11.0 units), the 20th overall pick on Garett Bolles (15.5 units) and the 59th overall pick on Ty Sambrailo (8.6 units). Those three picks account for more than half of the draft capital invested in the OL by the Broncos in the last 10 drafts. That also means that the Bronco draft investment in the other 10 OL guys was very minimal. In other words, the Denver Broncos have put a very low priority on OL in the draft.
If we focus on just offensive tackles, it begins to look even worse. According to stathead.com, the Broncos have drafted three offensive tackles in the past 10 drafts, which is a low number, but there are plenty of other teams with the same number. The problem is that number counts Risner as a tackle and to date he has yet to play a down at OT in the NFL.
There have been 125 offensive tackles taken in the last 10 drafts. Counting Risner the Broncos have invested 35.1 units of draft capital in offensive tackles. That’s 18th, but if you remove the 8.6 from Risner, we’d fall to 23rd. I’m not sure how many other guys in that 125 are actually guards and not tackles in the NFL - like Risner.
|Rank||Team||OT's drafted 2013-2022||Capital Invested in OT|
Because of an organizational reluctance to draft offensive tackles, the Broncos have spent years relying on free agents and undrafted players to take snaps at both right and left tackle. With Bolles generally being a healthy player, only the right tackle situation has been magnified, but it has been a revolving door since 2016.
The Broncos have brought in a new and different free agent right tackle EVERY SINGLE YEAR since 2016 and these have ranged for moderately successful (Jared Veldheer) to absolute disasters (Ja’Waun James). If Billy Turner is out for the season, people are going to start saying that the RT starting spot in Denver is cursed, like the drummer for Spinal Tap.
It's possible that Billy Turner is done for the season with injury, meaning that the Broncos have brought in a different player to play RT every single season going back to 2016 and they have all averaged ~450 snaps and lasted only one* season in DEN. pic.twitter.com/0Um0I5cBc5— Joe Mahoney (@ndjomo76) November 14, 2022
I know that drafting offensive linemen is not going to be a panacea for the Broncos, but relying on undrafted offensive linemen like Elijah Wilkinson and Quinn Bailey or free agents has not worked very well over the past 10 seasons. Maybe it’s time to try something different?
As an organization the Broncos need to invest more draft capital in the offensive line and either do a better job with our bargain signings at RT or work some voodoo to keep our free agent RT’s healthy.