When the Denver Broncos elected to trade Von Miller to the Los Angeles Rams it marked the end of an era. It also cratered the pass rush with eight games remaining, hinting at the desperate straits George Paton is in at edge rusher. With Malik Reed a Restricted Free Agent and Bradley Chubb landing on Injured Reserve three of his four NFL seasons with lower body ailments, there are significant questions about the group going forward. Given the fact that the vast majority of the NFL’s top edge rushers enter the league as top 50 picks, there’s little question the Broncos will need to invest premium draft capital into the group if they want to juice up their edge rush.
Fortunately the 2022 draft class is extremely deep at edge rusher. While Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson and Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux currently look like they’ll be out of Paton’s reach at nine, there’s a bunch of other talented rushers who could appeal to the Broncos’ GM. After studying and writing the reports for three such prospects, I wanted to share a couple additional thoughts below.
On the season ending True Sack Rate rankings from @BrandonThornNFL - the Top 20 EDGE for 2021— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) February 22, 2022
12 1st Rounders
5 2nd Rounders
1 3rd Rounder (Hendrickson)
1 5th Rounder (Judon)
1 UDFA (Barrett
...if you need some QB pressure - don't wait for it!https://t.co/fsWinRmJBe pic.twitter.com/vSsb1XwTxE
David Ojabo - The first round lock
A first year starter for the Michigan Wolverines who only started playing football at 17-years-old, it’s easy to watch Ojabo’s tape and fall head over heels for his upside. He’s a 6’5 250 lb. speed rusher with the kind of overall explosiveness, burst, and bend that will remind some in Broncos Country of a young Von Miller, and if he tests as expected the Broncos will have to draft him early. He needs to continue adding to his pass rush repertoire and there will be growing pains against the run, but he’s the kind of prospect who could eventually have a transformational impact on Ejiro Evero’s pass rush with the way he can threaten tackles around the arc.
Arnold Ebiketie - the top 50 lock?
With the NFL Combine still a few days away there’s still a good bit of movement ahead for draft prospects. One such player who could find himself sliding up or down the boards is Ebiketie, who turned heads during his lone season with Penn State after he transferred from Temple. A 0-star recruit coming out of high school, the 6’2 256 lb. Ebiketie looks like a good, but not great athlete on tape and will enter the league as an older prospect after five years playing college football. With the way edge is such a traits based projection into the league, that could hurt his stock in a loaded position group. That said, so long as he doesn’t fall on his face at Indianapolis the combination of quick hands and ankle flexion make him an intriguing option regardless of where he winds up on draft boards.
Myjai Sanders - the day 2 steal?
Where there’s a possibility both Ojabo and Ebiketie wind up first round picks, it does not look like Sanders will find himself among the top 32 selections come April. The soon-to-be 22-year-old notched 13.5 sacks and 24.5 tackles for a loss across his four years playing for the Cincinnati Bearcats and he lacks the elite traits to convince evaluators to overlook the ho-hum production, even if he is capable of reliably generating pressure. This isn’t to say he’s a bad player, however, as his burst, savvy, and pass rush repertoire would make him a valuable member of the edge rotation from day one.
Myjai Sanders could be a great addition to the Broncos. Combines good athletic ability with the burst and hands to attack backfields on passing downs. pic.twitter.com/XJJTKbL2OP— Joe (R-E-L-A-X) Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) February 23, 2022
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The Broncos have the makings of a dynamic, top-flight receiver corps if they can stay healthy. Jeudy owns Pro Bowl talent but played just 10 games in 2021, and speedster Hamler was injured in Week 3. Sutton took time to get back into the swing of things after returning from injury. And Patrick adds an enticing big-body target. The foursome fits well together from a schematic standpoint and could dominate in new coach Nathaniel Hackett’s system. The talent resides in Denver for a potent offense if they can finally figure out the QB.
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Most everyone involved, from team CEO Joe Ellis to Paton to Hackett, has said the sale process will not impact the football team. It shouldn’t. They have plenty of salary cap space and plenty of draft picks. But it is incumbent on the decision-makers to move through free agency and the draft as if they know who the boss will be moving forward. Of the past four NFL franchises sold — Carolina, Buffalo, Cleveland and Jacksonville — only Buffalo has emerged from the process as a consistent, well-built playoff contender.
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The MVP of Super Bowl 50 pretty much cemented his Hall of Fame résumé by winning his second career title in Super Bowl LVI, catching fire with the Rams after a pedestrian final stretch of games with the Broncos. And I don’t mind if, at 32 years old, he’s going to play the kind of role where he’s fine during the regular season, then comes to life when the playoffs start. If he wants to cash in on a huge payday, I’m here for it. He has nothing left to prove. And I understand there will be people who think Clowney should cash in while Miller should stay. But again, Von’s legacy is set. So, for that reason, if I was him, I’d be out there getting paid.
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