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Why did the Broncos draft Washington interior offensive lineman Luke Wattenberg?

The Broncos move up to select an experienced Husky to compete for playing time on their offensive line.

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Montana v Washington
Could Wattenberg carve out a role on the Broncos’ roster in year one?
Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Following a trade up to the 171st selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos select Washington center Luke Wattenberg. A four-star recruit, he committed to the Huskies over Stanford and fought his way into the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman. He wound up playing in 54 career games with a school-record 48 consecutive starts (16 games at center, 27 at left guard, and 5 at left tackle).

An older prospect in this class at 24-years-old, Wattenberg enters the National Football League at 6’4” and a gas station burrito under 300 lbs. He’s a good athlete who has the lateral quickness the Broncos look for in their lineman and projects as a very clean fit in the zone/duo run game Nathaniel Hackett’s coaching staff plans to implement.

Wattenberg has the footwork, hands, and savvy to outplay his draft spot, but joins the Broncos with questions about his play strength, anchor, and upside. Mental processing isn’t much of a question, he’s a savvy player who plays with eyes wide open, and will sus out stunts and late rushers. He’s a good communicator who should be able to handle pre-snap duties in time and will seek out work if he’s uncovered. He’s good on combo blocks with the quickness to climb off the initial double team to seal off the average linebacker and even some defensive backs on the second level. He’s better firing off as a run blocker than withstanding a rush as a pass blocker, and will give ground to stronger players in pass pro. He can get engulfed by nose tackles.

Throughout the offseason it’s been no secret the Broncos’ new staff is looking to overhaul the offensive line to better fit their vision. Hackett replaced Mike Munchak with Butch Berry because the Hall of Fame offensive line coach wasn’t seen as an ideal fit for an outside zone blocking scheme, and Denver signed multiple lineman who can compete for playing time on the interior. Paton also had most of the top iOL prospects in for visits which cast long term doubt about players like Dalton Risner, Lloyd Cushenberry, Graham Glasgow, and Netane Muti. Wattenberg’s draft spot suggests he won’t displace anyone early, but he provides insurance down the road.

All told, Wattenberg wasn’t my first choice because I believe tackle is a much bigger need than center or guard and the Husky was expected to go much later than where Denver took him. He had an average draft position of 254 on the Athletic’s top 300 consensus board and Rasheed Walker was still on the board. With that said, Wattenberg makes sense and he could turn into a valuable contributor for a new look Broncos’ line as soon as 2023.


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