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Why did the Broncos draft Wisconsin defensive back Faion Hicks?

The Broncos add a physical slot corner in the seventh round.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 20 Nebraska at Wisconsin
Faion Hicks should compete for playing time on special teams early.
Photo by Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With their final selection of the 2022 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos select Wisconsin cornerback Faion Hicks at 232. A former three-star recruit in the 2017 cycle, Hicks found his way to the field early and played in 45 games during his Badger career. Despite his draft pedigree, he lands in what could be a rather enviable situation for a rookie DB.

Standing 5’10 and weighing in at 189 lbs. with 30 inch arms means may mean a bit of an adjustment for Hicks in the NFL. He spent more time as a boundary cornerback for the Badgers, though he did slide inside here and there. He brings the requisite short area quickness, physicality, and ball skills to project as developmental nickel in the Fangio-esque scheme the Broncos plan to run with Ejiro Evero. He also has the skillset to fight for playing time on the kick and punt coverage units early in his career.

One reason the Hicks pick makes a ton of sense for the Broncos is the current stat of the Broncos’ cornerback room. At first glance, it’s quite talented. However, Patrick Surtain II, Ronald Darby, and K’Waun Williams all missed time to injury last season, and Darby and Williams have combined to play one 16+ game regular season in their careers. The current backups are Michael Ojemudia and Essang Bassey. O.J. missed almost all of 2021 to injury and got benched for a stretch during his rookie year, while Bassey was waived by both the Broncos and Chargers last year. There’s a chance Hicks and fellow rookie Damarri Mathis carve out early playing time.

There are a few areas Hicks will need to iron out to become more than a competitor for special teams in the NFL. He could stand to improve his route recognition and doesn’t always play up to his long speed and will need to improve his footwork. His lack of length means he’ll probably never be a standout around the line of scrimmage, and bigger receivers like the Los Angeles Chargers’ Mike Williams will always present matchup problems because they can “big boi” him. Additionally, his size and lack of length means the margin for error as a run defender is smaller.

Personally, I’m a fan of this pick even if Hicks did not land on the Athletic’s top 300 consensus board, and there were other players I preferred such as Penn State tackle Rasheed Walker. Denver’s cornerbacks all bring durability questions and Darby could be a cap casualty in 2023. Even if Hicks and Mathis play sparingly in 2022, both could develop into defensive contributors down the road.


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