It was not necessarily a surprise move when the Denver Broncos traded up to draft Luke Wattenberg. However, the rookie did come with some questions marks. Looking at the current depth chart for the team, he is listed as Lloyd Cushenberry’s backup, but he will have some work to do to get on the field.
Offensive line is a focal point for George Paton. In Nathaniel Hackett’s first year as head coach, he was handed a dream scenario. Russell Wilson.
That being said, keeping him upright and clean will be a priority. Hackett brings changes to the offensive line, and Wattenberg competing for a spot on the roster will help shore up a phase of the offense that will be critical in the team’s success. There is more competition at the center position than just Cushenberry, but it’s clear the team is focused on building a line that can protect its new franchise QB.
Wattenberg was a mainstay on the offensive line at University of Washington. The Husky center set a record for consecutive starts on the team. While he is listed as a center, most of those starts came at guard. The Broncos traded up for his services. It shows a focus on interior offensive line, but did raise some questions at the time.
He wasn’t a highly touted prospect in the draft, and graded out as a low-level project. He will have some big adjustments to make if he wants to compete for time on the field. As a fifth round pick, expectations are low, which will give him time to adapt to the speed and power of the NFL.
Courtland Sutton | Wide Receiver | Broncos
Weight: 300 pounds
Age: 24 years old
How he fits in with the Denver Broncos
It would be disingenuous to call Wattenberg a camp body. He comes into the NFL with serious questions about his strength and upside. His quickness fits well with the zone blocking scheme the Hackett offense requires. He adds depth, but even listed as the backup center, he is behind guy like Netane Muti, Quinn Meinerz, Graham Glasgow, and Dalton Risner when it comes to shuffling the deck.
Should there be injuries, which there always are, he will be a part of the rotation, but will be at the back of that rotation when the season gets underway. His age and draft position (5th round) make him a tricky project. Still, he provides insurance on the offensive line as the season goes on.
It’s hard to get too excited about a 5th round interior offensive lineman, but I think Wattenberg is a good example of what Paton and Hackett are trying to create. The shift to a zone blocking scheme makes it necessary to find smart, athletic linemen. The questions about his power, and his upside are quieted by the new scheme. As a player that adds depth, he will likely get some run on the line, but won’t be a player the Broncos have to lean on.
The practice squad is always an option for a player like this, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the sidelines for several games this season. Even more, because of the nature of the league, he will likely factor in to a number of those games.