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Let's continue adding to our pre-draft NFL 2024 notebook with the big uglies on the interior of the offensive line. The guards and centers. We'll look at them in four different categories:

  • Guard
  • Center
  • Guard & Center
  • Tackle & Guard
In today's modern NFL the majority of interior offensive lines have multiple position players that can flip between guard or center. The top or elite generally play one or the other position, but for a player that's on the proverbial draft bubble or in this year's unremarkable draft - those that learn to do multiple positions to upgrade your draft stock is the solution to making yourself more valuable to a potential NFL team.

With that said where do the Broncos sit with their current IOL - pretty solid actually the starters both RG - Meinerz and LG - Powers are solid run blockers, both are average or a bit under average pass blocking guards. Let's review the current Bronco rosters IOL:
  • RG - Meinerz - third year, man I'm getting old, this dude feels like just got to Denver and shocked the world. He's a solid foundation piece and can also play center. No doubt a starter in 2024. Upgrades for Meinerz are in pass protection as his offseason priority.
  • LG - Powers - we all know this dude's story, small college player that transferred to Oklahoma and wound up proving it as an NFL road grader with the Ravens. A five-year NFL veteran that should be playing the best football of his career and another solid starter for 2024. Upgrades in his game are mainly in pass protection.
  • C - Cushenberry III - opined him early as "cushionberry", this dude has been on a roller coaster as the pro has been durability and the con has been durability as he's started since being a rookie and quite frankly has sucked - until 2023. This season Cush has finally found himself, well the offseason work paid off - he's stronger, he's figured out the NFL and he's arguably been the best OL this season for the Broncos. If an extension can be worked out at a fair price he's deserving to be here as the starter in 2024.
  • T/G - Bailey - a ASU product and one heckuva stud to be able to deal with being a PS forever, and then when called upon put in starter rotation minutes or games. He's consistent, durable and always ready to play - I like him in 2024 to be back on the roster either in the 53 or PS. His versatility is also of high value in being able to play both tackle and guard at an NFL level.
  • C/G - Forsythe - we don't know what we don't know - unless you're a Bronco employee privy to the practices then it's not really a call we can make on Forsythe. Not overly athletic, and doesn't bend well, but he's a road grader and shows solid smarts and instincts. He should be able to challenge in 2024 for a 53-roster spot at either C or G, and if he's above the curve in development and an extension isn't coming for Cush, he could be your starter at center in 2024 BroncoFan.
  • C/G/T - Wattenberg - drafted in the 5th round outta Washington my guess is the only reason still on the roster is due to his utility capability to plug into the line anywhere needed. His audition at center in the NFL in 2022 was a abject failure. Like with Forsythe unless able to be at practices have no idea where he is in his development, he's gotten some ST snaps and moved up to the 53 rosters so that's encouraging for Wattenberg in 2024.
  • C/G/T - Sherman - the PS utility player. He's the dude that seriously looked good in preseason, he could if Bailey is moved to the 53 rosters in 2024 take Bailey's place as that PS call up dude on any position in the line basically as the backup. A CU alumni local product who was a pleasant surprise.
In conclusion as to the Broncos need on the IOL positions for the 2024 NFL draft my thinking is that they're as solid as pretty much any NFL team. We all figured that Cush was gone due to incompetence, and yet ironically, he may be gone due to his excellence and becoming a free agent. That's probably the one position to watch for in the draft to see if the Broncos feel a need to dive into that pool. Forsythe, Wattenberg, Bailey & Sherman are all line position flexible, and it will take a heckuva a back end third day player to knock out any of these dudes from being with the Broncos in 2024 is my guess without being in the building. Could that happen, sure it could - in particular Wattenberg seems vulnerable to being cut if isn't developing and challenging to compete for a 53-man spot in 2024. Bailey while good at both tackle and guard isn't particularly outstanding and could be replaced with a higher graded player as a third day or if Broncos decide to go that direction a second day pick. Sherman is a low-cost developmental player so doubt he's replaced yet could be and Forsythe I see having at least 2024 to develop before seriously looked at being a cut - and what a value to boot getting in the 7th round. Forsythe is the type of player would see the Broncos jumping on again if take an IOL - a guy who has his stock drop draft day to next to nothing and an easy choice to pick up and bring in to see if anything is there or not.

Let's look at the players now and also let's keep in mind that the O-line due to its harsh nature of going from the college game predominantly spread or RPO offenses to the pro set offense played under center predeominantly is a different animal for these guys. Sadly, most are woefully unprepared to be able to tackle the challenges of the game at the pro level for at least 2-3 years before they develop into solid NFL players. Everyone says you want to build through the draft - I get that - however, this is one area of the roster that often requires buttressing through FA just due to the fact that need some gray in the beard ala C Kelce with Philly to truly be a dominant player on the O-line in the NFL. With the horizontal blocking of the college game, screen blocking techniques it doesn't service the needs of the NFL O-line coaches that need to coach up to a level to handle the power, stunts, blitzes and schemes required when get to the NFL. As a current example the top OG in the NFL 2023 draft O'Cyrus Torrence a second-round pick by the Bills is struggling at the moment - he'll be fine, yet it's a challenge to go from college to NFL and none more than the O-line.

Let's take a look at the position players and the swing players starting with:

Center:
  • Sedrick Van Pran - C - Georgia - a solid 6'4" and 310lb player who is often thought of as the guy the Broncos would chase or consider in this years draft if Cush is gone. Could be but not where they're at now as Van Pran is likely a second-round pick that the Broncos don't currently have. He's a stud in run blocking, athletic with a 5.27 40 and can flat out maul dudes. His challenge as is most coming into the NFL the pass protection - and quite frankly he reminds me of a maybe more refined Cush coming into the league with those growing pains associated would pass on this player as have higher needs, especially if can retain Cush.
  • Jackson Powers-Johnson - C - Oregon - at 6'3" and 320lbs the 5.0 40 will entice teams especially if shows out at the combine. The 40 speeds don't translate into his game and lacks effectiveness on reach blocks and pulling - see him as a center not a guard at next level. He struggles in pass protection and will need coaching up to be a potential starter in the NFL. Could he be a Bronco - well he is a third round rated pick so could happen, doubtful as quite frankly the addition of Forsythe really makes him redundant, and Broncos have greater needs.
  • Zach Frazier - C - WVA - at 6'3" and 310lbs with a 5.2 40 he's got the quickness and shows it to pull, but he's really better in a phone booth. Interesting athlete and rated a fourth-round pick. Could he be a Bronco - eh, don't see it as not a improvement in Forsythe most likely so move on.
  • Drake Nugent - C - MI - at 6'2" and 301lbs with a 5.3 40 he's not big enough or fast enough to warrant high priority - he's a fifth-round pick most likely as a developmental player. Lacks the foot speed to mirror on pass protection and agility is not elite. His main plus is a senior with plenty of experience and solid IQ and instincts - as can adapt most likely mentally to the pro game, will be the physical aspect as the challenge. Good player not a potential Bronco IMO as again, not gonna leapfrog Forsythe on depth chart most likely.
  • Bryce Foster - C - TX A&M - big boy at 6'5" and 330lbs and just finishing his junior season - he's the kinda guy that is a interesting developmental player that's rated a 5/6th round pick. I like him as he runs a 4.95 40 and set a shot-put record in top ten at TX A&M, he's also bench pressed over 400lbs - in HS no less. He reminds me somewhat of the Broncos Bailey though a center, he's more the finesse than dominate type of player. He's a guy if can pull in the 6/7th round or ideally a UDFA bring him in to compete with Forsythe and potentially a developmental player - he's got NFL traits can potentially build on.
  • Sincere Haynesworth - C - Tulane - at 6'1" and 305lbs with a 5.3 40 there's nothing that sticks out other than a really cool name. That said he's a grappler, one of those tough guys that lives in a phone booth and isn't afraid of contact and able to take on the bigger man and win in the run game A gap. He's a stout little dude with an attitude. Can he be a Bronco - eh, doubtful - he's more a ST guy, swing along the line depth backup and a 7th round rated player, or UDFA.
  • Andrew Raym - C - Oklahoma - now we're with the UDFA guys and just gonna do a couple as there's a ton of them available this draft. Raym is at 6'4" and 309lbs a 5.2 40 so he's got the physical gifts as an NFL center and he's also adept at moving his feet. He's raw, needs development in all areas and particularly the pass protection. Could he be a Bronco - not sure would spend that time wisely developing Andrew's game so doubtful.
  • Dylan McMahon - C - NC State - noticed this kid because of his hair - he and Dulcich could exchange notes and shampoo products from Troy Polamalu. At 6'4" and 305lbs with a 5.1 40 he's got size and speed but totally lacks power. Will require the NFL weight program to have any chance as right now he's going to get his door kicked in. Could he be a Bronco - not with Forsythe and Wattenberg in developmental phase what's the point.
  • Austin Dedich - C - USC - gotta throw in a Trojan or Univ of Spoilt Chillin' player as Warren Sapp likes to say - Dedich is a smallish 6'2" & 295lb player with a 5.06 40, so small and fast but not quick for the position with a 4.84 shuttle or bottom 33%. Rated a 4-star outta HS my guess is just never got all that much bigger, stronger or faster while at USC. Has ability as a guard in college but see as a center in the pro game. Doesn't use his leverage to his advantage often enough and will be overpowered in the NFL, good college player - best of luck as a UDFA in the NFL.
Guards:
  • Cooper Beebe - G/T - KS ST - at 6'4" and 335lbs this dude is one of the big boy club members and an alum with our old friend Dalton Risner as KS ST player and like Risner has played on the O-line in multiple positions. His 5.32 40 is nothing to note but his 4.66 shuttle at top 68% with his size makes him intriguing. Great in run blocking in a phone booth not so great with moving his feet in pass protection, he's rated a second-round late pick and quite honestly if you like Dalton Risner this dude is more or less the comparison player from KS ST. Good college player, two-year starter at tackle and one at guard where think he'll wind up at in the NFL. Could he be a Bronco - not in the second round, if dropped into third round possible but highly doubtful as quite frankly not sure offers more than Bailey at this point.
  • Zak Zinter - G - MI - at 6'6" and 322lbs with a 5.3 40 a lot of size, not much speed. Good college athlete plays with some nastiness yet doesn't have the foot speed to be a pulling guard. A third-round grade on Zinter and don't see him as a potential Bronco - just not enough meat on the bone to pull on a third-round pick with the other issues Broncos have for that pick.
  • Christian Haynes - G - CT - at 6'2" and 313lbs with a 5.2 40 he's a little brute force type of player. If am not mistaken he could be a solid plug-n-play RG for a team for a decade or more. He's got quickness, agility and power to be an outstanding run blocker and he's nasty. He lacks in pass protection and will take development in that area but in college he's rated a 90 as a pass blocker and an 86 in run blocking so the tools are there. I like him as a Bronco maybe not in third round as graded but if slips into the fourth round too high of a potential talent to let slip by even though have Meinerz & Powers currently. He could be the fill in if don't extend or re-sign Meinerz or Powers is traded later on for draft capital.
  • Tate Ratledge - G - GA - at 6'6" and 310lbs with a 5.35 40 this dude is a bully boy. A classic brawler and a mauler the typical enforcer on the team. Good college player rated a 4th round pick, just not enough there that can see the Broncos pulling him in the fourth round as lacks elite athleticism and pass protection ability to warrant being on the Broncos roster.
  • Javion Cohen - G - Miami - at 6'4" and 305lbs with a 5.2 40 more a technician than a power plug. Don't see him as a Bronco as not enough need with a Wattenberg type of game as can also play tackle if needed.
  • Donovan Jackson - G - OSU - another one of the big boy club members at 6'4" and 320lbs but this dudes an athlete with a 5.2 40 and a top shelf 4.57 shuttle rating him in the top 87%. He can move his feet, he has power, but he is off balance too often and has issues with speed rushers meaning will be limited to guard only am guessing in the NFL. Could he be a Bronco - well a fourth-round grade and certainly is in that category of a value pick but am just not sure Broncos can afford to bypass other more critical needs.
  • Miles Frazier - G - LSU - at 6'6" and 335lbs no mistaking him as not being a big ugly club member and 5.25 40 ranks him top 66% but he doesn't show that foot speed on tape and in pass protection speed rushers abuse him, and though started out at LSU and recruited as a tackle has played at guard the last two seasons. As a 6th round grade suggests more a developmental player and ideally could be a Bronco as a UDFA.
  • Christian Mahogany - G - BC - oh yeah, what a cool name and a BC man to boot - well he's 6'3" and 335lbs with a 5.35 40 so he's basically a fireplug with a motor but slow feet. Can he play in the NFL - doubtful as lacks the athleticism, yet never know a chip & a chair type of player and could see him as a UDFA in a Bronco camp though rated a 6th rounder so could be drafted.
  • We'll end it with two Texas A&M UDFA candidates - first up Aki Ogunbiyi a former 4-star outta HS - if Mahogany is gone then take Ogunbiyi as he's basically the same level of player at 6'3" and 325lbs as well with 5.35 40. Like with Mahogany will have to rely on a high IQ to make it in the NFL as lacks the elite athleticism, he also is a waist bender hence the move to guard in the NFL as has played both tackle and guard at A&M. Could he be a Bronco - see above on Mahogany.
  • Layden Robinson - G - Texas A&M at 6'4" and 315lbs with a 5.3 40 Layden has a disappointing 4.91 shuttle at a bottom of the barrel 20%. His calling card is outstanding leverage, agility and fairly quick feet though lacks foot speed. If had a decent level of foot speed would be drafted but he's not got that and most likely a UDFA or at best a 7th round flyer guy. Could he be a Bronco - not seeing it.
In conclusion the draft for 2024 NFL IOL isn't all that special this season. With Center Van Pran and Guard Beebe as the only two realistic probable day one starters in this draft it's pretty slim pickings if seeking a plug & play guy. Foster at center has some NFL starter potential potentially immediately as like Forsythe with a solid center career at Texas A&M looks the part but has had a serious knee injury that will drop him down to that 5/6th round most likely. I know am a homer on BC guys, but Mahogany does look like a sleeper at Guard and could play in the right system as a starter for a team with a need for an IOL to come in and play right away. Donovan Jackson has the size and experience in the Big Ten to potentially also be an NFL day one starter but again, it's all about need and he's not going to be elite necessarily in the pro game as much as he is an elite athlete at the position.

Do I see the Bronco's looking at an IOL this draft - certainly would have at center but Cush shocked the world this season and has to be rated easily a top ten center in the NFL at this point. With Powers and Meinerz playing effectively as starters in the LG & RG respectively just don't see the need to go after an IOL on day one or two. I'd guess that possibly a 4/7th round pick could be found on day three if the right situation and player dropped into a value pick slot. Other than that, too many other needs on this roster to fill besides an IOL with Wattenberg on the 53-man roster and both Forsythe and Sherman on the PS as developmental players. Should the Broncos let Cush go then could see the viability of adding another IOL with the center position being the focal point and pushing up Forsythe most likely as the starter, Wattenberg and the unnamed player drafted fighting for a 53-roster spot or winding up as that PS player.

As always MHR readers thanks for reading and let me know what you think!!!
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