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Another year without drafting an offensive tackle in Denver

The Broncos have not drafted a tackle since 2017 when they selected Garett Bolles.

NFL: OCT 06 Colts at Broncos Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The signing of free agent right tackle, Mike McGlinchey, meant that both starting offensive tackle positions on the line had their putative starters for the Denver Broncos for both the 2023 and 2024 seasons (when Bolles becomes a free agent after 2024). That being said, it is always wise (according to most NFL teams) to use day three picks on developmental offensive linemen.

While most of those day three OL guys never make it in the NFL, there are notable exceptions like Jordan Mailata (233rd pick in 2018), Dennis Daley (212th pick in 2019) and Braxton Jones (168th picks in 2022), but these exceptions are few and far between.

At this current point, the depth that the Broncos have at tackle is very limited with only Isaiah Prince having any NFL playing experience (455 NFL snaps). The rest of the depth at tackle has almost no playing experience in the NFL with Quinn Bailey being the most experienced. Bailey has 202 NFL snaps.

Despite a lack of depth at OT, the Bronco front office and coaching staff decided to not use one of our limited draft picks on an offensive tackle. This marks the sixth straight year that the Broncos have not drafted an offensive tackle. {Pours one out for all the tackle bros} Dalton Risner does not count. Yes, I know he played tackle in college, but he never played a single down at tackle for the Broncos, so he is not an offensive tackle.

While the Broncos did not draft an offensive tackle, they did sign two undrafted free agent tackles: Alex Palxzewski from Illinois and Henry Byrd from Princeton. Contract details for both have not been announced yet, but these guys could actually end of with more guaranteed money that Alex Forsyth, who was taken with the 257th pick. Forsyth’s contract is locked in 770k, but only if he makes and stays on the roster. If he gets cut and signed to the practice squad, he could end up making less the either of the UDFA OTs we just signed.

There were eight offensive tackles who went undrafted in 2022 that got 100k or more guaranteed for last season.

To date, none of them has played a single NFL snap, despite all of them being “priority” undrafted free agents. Six of the eight were signed to reserves/futures contracts at the end of last season so the teams that signed them still feel like they have potential to develop in NFL contributors. Ironically, the highest paid of these, Haggai Chisom Ndubuisi, who did not play college football, was released by the Cardinals before the season and not picked up by another team. He still walked away from the NFL with over 200k in pay.

While the chance of undrafted offensive tackles becoming starters is small, there are some exceptions with former Bronco, Elijah Wilkinson, being one. If we look at the UDFA OTs in 2022 who had good contracts we find (3.0MM per year or more):

  • George Fant - 9.1MM per year
  • Andrew Wylie - 8.0
  • La’el Collins - 7.0
  • Terence Steele - 4.3
  • Yosh Nijman - 4.3
  • Calvin Anderson - 3.5
  • Cornelius Lucas - 3.25
  • James Hurst - 3.0

So while it is not terribly uncommon for an undrafted OT to become a decent NFL player, it is still fairly rare. Fant was hurt for much of last season, but he started 7 games for the Jets. Wylie started every game for the Chiefs. Collins started fifteen games for the Bengals. Steele started 13 for the Cowboys. Nijman started 13 for the Packers. Anderson started seven for the Broncos, while Lucas started 12 for the Potatoes (otherwise known as the team that recently changed their name to Commanders). Hurst started 16 for the Saints.

Now just because these guys started for their respective teams, does not mean that they were quality starters. Below are their PFF overall grades for 2022. PFF grades are on a score of 100. 85 and above is elite. 70-85 is above average. 60-70 is average. 50-60 is below average. Below 50 is atrocious. There very from position to position, but that’s the general trend for OTs.

  • George Fant - 48.4
  • Andrew Wylie - 63.1
  • La’el Collins - 57.9
  • Terence Steele - 73.9
  • Yosh Nijman - 63.1
  • Calvin Anderson - 65.0
  • Cornelius Lucas - 67.7
  • James Hurst - 63.2

So it would appear that the only UDFA OT from that group who was above average in 2022 was Terence Steele, but none of those guys were overnight “successes”. Here are the years that each would have been drafted if they had been drafted: 2016, 2017, 2015, 2020, 2019, 2019, 2014 and 2014. Only Collins and Steele really played rookies. Steele started 14 games as a rookie and Collins started 11.

In general if you have talent as an offensive tackle in college, you are going to be drafted.

That being said, I would not expect too much from Palxzewski and Byrd (sounds like a law firm). The last time an undrafted rookie started a bunch of games on the Bronco offensive line was further back than I can remember - so I had to look it up.

Chris Clark started 6 in 2011, but he wasn’t a rookie that year. Stanley Daniels started four at guard in 2010, but that’s not a bunch of games. Tyler Polumbus in 2009 started 8 games, but that was his second year in the league like Clark. Matt Lepsis was undrafted, but he started zero games as a rookie in 2006, he didn’t start his first game in the NFL until the next season. The last time an undrafted rookie OL player started a significant number of games for the Broncos was Erik Pears in 2006. Pears started 10 games as a rookie.

That 2006 Bronco team got a whole bunch of contributions from undrafted players: Pears, Rod Smith, Nick Ferguson, Matt Lepsis, Curome Cox, Chad Mustard (in the library with the candlestick), Mike Bell and Cecil Sapp.


How screwed are the Broncos if Palxzewski or Byrd has to play in 2023?

This poll is closed

  • 59%
    Totally screwed
    (354 votes)
  • 25%
    Mildly screwed
    (154 votes)
  • 5%
    just a little screwed
    (35 votes)
  • 9%
    Not screwed at all - I’m flipping you the Byrd
    (57 votes)
600 votes total Vote Now