Just days removed from the 2023 NFL draft, the draft grades are out for how well experts thought teams did. Of course, it will take at least two years to give a realistic grade as to how well teams drafted, but so far it doesn’t look good for the Denver Broncos.
Entering the draft with just five draft picks, Sports Illustrated’s Matt Verderame ranked the Broncos dead last among draft classes.
“While Sean Payton has brought respectability back to Denver, his initial draft class leaves plenty of questions.” Verderame continued, “The Broncos failed to upgrade their offensive line in a meaningful way, and they didn’t touch the edge-rushing market. Denver added at corner and receiver, and while Riley Moss could start across from Patrick Surtain II, it’s tough to argue for Marvin Mims Jr. getting much run behind Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick and Courtland Sutton. It was a bizarre three days for Denver.”
Broncos Didn’t Need to Add a WR
The Broncos didn’t need to draft a wide receiver in this year’s draft, let alone trade up into the second round for one. Even though there were rumblings of the Broncos attempting to move Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, or even K.J. Hamler, Denver had plenty of depth at the position.
In the 2022 NFL Draft, Denver selected Montrell Washington in the fifth round and was a standout in training camp as a wide receiver, not a punt returner.
In the offseason, Denver also added Lil’Jordan Humphry as a speed specialist along with former New Orleans Saints receiver Marquez Callaway.
You also can’t forget about Denver getting back Tim Patrick who missed all of last season with a torn ACL.
Broncos Needed Pass-Rush Help
Denver was recently been known for their elite pass rushers after they selected Von Miller second-overall in the 2011 NFL draft and pairing him up with Elvis Dumervil. After a fax machine issue, the Broncos would then pair up Miller with future Hall-of-Famer, DeMarcus Ware.
In 2015 the Broncos also added Shane Ray in the first round of the draft and had a rising star in Shaq Barrett as Denver went on to win Super Bowl 50.
Once those three left, Denver passed on Josh Allen to select Bradley Chubb fifth-overall to help re-create the Miller-Ware combination, but that didn’t work out well.
Miller was shipped to the Los Angeles Rams in 2021 and Chubb was traded to Miami midway through the 2022 season.
With both of those pass rushers gone, Denver was forced to lean on Randy Gregory, but he only played in six games due to injury.
Dre’Mont Jones led the Broncos in sacks last season with 6.5, but he signed as a free agent with the Seattle Seahawks. This means that Denver’s top two sack leaders from last season are no longer on this team.
Linebacker Baron Browning finished third on the team in sacks with just five.
Last season, the Broncos finished the season with the seventh least number of sacks in the NFL.
In free agency, Denver did add defensive end Zach Allen, who had 5.5 sacks in 13 games and 20 quarterback hits. The only downfall is that Allen will playing on the inside in a 3-4 defense.
Right now, the starting outside pass rushers will be Gregory and Browning.
Unless Denver adds another piece through free agency, the Broncos are going to rely on sophomore linebacker Nik Bonitto who had just 1.5 sacks as a rookie.
With the addition of linebacker Drew Sanders in the third round of the draft, the former Arkansas Razorback can help get to the quarterback as well.
As a middle linebacker, Sanders sacked the quarterback 9.5 times, but can also play on the outside.
Dane Brugler of The Athletic, explained why he loved Sanders as the pick for the Broncos.
“My top-ranked linebacker, Sanders has intriguing versatility as a “do-everything” front-seven defender. Long, lean and fast, he has instincts and range, although he must become a better take-on player and clean up the “almost” plays on his tape. Nevertheless, landing Sanders at pick No. 67 is an absolute steal.”