Broncos offensive line overflowing with competition after NFL draft

Broncos offensive line overflowing with competition after NFL draft

Paton rallies from 63-pick hole to have what appears to be a solid draft. Montrell Washington is the Broncos’ new returner.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Even without taking an offensive tackle in the draft – and they nearly did – the Broncos are loaded with competition along their offensive line, particularly at their interior guard and center spots.

Garett Bolles has the left tackle spot locked down but the four positions to his right – left guard, center, right guard and right tackle – have 10 blockers competing.

At left guard, Dalton Risner figures to get more serious competition this year from Netane Muti and Billy Turner, who is sideline this offseason to recover from arthroscopic knee surgery, Tom Compton and Ben Braden.

At center, Lloyd Cushenberry III will get competition from veteran returning right guard starter Graham Glasgow, who is still limited while recovering from his midseason leg fracture, sixth-round draft pick Luke Wattenberg, Braden and possibly Quinn Meinerz.

At right guard, Meinerz, who replaced the injured Glasgow at midseason last year, is the man to beat but Glasgow, Turner, Compton and Braden will get a shot.

At right tackle, Turner will have to get healthy by training camp to fend off Compton and Calvin Anderson – who is working with the No. 1 unit now.

That’s some serious competition with a new set of coaches – head coach Nathaniel Hackett, offensive coordinator Justin Outten, offensive line coach Butch Barry and assistant offensive line coach Ben Steele are all new to the Broncos this year – picking the starting five.

“Oh there is,” Hackett told 9NEWS of the offensive front competition following the draft Saturday. “Coming into this whole thing, talking with George (Paton, the general manager), I think one of the critical factors at that position is flexibility. I think you want lots of guys who can play left tackle, left guard, center, right guard, right tackle. That’s something after my experiences, especially at Green Bay, we had a lot of shuffling. There was a lot of people that moved around.

“You never know who’s going to be that first five, and you never know who the first five is going to be at the end of the season. As a coaching staff we’ve got to have enough guys who can play different positions, to play at those spots and play at a high level. So we want to have a lot of good big men up front because that’s where it all starts.”

Starting from a 63-pick hole

There were 63 players who came off their draft board – including four who were selected by their AFC West rival Kansas City Chiefs – before the Broncos got their chance to draft a player. They took edge rusher Nik Bonitto at No. 64. Did the Broncos feel like they rallied from their 63-pick hole?

“I think we did,” Paton said. “We finished with 9 picks, I think we helped our football team. We added more depth on defense. I think we added three players on offense so I feel good. I feel good where we’re at. It doesn’t end with the draft. You’re always looking. But I like where we’re at right now.”

RELATED: Broncos first pick, No. 64 overall, is Oklahoma edge rusher Nik Bonitto

“First of all I think we were in the hole for a good reason,” Hackett said.

Indeed, the Broncos could have started their draft with the No. 9 overall draft pick and backed it up with the No. 40 selection in the second round. But all things considered, they preferred to have quarterback Russell Wilson instead. As he looked back at his first draft as head coach, did anything strike Hackett about his new group of rookies?

“It’s funny, we were looking at the board and we were saying, we got a lot of tough guys,” Hackett said. “I think that’s so important. Guys that love ball. That want to go out there. And they love that toughness aspect of the game. I think every one of those guys fits that role.”

Montrell returns

The most exciting player the Broncos took in Day 3 of the draft was Samford returner/receiver Montrell Washington. Many mocksters projected him for the 7th round or as a premium undrafted college free agent, but the Broncos put more value on his return game. Washington had three touchdown returns last season. With the Broncos cutting loose Diontae Spencer, is Washington the Broncos’ returner from the jump?

“Yes. Well, we’ll see. He’s got to earn it,” Paton said. “We do like his return skills. He has slot receiver skills. He’s explosive. We feel he’s a dynamic returner, both as a punt returner and a kick returner.”

RELATED: Broncos take CB Mathis, DT Uwazurike, returner Washington to highlight final draft day

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