The Denver Broncos just climbed the mountain that is the NFL draft. Now at the summit, GM George Paton can look down on his feat and what the scouting department accomplished with another strong draft class.
All in, the Broncos drafted nine players. Paton maneuvered in the draft, as he is wont to do, trading back more than once to stockpile picks in this year and 2023.
I was front-and-center in Las Vegas for the draft and was able to chronicle each and every pick the Broncos made. For those who weren’t able to monitor every selection, without further ado, let’s introduce the Broncos’ nine-deep 2022 draft class.
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Round 2 | Pick 64 (via LAR): Nik Bonitto | Edge | Oklahoma
The Broncos added the 6-foot-3, 248-pound pass-rush specialist to a defense that could use some bolstering in that department. The knock on Bonitto is his run defense but with the likes of Bradley Chubb and Randy Gregory atop the depth chart, if the injury bug smiles upon the Broncos, the rookie will have time to develop those traits behind the starters.
If Bonitto wants to become anything more than a situational pass-rush specialist, however, he’ll have to take more seriously his run defense. Still, he’s an exciting, twitched-up pass rusher that could have a bigger impact in Year 1 than many analysts assume at first glance.
Round 3 | Pick 80 (via NO & HOU): Greg Dulcich | TE | UCLA
Very few were expecting Denver to take a tight end with a premium-round pick but the grade the team had on him was too high to pass on Dulcich. Don’t listen to the boo-birds who say Russell Wilson doesn’t throw to tight ends or the middle of the field.
Dulcich is a bro and will fit in immediately. In the short term, he’ll have to find a way to eat out of Albert Okwuegbunam’s bowl if he wants to earn a role as a rookie but Dulcich offers good speed and playmaking ability to Denver’s pass-catching arsenal.
Round 4 | Pick 115: Damarri Mathis | CB | Pittsburgh
The Broncos were anxious about their cornerback depth and that was addressed twice in this draft, starting with Mathis. The 5-foot-11 Pitt product brings 4.39 speed and some press-man coverage ability.
Denver’s cornerback depth chart is formidable but it’s very top-heavy. Mathis gives the club some breathing room.
Round 4 | Pick 116 (via SEA): Eyioma Uwazurike | DE | Iowa State
Similar to the corner depth chart, the Broncos are strong along the starting three of the defensive line. Digging deeper, however, there’s little by way of proven depth.
Uwazurike enters the equation as a 6-foot-6, 316-pound factor and is sure to shake things up. He starred for the Cyclones’ defense, totaling 146 tackles (70 solo), 34.5 tackles for a loss, 15 sacks, three passes defensed, two fumble recoveries, and one touchdown as a college player.
That’s what I call production.
Round 5 | Pick 152: Delarrin Turner-Yell, S, Oklahoma
Kareem Jackson re-signed on a one-year deal but starting in 2023, the Broncos need to start cultivating a long-term complement next to Justin Simmons. Turner-Yell throws his hat into a ring already being prowled by 2021 fifth-round safeties Caden Sterns and Jamar Johnson.
If the Turner-Yell pick was a shot across anyone’s bow, it was Johnson’s, who had a very disappointing rookie campaign. Turner-Yell is a 5-foot-10, 197-pound enforcer that can play in the box as a dime-backer and help fit the run.
Round 5 | Pick 162 (via PHI & HOU): Montrell Washington | WR | Samford
Out goes Diontae Spencer, in comes Washington. This pick was made with special teams firmly in mind as Washington immediately can step in as a day-one return specialist.
Time will tell whether the 5-foot-10, 170-pound speed-demon can contribute on offense. For now, Washington is poised to inject some juice into the Broncos’ third phase.
Round 5 | Pick 171 (via GB): Luke Wattenberg | C | Washington
This pick puts Lloyd Cushenberry III on notice but probably not right away. Wattenberg has some athleticism, and enough to excel in Denver’s new (old?) wide-zone rushing scheme but he’s also a bully.
Wattenberg will fit right in next to Quinn Meinerz and he gives the Broncos a long-term center alternative if Cushenberry fails to launch in Year 3.
Round 6 | Pick 206 (via TB, NYJ, PHI): Matt Henningsen | DT | Wisconsin
This corn-fed Badger is champing at the bit to make an impact in Denver out of the gates. A hard worker and lunch-pail type trenchman, look for Hinningsen to push the bottom of Denver’s D-line depth chart as a rookie.
Round 7 | Pick 232: Faion Hicks | CB | Wisconsin
The Broncos focused hard on the secondary, adding their third defensive back of the 2022 class. Hicks is a 5-foot-10, 192-pound baller with a penchant for breaking up passes.
Hicks gives the Broncos another young guy to develop under secondary coach Christian Parker.
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