After winning the Super Bowl following the 2015 season, the Denver Broncos dropped to 9-7 in 2016, followed by 5-11 and 6-10 last season. They ranked 24th in the NFL in scoring last season at 20.6 points per game, but were decent defensively, ranked 13th allowing 21.8 per contest. Addressing key offensive positions with their first three selections, we run down the top six Broncos’ picks in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Round 1 (20th) Noah Fant (TE) Iowa
Fant played in 11 games as a freshman in 2016, scoring one touchdown on nine receptions. He was used more regularly as a receiver in 2017, scoring 11 touchdowns on 30 receptions. Fant was recognized for his play as third-team All-Big Ten. Fant was first-team all-conference last season after hauling in 39 passes for 519 yards and seven touchdowns.
With good size at 6’ 4” and 249 pounds and 4.5 speed, Fant has all the tools needed to make immediate contributions on offense. He can create havoc for defenses by outrunning linebackers and overpower the secondary. Fant will be the opening day starter barring injury and should significantly improve the Denver passing game.
Round 2 (41st) Dalton Risner (G/C) Kansas State
Risner started all 13 games at center as a freshman in 2015. The following season, he was moved to rick tackle and played well enough to be named first-team all-conference. Risner duplicated that feat in 2017 and was second-team AP All-American last season, as well as first team All-Big Ten.
The Broncos liked Risner’s versatility, who could play nearly every position on the offensive line. Coming from Kansas State, Risner’s is more adept at run blocking, but is intelligent with great work ethic. He has the ability to improve his pass blocking and faced top competition in college. The Broncos see Risner as a starter sooner instead of later.
Round 2 (42nd) Drew Lock (QB) Missouri
Lock started the last eight games as a freshman, throwing for over 1300 yards, but had a poor touchdown to interception ratio of 4-to-8. He threw for a conference-best 3399 yards as a sophomore with 23 touchdowns and only ten interceptions. Lock lead the country with 44 touchdown passes and nearly 4000 yards in 2017. Although his overall numbers dropped as a senior, Lock had a higher completion percentage and was second-team All-SEC.
Denver traded four picks to move up to 42nd to select Lock. One issue for Lock during his time at Missouri was accuracy. With Joe Flacco as the new starter in Denver, the team has plenty of time to develop Lock into the quarterback of the future.
Round 3 (71st) Dre'Mont Jones (DT) Ohio State
Jones was a redshirt freshman in 2015 and was freshman All-American in 2016 making 52 tackles in 13 games. Despite a big drop in tackles to 20 in 2017, Jones was third-team All-Big Ten. Significantly improving last year to 43 tackles and 8.5 sacks, Jones was recognized as first-team All-Big Ten.
With numerous defensive linemen already on the Broncos’ roster, the selection of Jones adds depth to the position. He has very good athleticism and quickness to play numerous positions along the line. Although consistency has been an issues with Jones, he is capable of playing in short yardage as well as passing situations on a rotational basis.
Round 5 (156th) Justin Hollins (LB) Oregon
Although Hollins played in 14 games as a freshman, he was a redshirt the following season before starting in 2016, recording 51 tackles and three sacks. As a junior, Hollins moved to linebacker, registering 59 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Playing his best football as a senior, Hollins had 6.5 sacks, 64 tackles and five forced fumbles, earning honorable mention all-conference.
As a fifth-round pick, Hollins likely will be given a shot on special times and work his way into the rotation at linebacker. He has the build and speed at 6’ 5” and just under 250 pounds to be a pass-rushing outside linebacker. A work in progress, Hollins will need to play with more consistency and improve his strength.
Round 6 (187th) Juwann Winfree (WR) Colorado
Winfree played for Maryland as a freshman, catching 11 passes and one touchdown. After being suspended indefinitely, Winfree option to attend Coffeyville Community College in 2015, where he caught 55 passes and seven touchdowns. Transferring to Colorado in 2016, Winfree missed the season due to a torn ACL. He played in 12 games in 2017, catching 21 passes and played in eight games as senior, hauling in 28 for 324 yards.
Injury issues are a concern with Winfree, but he has nice size at 6’ 1” and 210 pounds and ran a 4.5 40 during pro day. As a late-round pick, Winfree is clearly a project who could develop into a serviceable player down the road. For now, a spot on the practice squad is most likely.