The Broncos were B+roncos.
For the first time in franchise history, the Broncos got three first-round players.
And possibly a fourth.
The Broncos crushed it in the first three rounds of the draft.
However, will these Four Horsemen develop into NFL starters, Pro Bowlers and Ring of, or even Hall of, Famers? TBD.
Their names are Noah Fant, Dalton Risner, Drew Lock and Dre’Mont Jones, and their positions are tight end, offensive line, quarterback and defensive line.
Only Fant actually was drafted in the first round — at 20th after the Broncos traded down from 10th with the Steelers. The Iowa tight end, ranked second overall to teammate T.J. Hockenson, was projected to go as high as 12.
Kansas State’s Risner — who is from Wiggins, a town 67 miles northeast of Denver (Interstate 76) with one thousand people, dogs and cows — had been predicted to go in the 20s, but slid to the second round. The Broncos were fortunate to pick him up at 41.
The Broncos traded up for a quarterback for the fourth time since 2006 to the spot behind Risner and chose Drew Lock, the fourth quarterback picked. As The Gazette reported exclusively months ago, John Elway had been enamored with Lock since scouting him in a Missouri home game last season. John got his man. Elway said Saturday that Lock was the Broncos’ highest-rated QB — probably because Lock reminds Elway of His Own Self.
In a consensus of national NFL mock drafts, Lock was expected to be selected by the Broncs at No. 10. He endured 31 more picks as Kyler Murray (1), Daniel Jones (6) and Dwayne Haskins (15) were taken. All four recently visited Dove Valley. Only Lock will return.
Elway is eager for Fant and Risner to compete for starting jobs immediately. The Broncos’ Boss emphasized that Lock will vie to be the Broncos’ backup. His statement reassured Joe Flacco that he is the quarterback of the present. Lock, the Broncos wish, is the future.
Risner was born in Branson, Mo., and Lock in Columbia, Mo. Show us Mo.
Then, along came Jones at 71st in the third round. He assumed command of the Ohio State defense when linebacker Joey Bosa suffered a season-concluding injury last season. Jones, according to Pro Football Focus, was second in the nation in QB pressures to Quinnen Williams.
The 6-foot-3, 281-pound Jones was considered a potential late first-early second-round choice, but he dropped because of concerns about his lack of explosiveness and consistency.
Lock’s “gunslinger’’ style has been compared to Jay Cutler, who was drafted when the Broncos traded up in ‘06. Make of that would you will. He does have accuracy and touch issues, but his arm was the strongest of the top tier. Risner’s pass-blocking must improve, but his versatility and aggressiveness are major attributes. The Broncos will play him initially at guard; Risner was a tackle and a center with Wildcats.
Fant is faster (4.5 seconds in 40 yards) than teammate Hockenson and probably a slightly superior receiver, but needs to block to become elite.
In the fifth round the Broncos leaped for Oregon linebacker Justin Hollins, who can play inside, but probably is more suited to be a reserve edge rusher and special teams guy at 6-5 and 248 pounds.
Making their third trade of the draft, the Broncos gave up a sixth and a seventh to choose Colorado receiver Juwann Winfree at Maryland's Coffeyville Community College. Winfree wasn’t one of the classic CU speedsters. He played only eight games as a senior because of injuries. But he intrigued the Broncos’ staff at the Pro Day for area players.
The Broncos ended up with a pick-six, the fewest number of players since 2014, when they also had a half dozen.
They were one of the four draft winners for the first two days because of Fant, Risner, Lock and two additional draft choices (including a third next year). But, on the third day, they weren’t involved much and didn’t gain much.
Nevertheless, adding the six players chosen to the contingent of eight players drafted a year ago who are still with the team, the Broncos have produced their most potent back-to-back drafts in the Elway Era since 2011-12. Twelve of those picked players would become starters. At least a dozen of the 2018-19 class could, too.
The Broncos earned a solid B+.