When the Denver Broncos landed Dalton Risner in the second round of the 2019 NFL draft, there were a lot of happy fans. Some draftniks expected Risner would be drafted within the top-32, despite some length concerns, and managed to fall to pick 41 for Denver to pick him up.
Risner was immediately plugged in at left guard and went on to produce a good rookie season, though there were some hiccups. As a rookie, he did allow three sacks and 22 total pressures, but he was overall a solid blocker in pass protection and really flashed the potential to be a great NFL guard.
Risner's rookie run blocking was hit or miss, but when he was tasked with pulling, he generally did well. Risner has solid movement skills that can get him outside smoothly and he knows his landmarks to land those critical second and third blocks at the second level. All in all, it was a promising rookie campaign that led to high expectations for Year 2.
Unfortunately, Risner did not meet those expectations and was largely much the same as a player. While he didn’t allow any sacks, he relinquished six more pressures in 2020 than he did in 2019 with 28 total.
Risner's run blocking was also more exploitable and he struggled even when pulling as well as working the inside zone that offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur likes to run. As the season went on, Risner started to step up and show more which implies the issues he struggled with early could be attributed to helping the rookie center Lloyd Cushenberry III.
The Broncos put Cushenberry out there and he went on to struggle immensely which put pressure on the guards on each side of him, including Risner on the left. There is a reason that when the center’s play improved, Risner’s did as well.
Now, Risner enters Year 3 looking to bounce back from a rough 2020 and take a good-sized step forward. He needs to show much more than he has the previous two years, especially in light of the two young guards the Broncos have drafted over the past two years.
Denver has some interior offensive line depth that could threaten Risner's starting job — if he doesn’t show the needed improvements.
Follow Erick on Twitter @ErickTrickel.
Subscribe to Mile High Huddle on YouTube for daily Broncos live-stream podcasts!