It may have taken a while for Denver Broncos' GM George Paton to make his third-round selection, but the pick was more than worth the agonizing wait. The first-year GM opted to trade back twice in the third round of the NFL draft, before handpicking Wisconsin-Whitewater interior offensive lineman Quinn Meinerz at pick 98.
Not only was the Division III pick my favorite interior O-lineman, but Meinerz was also ranked as the 55th-best player available on my big board. Usually, offensive linemen, specifically centers, and guards don’t command the national spotlight, let alone captivate an entire national audience.
So why is Meinerz trending on social media and being graded as a superb selection? Allow me react.
Half-Shirt is Funny But he's No Joke
When fans google image search Meinerz, the first thing that’ll pop up is an unusually muscular belly protruding from a rolled-up jersey. Clearly, the 22-year-old is more than comfortable in his impressive 6-foot-3, 320-pound frame.
I was boots-on-the-ground for Mile High Huddle at the Senior Bowl in January where I reported Meinerz as the unusual belle of the ball. His supreme dominance in both team and individual drills captivated the interest of most scouts and coaches in attendance.
The Broncos’ third-rounder has a natural center of gravity and showcased phenomenal strength and hand placement against the nation’s best senior prospects. Meinerz uses his razor-sharp focus to implement outstanding hand placement, and recovery. His versatility at both center and guard allowed his draft stock to skyrocket since his performance in Mobile.
Meinerz also utilizes his awareness to communicate with teammates and dispatch assignments to the entire O-line unit. He can also climb to the second level of defenders from the line of scrimmage, often throwing powerful punches and demonstrating a mauling mentality.
I've previously compared Meinerz to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Ryan Jensen based on his intelligence, physicality, and most importantly, the chip on his shoulder. This man plays with an old-school, mean mentality and thrives on driving human beings into the ground.
Meinerz is also a surprising athlete whose metrics in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, and bench press ensure that the Broncos are getting a salt-of-the-earth prospect with all the right stuff.
Current Starters Put on Notice
There’s not a doubt in my mind that Paton had the blessing of O-line coach Mike Munchak to select Meinerz. It’s not because Meinerz was the best player available, or because the Broncos felt they needed a desperate upgrade at center.
It's because he can provide exceptional depth, and supplement the line with an intelligent, consistent, and nasty character that Munchak demands from his unit.
In Lloyd Cushenberry’s rookie campaign, the 2020 third-rounder started and played in every single snap of each game. While his attendance and professionalism are superb, the former LSU standout struggled with pass protection, strength, and consistency. Many have suspected that 'Cush' needs to add additional weight and most importantly, explosiveness to his blocking arsenal.
While there’s no substitute for starting an entire NFL season, I suspect that Meinerz has the potential to make multiple Broncos starters uncomfortable through pure competition. In training camp, expect to see the D3 star to be the first in line at each drill, drooling for an opportunity to prove he belongs.
Starting right guard Graham Glasgow is coming off an injury-riddled 2020 season on the heels of being a prized free-agent acquisition. Then there was a slight decrease in performance from starting left guard Dalton Risner relative to a stellar rookie campaign in 2019.
I’m not suggesting that Cushenberry, Glasgow, or Risner should be replaced by Meinerz wholesale. The rookie adds depth to an O-line that for the last five years has endured a band-aid ‘ragtag’ approach of throwing a starting lineup together.
Just don’t be surprised when Menierz is mixing it up with the defensive line in training camp, hungry to earn a starting role and prove that he belongs in the NFL.
Follow Luke on Twitter @LukePattersonLP.
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