We’re in the heart of #DraftSZN here at Mile High Huddle, but there’s never a wrong time to take a look back at the 2019 draft class the Denver Broncos compiled under GM John Elway.
NFL.com’s Nick Shook and Gennaro Filice recently took turns handing out draft class grades for each team, ranking the classes from 1 to 32, while handing out grades from A to D.
Fortunately for the Broncos, Elway’s 2019 draft class came in ranked 12th in the pair’s rankings, grading out with a B+.
Shook and Filice gave the San Francisco 49ers the top grade at an A, finishing at the top of the board across all 32 franchises. Obviously, San Francisco hit home runs with their first two picks in Defensive Rookie of the Year Nick Bosa, and dynamic WR Deebo Samuel.
However, the Broncos stacked up nicely, grabbing guys like TE Noah Fant, OG Dalton Risner, and QB Drew Lock in the first two rounds. Plus, Denver traded down with the Pittsburgh Steelers from pick 10 overall to 20 overall, landing them Fant and a third-round pick this year, among other assets.
This is what Shook had to say about the 2019 class:
The Broncos have to be happy with the product of their last two drafts. In 2019, they might have found their franchise quarterback in Lock after a handful of swings and misses. Fant steadily improved, posting two games of 110-plus yards in the Broncos' final eight contests. Risner was a starting-caliber guard as a rookie, finishing 29th among NFL guards in pass-blocking grade, per Pro Football Focus. Jones needs to improve in the run game but found success rushing the passer, finishing with 3.5 sacks. Hollins saw increased playing time later in the season, recording 21 tackles and one sack. Winfree spent most of his time on special teams.
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Let's examine how each 2019 rookie contributed.
Noah Fant | Tight End
Fant came on strong late in the season, recording two games with 110-plus yards receiving in the last eight games of the year. He looks like a legitimate TE1 who can line up all over an offense and make a huge impact snap-to-snap.
Dalton Risner | Second Round
With Risner, it appears that the Broncos have a franchise stalwart along the interior of the offensive line that is a road grader in the run game, and an athletic specimen in pass protection. What a find, and what a player. He started all 16 games at left guard.
Drew Lock | Second Round
Then there’s Lock, whom the Broncos sure hope is a franchise quarterback.
In the five starts Lock made to close the season, he looked the part of a franchise QB in the making, completing 64% of his passes for 1,020 yards and seven touchdowns, including a spectacular performance on the road in Houston to blow out a playoff team in the Texans in which he set NFL rookie passing records.
Dre'Mont Jones (3rd) | Justin Hollins (5th) | Juwann Winfree (6th)
After the top-3, the class gets a little dicey with DL Jones, WR Juwann Winfree, and LB Justin Hollins. The trio combined for one start (Jones), but did play in 32 total games, with Jones and Hollins combining for 29 of those games, mostly on special teams.
Jones looks like a solid developmental piece in the front seven that could really turn into a solid starter in the coming years for Denver and was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week (16), while Hollins flashed some bend late in the year, finishing with one sack and two pass breakups. Hollins could be a good rotational piece behind Bradley Chubb and Von Miller for the next few years.
As for Winfree, he showed his big-play ability in the preseason, but wasn’t really heard from after that, ending the year on Injured Reserve.
In the undrafted rookie free agent class, Shook and Filice highlighted FB/TE hybrid Andrew Beck and OLB Malik Reed. The duo combined to play in 31 of a possible 32 games total in 2019, with Beck starting six and Reed starting eight in place of Andy Janovich and Chubb, respectively.
Beck finished his rookie year with nine catches for 90 yards and a touchdown while playing a key role in opening up holes for Philip Lindsay and Royce Freeman down the stretch. Reed was a sound player on the edge for Denver, recording two sacks while also serving as a strong run defender.
With the way Denver’s 2019 draft class developed throughout the season, the sky is the limit for the group, which could — and should — have a profound impact on Denver’s title chances moving forward.