The NFL draft grades are not officially official until Mel Kiper, Jr., the godfather of the draft and long-time analyst for ESPN, posts his grades and reaction to how the event played out. While not every analyst covering the NFL, or even the draft, takes the time to comb through the tape and dedicate the hours upon hours needed to truly evaluate prospects, Kiper has always put in the work.
When Kiper speaks on a prospect, even if one doesn’t agree with his analysis, folks should take notice. He won’t be 100% right as no one can perfectly predict the future but his observations and analysis should carry more weight than most other analysts occupying this space.
Do grades immediately following the draft matter much, if at all, before a player selected has even stepped on the field for their new team? Probably not much, if at all. But understanding the ‘why’ and thought-process surrounding a given grade is more important than the dog itself.
According to Kiper, the Denver Broncos earned a B- grade for their 2022 draft class (the same marks I gave GM George Paton). Kiper:
The Broncos sent their first-and second- round pick in this draft to Seattle to acquire Russell Wilson – I think they’re OK with the outcome of the deal – and had already added a second-rounder from the Von Miller trade to the Rams. I liked their top pick enough, because Nik Bonitto (64) is a fit for their 3-4 defense. He already is advanced as a pass-rusher and is fast off the snap. He led the FBS in pressure percentage last season at 18.3%. He needs to get much better against the run, though, because he is going to struggle to play on early downs.
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If there is one thing we can say with absolute certainty, given the uncertainty surrounding all draft picks until they prove it in the league, it’s that Bonitto can rush the passer from a wide-9 alignment. His true twitch, burst, and bend were as good as any singular pass rusher in the entire 2022 draft.
Sure, some of that athletic ability is likely tied to Bonitto’s smaller frame in comparison to the bigger and longer pass rushers that were drafted ahead of Bonitto, but the Oklahoma product is very skilled at rushing the quarterback and should be a welcomed addition to a Broncos pass rush that was absolutely dreadful last season. Kiper continues:
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Greg Dulcich (80) is my second-ranked tight end, and he should take a bunch of the vacant snaps left by Noah Fant going to Seattle. This was a big hole for Denver. Cornerback Demarri Mathis (115) ran a 4.39-second 40 at the combine, while Eyioma Uwazurike (116) was a four-year starter at Iowa State, and he could play defensive end in the Broncos’ scheme.
After selecting Bonitto, the Broncos took arguably the best tight end in the draft to match Russell Wilson’s skillset and deep-ball love in grabbing Dulcich. Dulcich is not the same caliber athlete as the recently departed Noah Fant, but there’s a reason Fant went 20th overall in 2019 and Dulcich went 80th in a weaker tight end class.
However, after noting the athleticism of Demarri Mathis from Pittsburgh and the immediate pathway to the field for Eyioma Uwazurike from Iowa State, it’s interesting to see Kiper state that “there isn’t a whole lot in this class past Bonitto and Dulcich.”
One aspect that should be heavily weighted into the draft grades for the Broncos was Paton’s trade out from pick 96 that sent Denver a 2023 third-rounder from the Indianapolis Colts. Kiper mentions this and takes it into account, praising the Broncos for doing so.
With Paton stating he did try to acquire more 2023 draft picks than Denver ended up earning in the team’s post-draft press conference, not many teams were willing to part with 2023 picks with only six selections in next year’s draft being traded throughout the entirety of the 2022 event.
Kiper’s grade for Denver is perhaps one of the least favorable to date, but it will be up to the team’s new draft picks, the coaches, and the organization to show that even though it didn’t pick very many early-round prospects, the team still walked away with plenty of important contributors for the 2022 season and going forward.
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