As the Denver Broncos entered the draft, there were mixed feelings regarding draft needs. The quarterback situation remains a question mark. However, George Paton crushed his first draft as Broncos GM, picking up threats on both sides of the ball.
So let’s talk about the good and bad points of each draft pick.
Alabama, CB, Patrick Surtain II (PS2)
Round 1, Pick 9
As the son of an 11-year NFL DB, Pat Surtain II has defensive genius coursing through his veins, arguably the best cornerback in the 2021 NFL draft class. At 6’2” and 202lbs, he’s got the ideal size for what might be your top cornerback. With his 39” vertical and 4.42 40, he is a fantastic athlete to match up against the speedy opponents in the AFC West.
Surtain is primarily a boundary corner, with outstanding instincts for anticipating what offenses are trying to accomplish with the passing game and interpreting their routes to react accordingly. Physically he is capable of beating down receivers, can push through blocks, and is a capable tackler.
Although he needs to work on his quick direction changes and may not be the fastest downfield when running, neither of these makes him a liability. Surtain will be an immediate contributor to what’s turning into the league’s best defense. No Fly Zone 2.0 anyone?
North Carolina, RB, Javonte “Pookie” Williams
Round 2, Pick 35
After the departure of Phillip Lindsay in FA, the Denver Broncos needed another playmaker to pair with Melvin Gordon. The Broncos traded up five spots to select running back, Javonte Williams, off the board (giving up pick114 and receiving 219 in return). Despite very mixed opinions about the draft needs prioritization, the price was not too expensive for a talented back like Williams.
Javonte Williams is an absolute playmaker and incredibly fun to watch. He isn’t necessarily recognized for his speed, though the 5’10”, 212lb RB had a 4.46 40 time (per PFN). What really sets Williams apart is his physicality and power. Williams is a beast of an RB who will run through you, not by you, letting defenders bounce right off of him, all while maintaining his balance.
He is a solid receiver out of the backfield and improved his pass-blocking abilities. Williams will be great in playing the short-yardage and goal-line situations, as well as the Broncos’ Achilles heel, 3rd down, wherein 2020, they attempted a run 45/212 times (according to PFR).
Although he has some work to do with ball security and receiving, he has the ability to gain positive yardage and will be ready to contribute immediately.
Wisconsin-Whitewater, IOL, Quinn Meirnerz (The Gut)
Round 3, Pick 98
In round 3, the Denver Broncos traded down twice and came away with a quality value pick in offensive lineman, Quinn Meinerz. Also is known as “THE GUT”.
He did not receive any Power Five scholarship offers but became a team captain and a first team All-American in Division III (2019). Meinerz didn’t play in 2020 because his team’s season was canceled due to the pandemic. It was his Senior Bowl performance that increased his value on the draft boards as he consistently dominated the week of practices.
Standing at 6’3”, 320 lbs, his athleticism, and agility are impressive. Meinerz has good footwork with a long reach, uses his hands well, and is a nasty blocker. He is aggressive at the snap but occasionally loses his balance.
Meinerz adds versatility to the Broncos’ offensive line with the ability to play guard and center. He will be a developmental guard, likely used to provide depth behind starting OL Dalton Risner, Graham Glasgow, and Lloyd Cushenberry. If an injury occurs, Meinerz can step into either role.
There will be a learning curve for him coming into the NFL but Mike Munchak is going to enjoy working with him. Hopefully, he will be given the opportunity to compete for a starting job.
If you haven’t seen his workout video yet, definitely check it out.
Ohio State, LB, Baron Browning
Round 3, Pick 105
With this third-round steal, the worries of trading up for an RB are eased. Another quality value selection for the Broncos, LB Baron Browning is an uber-athletic and physically talented linebacker. Browning was high on many teams’ draft boards but fell likely due to his lack of consistency playing in multiple spots and occasional poor instincts.
Browning is 6’3”, 245 lb,s and has 33.5” arms. He has the size to play inside or on the edge, his best fit on the outside. Browning is an explosive linebacker with a quick first step and can apply a ton of pressure in blitz scenarios. He has excellent strength and athleticism to shed blocks. The former Buckeye utilizes his agility to win around the edge and dropping in coverage. He has the potential and skill set to be an absolute nightmare on the 2nd level and has the perfect coach to help him get there.
Texas, S, Caden Sterns
Round 5, Pick 152
Caden Sterns is a very athletic safety with good range and cover versatility and possesses great football intelligence. He can play both safety spots and has the flexibility to fill in at corner if needed. He’s fast and can track the ball well in the air, though sometimes he can be slow to interpret routes and react accordingly. He plays the ball aggressively and is not afraid to deliver hits when he cannot affect the passing lane. He will occasionally lock on his target and get a bit shook if something gets in his way.
Sterns finished his career with 173 tackles and 5 interceptions in 29 games. Along with a slight slip in form from his freshman year, he also experienced some injury concerns which diminished his draft value slightly. He will likely be an asset right away on special teams. The Broncos made a significant investment in Justin Simmons this offseason but with Kareem Jackson set to become a FA next spring at 34yo, there could be an opening for his potential replacement.
Indiana, S, Jamar Johnson
Round 5, Pick 164
Yet another steal in the draft as Jamar Johnson was expected by many to come off the board in day 2.
Johnson’s athletic profile isn’t as impressive when compared to Sterns, but his on-field performance should receive notice. The upside is huge, given his demonstrated ability to consistently find ways to make plays, which seems to come naturally. He is a ballhawk and as plays develop, he maintains excellent processing abilities with smooth hips in transition.
Noteworthy fact, in a big game vs Justin Fields, he came up with a pair of interceptions. He does have some position versatility playing all over the field including in the slot. He must improve as a run defender. Albeit, the safety depth is more of a second-tier need for the Broncos, this will give good competition with Sterns for Kareem Jackson’s replacement (early prediction being Johnson) while one of them will likely become a contributor on special teams.
Auburn, WR, Seth Williams
Round 6, Pick 219
In what is becoming repetitive, in the best way possible, another great value pick with Seth Williams.
From former Central Tuscaloosa coach Dennis Conner,“He’s one of the best kids that myself and my coaching staff ever had to prepare for. He was just a man playing amongst boys.”
In his three years as a Tiger, Williams caught 132 passes for 2,124 yards and 17 touchdowns and averaged 16.1 yards per catch. With that, he is tied for third on Auburn’s all-time receiving TD list and is fourth for receiving yards. Looks impressive enough, right?
Fun Fact: Coming out of high school, Williams was highly praised as a safety and even his coaches wished him to continue as a defensive player.
As a receiver, it’s no doubt he has the physicality to make blocks and be a red zone threat. Also, he can track and attack the ball in the air for difficult contested catches. He makes some eye-popping receptions but can play straight line with little agility or ability to separate through routes. In the short term, he will likely be used as a boundary receiver and will need to improve on creating natural separation.
LSU, CB, Kary Vincent Jr.
Round 7, Pick 237
George Paton saw the opportunity to add an excellent slot cornerback and he pulled the trigger.
Kary Vincent Jr. opted out of the 2020 season due to the pandemic but missing last season does not seem to be an issue for Paton (ie: Quinn Meinerz). He is athletic (if you’re following, this is another trend), patient yet aggressive, and instinctive. Vincent consistently found himself in a good position to finish the receiver’s route. The former LSU Tiger plays with good technique, but with his lack of size, he could struggle with bigger receivers.
The Denver Broncos have, what most consider the best nickel corner in the NFL, Bryce Callahan. He is injury prone and entering a contract year. With the addition of Vincent, he can plugin as a backup if Callahan struggles to stay healthy or could potentially replace him if he leaves in FA next year. Either way, expect to see him contribute on special teams.
Ohio State, EDGE, Jonathon Cooper
Round 7, Pick 239
Joining former Ohio State teammate Baron Browning, the Denver Broncos select Jonathon Cooper, edge rusher with incredible value.
Cooper missed a big chunk of his 2019 season due to an ankle injury and that is why his athletic profile did not align with his film. There is potential with the athleticism shown in his timed drills. He fires off the snap with power and can bend off the edge. Cooper does not carry that speed to chase down a play.
Cooper has typically played as a weakside defensive end but if he develops consistently as he has in college, there could be an increased potential.
Mississippi State, DE, Marquiss Spencer
Round 7, Pick 253
Last but not least, the Broncos final selection was 6’4”, 301 lbs DE, Marquiss Spencer.
Spencer played both defensive interior and edge in college. His size can present issues for offensive lines. He is more effective on the interior due to limitations with foot quickness. He struggles with run defense but he has great arm extension. In the best-case scenario, he can develop into a depth piece for the Broncos.