In order to get a good picture of where the Broncos currently stand, we are taking a look back at the Denver Broncos 2021 draft to grade each pick. The Broncos went into the draft thinking that they could pick best player available because of how they addressed their needs in free agency. So with that, let’s see how first year GM George Paton did in his first draft and how the pieces fit with the current roster.
Round 1, No. 9 overall: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
The Broncos had a chance to get an exciting young quarterback prospect in Justin Fields, but instead chose the safe bet in Pat Surtain II. Surtain was the consensus best cornerback in the draft, so it’s hard to give less than a B+ grade on getting him at nine overall, but it still hurts to miss out on Fields.
The Broncos could lose two starting caliber corners after this year to free agency, so drafting a corner in the first round does make sense. As for Surtain, he was the most refined and polished cornerback in the draft and athletic enough that he should be a perennial pro-bowl cornerback for the Broncos barring injuries.
Make no mistake though, Justin Fields’ career will be watched closely by Broncos fans as what could have been for Broncos Country.
Round 2, No. 35 overall: Javonte Williams, RB, North Carolina
The only reason that drafting the best running back in the 2021 draft class at thirty-five overall is not an A+, is because the Broncos had to trade up to get him. It wasn’t the best value move that George Paton has made in his young stint as the Broncos GM, but they wanted to get their guy in Javonte Williams.
And it’s understandable why Paton wanted Williams. The UNC bell cow running back broke tackle after tackle while scoring 22 total touchdowns in the 2020 season, which is most in Tar Heel history in a single season. He should contribute immediately to the Broncos offense, pairing up with Melvin Gordon.
Round 3, No. 98 overall: Quinn Meinerz, IOL, Wisconsin-Whitewater
Anyone who paid attention during the Senior Bowl knows who Quinn Meinerz is by now. He’s the 320 pound guard turned center, who just likes to “let the belly breathe”. Meinerz displayed his strength at the Senior Bowl, and showed that he could hang with NFL caliber defensive lineman despite playing at Wisconsin-Whitewater, a Division III school.
Meinerz will get an opportunity to compete with incumbent center, Lloyd Cushenberry for the starting job, and may just win it by the start of the season.
Round 3, No. 105 overall: Baron Browning, LB, Ohio State
Baron Browning was believed to be a second-round pick by many in the league. Browning is big linebacker who is fast enough to move sideline to sideline and maybe even cover when he is asked to. Browning played an interesting role at Ohio State, where he would rush the passer on a fairly routine basis and actually showed some promise in that area. For right now though, the Broncos will try him out at inside linebacker and see what he can do.
Round 5, No. 152 overall: Caden Sterns, S, Texas
Caden Sterns was an interesting player at Texas. He does not lack any athleticism at the safety position, but the production never really matched the potential. The Broncos are hoping to coach that out of him and maybe get some good special teams play out of the quick DB.
Round 5, No. 164 overall: Jamar Johnson, S, Indiana
This may have been the best pick in the whole draft. Jamar Johnson is that good. For most scouts, a third-round grade was appropriate for Johnson, and some even had a second-round grade for the Indiana safety. Poor tackling most likely caused the young prospect to drop all the way to the back of the fifth round, but his ball skills are undeniable.
Jamar Johnson should be a starting safety for the Broncos by year two at the latest, with Kareem Jackson only on a one year deal this year.
Round 6, No. 219 overall: Seth Williams, WR, Auburn
Seth Williams dominated at times on go balls and 50/50 balls in the SEC. Other times, Williams was less than impactful on the game. His size and ball skills make him a good sixth-round flyer pick, with special teams potential as well.
Round 7, No. 237 overall: Kary Vincent Jr., CB, LSU
There is a ton to like about Kary Vincent Jr. and plenty of potential that the Broncos are hoping to tap into. The speedster ran track at LSU and showed his athleticism at times in the 2019 season, racking up 4 interceptions. Who knows where Vincent Jr. goes in the draft if he doesn’t opt out of the 2020 season, but he is certainly worth a seventh round pick to see what he can develop into.
Round 7, No. 239 overall: Jonathon Cooper, EDGE, Ohio State
Jonathon Cooper is another guy who never really met his potential, which is most probably why he fell to the seventh-round. Although Cooper was always a great teammate, his production never took the next step. Cooper was still a solid college defender and maybe with some coaching from Vic Fangio and company, he could be a solid contributor. He will be a good locker room guy and fight for a coveted backup role on the edge this season.
Round 7, No. 253 overall: Marquiss Spencer, IDL, Mississippi State
The Broncos took a flyer at another experienced defensive lineman in Marquiss Spencer. Spencer played plenty of football at Mississippi State and had decent production, but the challenge at the NFL level is finding the best spot for him to line up. He played mostly outside in college, so he will most likely have to transition inside in the NFL.
Overall Denver Broncos Draft Grade: A-
Overall, Paton did well to get value with the many picks that they had, and should come away with some solid contributors for the next few years to come. With such an aggressive offensive draft the last two years for the Broncos, it was time to focus on the defense in the 2021 draft.
Those defensive picks should provide dividends for this team that faces Mahomes and Herbert twice a year. Another focus in the draft for Paton and the Broncos was to address the lack of depth on the roster and to booster special teams, and Paton accomplished both of those goals.
However, if there is one major criticism coming from Broncos Country, it is that Paton did not address the most important position on the football field – quarterback. So, now Paton will hope Drew Lock takes the next step or Aaron Rodgers becomes available, because outside of QB, the Broncos roster looks like one of the best in the league.