The Broncos address two positions of need on day two of the draft
After spending the first day of the 2022 NFL Draft on the sidelines, the Broncos finally got in the game on Friday night. They had to wait until the end of the second round to finally make a pick, traded down and out with their two third-round picks, but they did add two players on day two. And both are perfect fits for Denver.
With the No. 64 selection, George Paton added an edge rusher. Nik Bonitto adds depth to a position with a few too many question marks, making this a savvy move by the Broncos general manager.
On paper, Denver looks good on the outside. But both Randy Gregory and Bradley Chubb have had trouble staying healthy and being on the field. Bonitto provides a nice insurance policy.
Plus, he gives the Broncos leverage next offseason. Chubb is heading into the final year of his rookie contract. If Bonitto is a player, they won’t necessarily have to give the No. 5 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft a new deal.
There’s every reason to believe he will be. Bonitto’s draft profile on NFL.com is impressive:
Bonitto was a four-star recruit from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., before signing with the Sooners. Bonitto redshirted in 2018, playing in three games as a reserve (three tackles). He played in all 14 games in 2019, starting the final eight contests, and amassed 43 tackles, 6.5 for loss with 3.5 sacks, one interception and four pass breakups. Big 12 coaches voted Bonitto honorable mention all-conference in 2020, but the Associated Press valued his production (32 tackles, 10.5 for loss with eight sacks, two pass breakups in 10 starts) enough to vote him to its second-team All-American squad. He was a third-team AP pick and second-team All-Big selection in 2021, topping the Sooners with 15 tackles for loss and seven sacks in 39 total tackles in 12 starts. Bonitto opted out of the team’s bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft.
Paton was thrilled when Bonitto was on the board at No. 64. He believes the edge player has all of the tools to be a great pass rusher.
“We thought he was one of the best pass rushers out there,” the Broncos GM said on Friday night. “The bend, the speed, the burst; it’s natural.”
After trading down from No. 75 to No. 80, the Broncos made their second pick of the draft. They selected Greg Dulcich, a tight end out of UCLA.
That was also a position of need. After sending Noah Fant to the Seahawks as part of the Russell Wilson trade, the Broncos were thin at tight end.
Albert Okwuegbunam has potential, but he’s only played 18 games during his two season in Denver. Eric Tomlinson was signed in free agency, but he’s more of a blocker than a receiver. And Shaun Beyer is a bottom-of-the roster type.
Dulcich gives the Broncos options. He provides an alternative if Albert O. doesn’t pan out. His NFL.com draft profile is also impressive:
Dulcich walked on at UCLA as a three-star recruit who racked up more than 1,000 yards as a receiver at St. Francis High School in the San Gabriel foothills. He redshirted his first year on campus, playing in three games (1-6), before playing in 11 games as a reserve in 2019 (8-105-13.1, one TD). Awarded a scholarship in the spring of 2020, Dulcich led the team with 517 receiving yards and five scores (on 26 receptions, a healthy 19.9 per rec.) and garnered second-team All-Pac-12 recognition. He topped the Bruins by averaging 17.3 yards per reception in 2021 (42-725, five TDs in 12 starts) to earn first-team All-Pac-12 honors.”
Nathaniel Hackett was excited about the pick. He believes Dulcich can stretch the field as a receiver, but also block in the running game. That separates him from Okwuegbunam and Tomlinson.
Despite having limited opportunities, the Broncos made some savvy additions to their roster on Friday night. Bonitto is an active edge defender who is constantly in the backfield. Dulcich is a playmaker at tight end who can stretch the field.
Heading into the draft, the Broncos had a few key needs. With their first two picks, Denver filled two of them.
Now, it’s on to right tackle, inside linebacker, cornerback and returner. Perhaps those positions are on the docket on Saturday.