Denver Broncos NFL Draft Picks & Grades 2022: George Paton Runs it Back with Elite Athletes at Key Positions
The Broncos didn’t have their first or second-round picks this year as they traded those selections to Seattle in the Russell Wilson acquisition. By virtue of acquiring a top talent at quarterback, this draft was already a big win for Denver. However, they did their best to find value in the later rounds, and general manager George Paton hopes to replicate the impressive success that he had with his first draft with the team in 2021. This article will feature a full draft recap, including a grade and analysis for every Broncos pick.
Denver Broncos Draft Picks 2022
Round 2 No. 64 DE Nik Bonitto
Round 3 No. 80 TE Greg Dulcich
Round 4 No. 115 CB Damarri Mathis
Round 4 No. 116 DT Eyioma Uwazurike
Round 5 No. 152 S Delarrin Turner-Yell
Round 5 No. 162 WR Montrell Washington
Round 5 No. 171 C Luke Wattenberg
Round 6 No. 206 DT Matt Henningsen
Round 7 No. 232 CB Faion Hicks
Overall Draft Grade: B+
The Broncos didn’t pick until #64 overall, but they did a great job finding talent at positions of need despite not having top capital. Nik Bonitto was one of my favorite targets for the team with their first pick, and I was excited to see him still on the board. Greg Dulcich is a tremendous athlete who fills a need at tight end after Noah Fant was included in the Wilson trade. On Day 3, the Broncos found some intriguing talents as well.
I also loved the Broncos’ trade with the Colts – they sent their 96th overall pick to the Colts in exchange for a 2022 fifth-rounder and a 2023 third-round pick. The Colts used that 96th overall pick to draft Nick Cross, while the Broncos used the Colts’ fifth-rounder to trade up a few spots and select Luke Wattenberg. Denver held just four choices in the 2023 draft before that trade, so adding capital for next year was paramount.
“I want to pay him back in tenfold, and just work as hard as I can.”
Nik Bonitto was grateful that Russell Wilson called him. pic.twitter.com/F01NECezKb
— DNVR Broncos (@DNVR_Broncos) April 30, 2022
Denver Broncos Draft Grades 2022
Round: 2 Pick: 64 / Nik Bonitto, DE, Oklahoma
The Broncos bolstered their pass-rush by adding Randy Gregory over the offseason, but he had only started one game before his breakout six-sack campaign last year, so adding some depth was a logical plan. That’s especially true, given Bradley Chubb has only played in 25 of a possible 49 games over the past three seasons. Bonitto is more than just a depth piece, however, as his pass-rushing productivity should help him earn playing time right away. Bonitto had multiple pressures in every game over the past two seasons per Pro Football Focus (PFF), and his 29% pass-rush win rate was the highest in the country last year. At 6’3”, 248 lbs, he’s undersized for a full-time defensive lineman, but Von Miller has virtually the same measurables and is one of the best pass-rushers of this generation. Bonitto is an elite athlete who can also be used as an off-ball linebacker in specific packages.
Nik Bonitto 10-yard split: 1.53
Von Miller: 1.62
Guy is quick off the ball
— Sayre Bedinger (@SayreBedinger) April 30, 2022
Round: 3 Pick: 80 / Greg Dulcich, TE, UCLA
After trading away Noah Fant in the Russell Wilson deal, the Broncos had to add to their tight end room, and Greg Dulcich possesses arguably the highest upside of this entire class. Despite being a former walk-on, Dulcich was a highly productive player at UCLA with a career of 17.6 yards per reception. PFF tracked him with the 12th-highest average depth of target in FBS last year, and he has a big-play ability that’s worth investing in at the position. He needs to limit his drops, and the blocking will be a work in progress, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see Dulcich break off a few big plays this season as a big-bodied slot receiver with a big-bodied slot receiver tremendous work ethic.
Round: 4 Pick: 115 / Damarri Mathis, CB, Pittsburgh
I saw Damarri Mathis as a fringe Day 2 prospect due to his excellent production at Pittsburgh at one of the most valuable positions in the NFL. Mathis flashed solid anticipation and awareness for zone defense, and his 4.39 speed and ball production show his ability to cover downfield and win at the catch point – he had 18 pass breakups over his final 24 games at Pitt. Mathis may need to tone down his physicality a touch as he had a staggering 17 penalties over the last two seasons, but coaches will love the fire he brings to the game.
Damarri Mathis was drafted with pick 115 of round 4 in the 2022 draft class. He scored a 9.72 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 58 out of 2001 CB from 1987 to 2022. https://t.co/Lh0ggsWocT #RAS #Broncos pic.twitter.com/UfrQmDw3c1
— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 30, 2022
Round: 4 Pick: 116 / Eyioma Uwazurike, DT, Iowa State
I wasn’t a massive fan of this draft pick at first, as there’s nothing overwhelmingly special about Uwazurike’s profile, and he’ll be 24 years old when the season begins. However, he used the extra collegiate eligibility to become a technically refined defensive tackle and an improved pass-rusher – he racked up 43 pressures last season. After losing Shelby Harris in the Russell Wilson trade, the Broncos needed to add more depth to their defensive front, and Uwazurike can challenge for a starting spot this season. In the Broncos’ 3-4 defensive scheme, they will be able to use Uwazurike as either a nose tackle or a five-technique end.
Round: 5 Pick: 152 / Delarrin Turner-Yell, S, Oklahoma
The Broncos resigned Kareem Jackson to a one-year deal in free agency, but their depth at safety beyond Jackson and Justin Simmons is pretty limited. Turner-Yell flies to the football with excellent instincts and anticipation, and he racked up 190 total tackles across his four years at Oklahoma. However, Turner-Yell’s struggles in man coverage against athletic tight ends will be problematic in a division with Travis Kelce and Darren Waller. This season, Turner-Yell will be a menace on special teams with his swarming playstyle, and in time there’s a possibility he could develop into an ideal replacement for Jackson at strong safety.
Round: 5 Pick: 162 / Montrell Washington, WR, Samford
When you hear about Montrell Washington, one of the first things you’ll hear about is his wild game against Florida – he racked up 322 all-purpose yards against the Gators (179 returning, 124 receiving, 19 rushing) and three touchdowns as he nearly singlehandedly got his program a massive upset win. At just 5’9”, 181 lbs, Washington’s upside as a consistent receiver is questionable at best. However, he returned three punts or kicks for touchdowns in 2021 and will likely be the first-string punt and kick returner for Denver this season. As a former FCS player, Washington faces a steep uphill battle to carve out a consistent NFL career, and I question whether it was the best use of fifth-round value to draft a likely particular teams-only player.
Broncos new WR/RS Montrell Washington vs. Florida was a sight to behold pic.twitter.com/8l5PAJrcUo
— Sayre Bedinger (@SayreBedinger) April 30, 2022
Round: 5 Pick: 171 / C Luke Wattenberg, Washington
The leash on Lloyd Cushenberry III was already tightening as the team’s starting center after two troubling seasons, and that’s even more true with the selection of Luke Wattenberg. Wattenberg tested one of the best interior offensive line athletes in this class with a 9.57 RAS. Wattenberg had experience starting at guard and center at Washington, but he’s barely 300 pounds and has to bulk up to likely even be a starting center in the NFL. Wattenberg is also already set to turn 25 years old in September. Wattenberg is a better fit for the Broncos’ new zone-blocking scheme than Cushenberry, but he has to add some weight before being anything more than a quality depth piece.
Round: 6 Pick: 206 / DT Matt Henningsen, Wisconsin
Perhaps the most intelligent player in this draft class, Matt Henningsen, graduated from Wisconsin with a degree in electrical engineering and a 4.0 GPA. He was a finalist for the 2021 William V. Campbell Trophy, essentially the “Academic Heisman.” Henningsen joins Dulcich as another former walk-on to be drafted by the Broncos this year, and that work ethic and perseverance are inspiring. He’s also an elite athlete – he had a better 3-cone than Gerald McCoy and a better vertical than Aaron Donald. I’ll bank on him finding a role in the NFL with those excellent traits across the board.
Round: 7 Pick: 232 / CB Faion Hicks, Wisconsin
After a somewhat underwhelming combine, Hicks elevated his stock with an impressive pro day that included an eye-popping 4.37-second 40-yard dash, 3.94-second short shuttle, 37.5-inch vertical, and 6.78-second 3-cone – those numbers are all on par with or better than Derek Stingley Jr.’s, the top cornerback off the board in this draft. Hicks is effective in press coverage, but he has a lot of work with anticipation and zone technique. At the very least, with that athleticism, the Broncos can bank on him being a key special teams contributor if he makes the final 53-man roster.
New Broncos CB Faion Hicks has been tough all his life.
When he broke his leg when he was 5, he refused crutches, preferring to hop around until it healed
— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) May 1, 2022