It’s no secret that the rookies from Denver Broncos’ 2021 NFL Draft class have been critical to the team’s success this year, and that remarkable class is now getting praise from the national media.
Pro Football Focus has ranked the Broncos’ rookie class as the second-best in the entire NFL, trailing only the Kansas City Chiefs.
Patrick Surtain II was a shutdown cornerback as a rookie this season, which you rarely see, as the transition from college to the NFL is especially challenging at that position. Javonte Williams was one of the most dynamic ball carriers in the league as a rookie, leading the league in missed tackles forced per carry (an indication of what a running back is creating on their own, as an individual talent) by a wide margin. Quinn Meinerz was a road-grading run-blocker as a rookie from a Division-III program, despite not playing right guard since high school. Baron Browning was the Broncos’ best inside linebacker, and probably the best inside linebacker they’ve had since 2015. Caden Sterns delivered on his star-player upside and provided Denver with a promising future to look forward to once Kareem Jackson departs. Lastly, Jonathon Cooper was relatively impactful as a seventh-round rookie edge rusher, which is wildly rare at the NFL level.
In journalistic writing — if that’s what you want to call this — long, breathy paragraphs are considered a big ‘no-no.’ Something about big blocks of text being boring to the attention span of the modern reader or whatever. However, in this case, that fat slab of text is entirely necessary, because Denver’s rookie class has been just that good.
“The depth of the Broncos’ class is what really sets it apart,” PFF and The Draft Network analyst Trevor Sikkema wrote. “The team was able to get really strong contributors at four different positions, with the highest grades coming from Javonte Williams and interior offensive lineman Quinn Meinerz (67.4). Cornerback Patrick Surtain II recorded a 65.5 overall grade on the season, which is lower than you would expect, but his tape is incredibly encouraging.”
Sikkema did have to highlight the unit’s one notable shortcoming, however.
“Though this group will always be judged for the quarterback who isn’t among them, the players the Broncos did pick were impactful,” Sikkema concluded.
Even without the quarterback, this class is one for the books.