Day 2 of the NFL draft was huge for the Denver Broncos, but maybe even more big than most fans realize.
Sure, the Broncos selected Dalton Risner — the local stud tackle — at No. 41 and then followed him up with quarterback Drew Lock at 42; those were picks Broncos fans should like a great deal. But, if you turned your TV off after Lock’s selection, you may have missed the steal of the draft for Denver in Dre’Mont Jones from Ohio State.
Jones, who possesses great size at 6’3″ and 281 pounds, worked his way up from redshirting his freshman year in college to being named First-Team All-Big Ten as a junior. Last year, his best statistically, Jones racked up 43 tackles, 13 for a loss, 8.5 sacks and recovered three fumbles; he’s an all-around beast.
But, as per usual, those raw stats don’t tell the entire tale. Pro Football Focus explains that not only did Jones see more pass-rushing snaps last season — a whopping 500 — he was also the highest-graded interior lineman in the pass rushing department as well. And, it wasn’t even close.
The Broncos went D-line with pick #71 in Dre'Mont Jones from @OhioStateFB!
No player in the FBS rushed the passer more than Jones’ 500 snaps this past year. The man simply didn’t come off the field and still produced a 90.5 pass-rushing grade! #BroncosCountry#BroncosDraft pic.twitter.com/2YKqArjKh4
— PFF DEN Broncos (@PFF_Broncos) May 1, 2019
Remember, the Broncos lost Domata Peko this offseason, and while Jones won’t be playing tackle in the NFL, his beef and abilities are much-needed as a defensive end in that Broncos front-seven.
Derek Wolfe’s option was picked up for this season, but he becomes a free agent in 2020, meaning there could very well be a vacancy at defensive end in the near future. And for 2019, Wolfe, Shelby Harris, Jones and Zach Kerr are shaping up to form a formidable defensive line, not only allowing edge rushers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb to get off the line clean, but the interior guys can get after the quarterback, too.
After somewhat surprisingly going with offensive players with their first three picks — tight end Noah Fant was the first-round pick at No. 20 — Denver was smart to get a position of need in Jones, who was also considered the 62nd-best player in this year’s draft overall. The Broncos took him at No. 71, meaning they got great value for the workhorse of a defensive end.
While Denver still has a few questions to answer at inside linebacker, they’ve shored up the defensive line and defensive backfield through the draft and free agency, giving new head coach Vic Fangio a ton of toys to play with this season.
If the Broncos are to get back to the playoffs this year — which could happen — it will be on defense first and foremost, as they hope the offense can make a lot more happen in terms of explosive plays and scoring than the unit has the last three years.