Broncos Prospect Profile: Elway might have found his next Shaquil Barrett in Derrick Tuszka

North Dakota State Bison defensive end Derrek Tuszka (91) sacks James Madison Dukes quarterback Ben DiNucci (6) in the fourth quarter at Toyota Stadium.
Jan 11, 2020; Frisco, Texas, USA; North Dakota State Bison defensive end Derrek Tuszka (91) sacks James Madison Dukes quarterback Ben DiNucci (6) in the fourth quarter at Toyota Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Broncos’ pass rush has been so dangerous over the past half dozen years or so because they don’t have just one or two players that can beat your tackles, they have waves of them.

That unit is only getting deeper too, as Jeremiah Attaochu re-signed in the off-season and the Broncos brought in hyper-productive rookie, Derrek Tuszka, in via the draft.

What should Broncos Country expect from Tuszka in year one and beyond?

Positives

Tuszka will rarely ever wow you with his athleticism, but he gets to the quarterback incredibly consistently, and he does so in a pretty fashion.

That’s not to say he’s a bad athlete for the position, if anything he’s average in that area, so he relies more on his hands to get to the quarterback rather than first-step quickness or bull-rush power. His technique and move set is pretty refined for a player coming out of college, especially one coming out of an FCS school like North Dakota State.

The numbers back that up, as Tuszka racked up an impressive 21 sacks over his last two seasons with the Bison, and his production improved each year in college. Box score scouting isn’t a good idea, but with edge-rushers, it has more merit than just about any other position. That’s because being able to finish a play and get that sack rather than just a hurry or pressure is a skill not every player has.

He gets to the quarterback so much because Tuszka is relentless. His motor never stops churning and he gets several of his sacks on his second or even his third effort.

Negatives

Quality of competition is the biggest question around Tuszka and his average athletic profile doesn’t bolster his case for being able to manage that leap gracefully.

Tuszka dominated his level of competition, which is the first step in trying to determine if a small-school player can make the leap to the pros, but you’d also like to see him perform against a Power-5 opponent or two and he never had that opportunity. The Bison haven’t even played an FBS opponent since Week 3 of his freshman season, when he was barely even getting on the field.

Compound that with his slightly-better-than mediocre athleticism for the position and his poor length, and it’s fair to wonder if he’ll be able to replicate his success against NFL tackles who are much better athletes and are more technically refined than Tuszka.

Verdict

How did the Broncos do it? Walking away with just one or two of Justin Strnad, Netane Muti, Tyrie Cleveland, and Derreck Tuszka in the last 77 picks of the draft would be fantastic. Getting all four? Now that’s downright absurd.

The jump in competition and lack of elite athleticism are serious concerns for Tuszka and could very well prevent him from having success, but the positives greatly outweigh the negatives. He was incredibly productive in college, plays with a ton of fire in him, and already has a few polished moves that allow him to get to the quarterback.

Coronavirus limited a lot of pre-draft opportunities for small-school players this season, and the Broncos benefitted from that in a big way here, as Tuszka had no business falling this far otherwise.

Draft Pick Grade: B+

Player Comparison: Carl Nassib

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