Denver Broncos 2022 Draft was one of worst in NFL per analytics

George Paton at Nathaniel Hackett hiring press conference. Credit: John Leyba, USA TODAY Sports.
George Paton at Nathaniel Hackett hiring press conference. Credit: John Leyba, USA TODAY Sports.

After what some considered the best draft in the NFL in 2021, it looks like George Paton and the Denver Broncos have fallen back to earth in 2022.

Was it too good to be true last year? Or, did the Broncos simply reach on a few (one-third) of their picks this year?

Of course, only time will truly tell. But, people want answers and in the extremely performance-based National Football League, people want results.

According to two different analytics companies — Pro Football Focus and Grinding the Mocks — the Broncos had basically the worst draft in the NFL over the course of the weekend.

It wasn’t all bad.

Pro Football Focus WAR

So, let’s start here, where Denver’s first two picks land on WAR, or wins above replacement. In other words, how much better is this player compared to an average-level replacement playing in his place?

Per PFF’s WAR, the Broncos’ first two picks — Nik Bonitto and Greg Dulcich — boast slight improvements to the team in terms of WAR.

You can see the picks just slightly above the line in the first graph represented by the Broncos logo. So, Bonitto and Dulcich are expected to be slightly better than an average player at the edge and tight end positions, respectively.

Best Value

Back to the bad news.

When evaluating where the players were expected to be selected, the Broncos had the worst draft out of any team, while the Carolina Panthers (surprisingly) had the best. Unfortunately, the Chiefs and Raiders come in at Nos. 3 and 4 respectively on this list.

According to the list, the Broncos reached by an average of 60 picks over the course of their top 250 selections. One of the players which brought the team down was Montrell Washington, who was taken at pick No. 162. He wasn’t rated in the top 325 players of the draft, meaning the Broncos were off by at least 164.

They also said Eyioma Uwazurike was one of the worst picks of the fourth round, grading out as the 190th-best player but the team took him at No. 116 (74 too early).

In the case of Washington, the Broncos needed a return man and he seems to be sensational there. Just in 2021, Washington had 32 kick returns, 742 yards, 23.2 average, one touchdown; 14 punt returns, 243 yards, 17.4 average, two touchdowns. So, it’s possible his going ungraded was as a receiver, where the Broncos may use him, but he’ll primarily be a returner.

Similarly with Uwazurike, the defensive lineman was a position of need. And what he brings is true versatility, and an ability to play up and down the defensive line. At 6’6″ tall and 315 pounds, he’s a little tall to play along the defensive line and some evaluators said his pad level was too high at times. It’s possible that’s why his grade was much lower than where the Broncos took him.

Draft Capital Over Expected

This is basically more of the same from above, though it says the Broncos were the second-worst in terms of DCOE. Simply, the Broncos reached for players, taking them earlier than the experts graded them out and expected them to go.

Of course, this isn’t the end-all, be-all when it comes to guessing how the Broncos draft class will turn out.

However, just as we started the piece with — celebrating Paton and the Broncos for the best draft in 2021 — the DCOE numbers help to back that claim up, too.

Denver was able to find steals last year — one notable player was Javonte Williams going in the second round — and he certainly paid off in his first season as a pro.

Interestingly, Thor Nystrom, an NFL Draft analyst, said the Broncos reached on every pick outside of Bonitto. He had Washington and Faion Hicks going undrafted, while Luke Wattenberg was given a grade of 324 (selected at 171).

Conclusion

What does it all mean? Right now, not a ton.

But, it could be the first, substantial criticism we can put on George Paton to this point in his GM tenure.

His first offseason was mostly solid. He traded for Teddy Bridgewater, who started all of last year and was the best option available. Ronald Darby was also signed and played decently at corner. And that draft was sensational, even if many were upset he passed Justin Fields in favor of Patrick Surtain II.

This offseason, Paton pushed through the biggest trade in NFL history, landing Russell Wilson in the middle of his prime. He also signed Randy Gregory, Billy Turner and D.J. Jones while he re-signed guys like Kareem Jackson, Josey Jewell and DeSawn Williams.

The Broncos are in good hands with Paton in charge, even if his second draft ends up being one to forget instead of one to remember.

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