Nik Bonitto listed as one of the NFL Draft’s biggest steals by USA Today

Oklahoma Sooners linebacker Nik Bonitto (11) recovers a fumble during the second quarter against the Tulane Green Wave at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
Sep 4, 2021; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners linebacker Nik Bonitto (11) recovers a fumble during the second quarter against the Tulane Green Wave at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos’ selection of Nik Bonitto has the potential to help overhaul a pass rush that ranked dead last in 2021 in pass-rush win rate, and there aren’t many teams who found more value in the second round of this year’s draft.

Bonitto is viewed as so valuable in fact, that USA Today’s Draft Wire ranked Bonitto as one of the biggest draft steals of the entire second round, arguing that he should have been off the board before the 64th overall pick.

“Bonitto nearly made it all the way to the third round before the Broncos wisely scooped him up with their first pick of the draft,” Draft Wire’s Luke Easterling wrote. “[An] undersized but tenacious pass rusher, Bonitto didn’t let any perceived limitations prevent him from being one of the most productive and impactful edge defenders in the nation. Even as a rotational rusher in sub packages behind Bradley Chubb and Randy Gregory, Bonitto should make an instant impact for the Denver defense, and make many teams regret letting him fall this far.”

Some advanced metrics, like pass-rush win rate, which Denver performed so poorly in last season, even have Bonitto as the most productive pass rusher in the entire class.

That data is further supported when you remove special types of passing plays that can mitigate the pass rush from the equation, as Bonitto trails only Kingsley Enagbare in pass-rush win rate under those circumstances.

Another factor that should help the Bonitto pick look like a steal is that he should have plenty of opportunity. Bradley Chubb is set to be a free agent in 2023, and both he and Randy Gregory have injury histories, meaning Bonitto might even see significant playing time as a rookie.

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