Grading the Broncos’ 2022 draft class one year later

As the 2023 NFL draft looms on the horizon, Broncos Wire is taking a look back at the Denver Broncos’ 2022 draft class. Who made a difference? Who do the Broncos need to see more from going forward?

Nik Bonitto, University of Oklahoma

(Andrew Nelles-USA TODAY Sports)

Bonitto was the first selection by the Denver Broncos in the second round of the 2022 NFL draft, as the 64th overall pick. Bonitto was expected to replace former Bronco Von Miller as an outside pass rusher and run defender. In his first season, Bonitto played in 15 games, only starting one. He recorded 1.5 sacks, forced one fumble and made 14 tackles (six solo, eight combined). When Denver traded linebacker Bradley Chubb midseason, it was expected that Bonitto would take on a bigger role, which never really panned out.

In order for Bonitto to be a force in defensive coordinator Vance Joseph’s system, he will need to get to the quarterback more often. Despite their success on the defensive side of the ball, the Broncos only had 36 sacks on the season. If Bonitto is to stick around, he will need to step up and be a leader, both vocally and visibly of the defensive front in 2023.

Grades: B-

Greg Dulcich, UCLA

(Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)

The first offensive pick for the Broncos in the 2022 NFL draft went towards tight end Greg Dulcich. For the first part of the season, Dulcich was sidelined by injury. Beginning in Week 6, Dulcich began to be incorporated into the offense. In 2022, Dulcich caught 33 passes (on 55 targets) for 411 yards and two touchdowns. His 411 yards were good for third on the team, despite only playing 10 games.

Dulcich was a big target, and he showed that he could be a part of the Denver blocking scheme. His impact will continue to be a boon moving forward in Sean Payton’s offense, where, if he stays healthy, he will get more targets and opportunities to score.

Grade: B+

Damarri Mathis, Pitt

(Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)

Damarri Mathis played in 16 of Denver’s 17 games in 2022, getting significant playing time. Although he did not intercept any passes, he was a sure tackler, posting 54 solo tackles, along with 11 combined tackles. He also defended seven passes.

Mathis had some growing pains throughout the year, but managed to be serviceable throughout 2022. If he improves his techniques and sharpens his skills as a ball hawk, he could play an increased role against bigger receivers.

Grades: A-

Eyioma Uwazurike, Iowa State

(Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

If Uwazurike remains a Bronco in 2023, he will likely continue to be a rotational asset. If Denver sees more in him than was on tape, they could let a free agent defensive lineman walk and promote Uwazurike to a more active role on the front.

Building: C

Delarrin Turner-Yell, University of Oklahoma

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)

Of the Broncos’ 2022 NFL draft class, Turner-Yell played the second most games (14) of any drafted rookie on the team. Turner-Yell was a significant contributor on special teams. In 2022, Turner-Yell recovered two fumbles and made eight tackles (six solo, two combined).

Special teams seems to be Turner-Yell’s niche. If there are injuries to other defensive positions, Turner-Yell could be pressed into action.

Building: B

Montrell Washington, Samford

(Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)

Washington was drafted to improve a Broncos special teams unit that had been one of the worst in the NFL in 2021. Washington retuned 32 punts for 371 yards with a long of 30 yards, and returned 18 kickoffs for 340 yards with a long of 29 yards in 15 games. Washington showed explosiveness at times, but had issues with fumbles. His five fumbles on the year were tied for second on the team along with Melvin Gordon (Russell Wilson was first with six), which led to him being inactive the last two games of the season.

Washington’s intermittent success could have Denver looking for another solution on special teams. If Washington can keep from coughing up the ball, there may still be a place for his blistering speed on offense.

Building: C

Luke Wattenberg, University of Washington

(Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Wattenberg was forced into action due to the Broncos’ critical losses on the offensive line deep in the season. Wattenberg played in seven games, both on offense and special teams. In the game against the Arizona Cardinals, Wattenberg played 54 percent of offensive snaps.

Wattenberg could remain in a backup role going into 2023. With all the issues on the offensive line in 2022, Wattenberg needs to show improvement in his techniques in both pass and rush situations.

Grade: C-

Matt Henningsen, Wisconsin

(Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)

Henningsen played in all 17 games, with most of his time with the special teams units. Henningsen also got some playing time on defense, finishing with one sack and 21 tackles (eight solo, 13 combined). Most rookies carve out their time on special teams, but Henningsen could be a third-string rotational player on the defensive line.

Overall, if he continues to be an impact player on special teams, he will continue his career in a Broncos uniform.

Grades: B-

Faion Hicks, Wisconsin


Hicks was the Broncos’ final draft pick in 2022. Hicks only played in two games, both coming on special teams. While it is rare for sixth/seventh-round picks to get playing time, Hicks actually found a bit of time on the field.

Hicks may not be here in 2023, but he has a chance with other teams on their special teams units.

Grade: D+

Overall grade: B-

(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

While there were some draft picks that were better than others, that is expected in every draft. The fact that all nine picks from 2022 got to see the field in some form or fashion in a Broncos uniform makes this draft better than most other teams. The true test of any draft will be their longevity with the team that selected them.

As we all look forward to the 2023 NFL draft, the Denver Broncos are poised to improve under head coach Sean Payton and Co.

Story originally appeared on Broncos Wire

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