When the Broncos were on the clock with the 20th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, there were really only two logical choices to make. Ryan Ramczyk, offensive tackle out of Wisconsin, and Garrett Bolles, offensive tackle out of Utah. Either way, the Broncos had to go offensive tackle.
Denver allowed 40 sacks last season, putting the reigning Super Bowl champions in the bottom ten in the league. It was no surprise with this offensive line that their title defense failed to reach the postseason, and it was obviously the biggest need entering the draft.
Denver had a perfect spot in the draft where they wouldn’t have to trade up to get one of the top offensive tackles in the draft, but they also wouldn’t be reaching if they took one at #20. The top two rated tackles in the draft were both available, and John Elway went with Bolles. Ramczyk ended up being the final pick of the first round, going to the New Orleans Saints.
The two players were pretty close in talent on a lot of big boards, but what might have swayed the decision for Denver was the experience Bolles has playing in altitude. As our own David Howell pointed out before the draft, Bolles played his college ball in Utah.
Rice-Eccles Stadium, home of the Utah Utes, is just less than 0.9 miles above sea level. Bolles also played his high school football in Salt Lake City, meaning he has experienced any weather that he might have to play in towards the later months of the season his whole life.
The downside to the pick could come in his age. Bolles is set to turn 25 later this month, and was given a four-year contract. No matter how talented the player is, drafting a guy who will be 29 when his rookie deal is up is always a gamble.
What I like about Bolles is that he could easily be a starting left tackle on day one. The thing that jumps out while you’re watching his tape is athleticism. He ran a 4.95 40-yard dash, the second fastest of any offensive lineman in the draft. He also had the best broad jump and three-cone drill of any lineman selected this year.
Bolles is not going to have any problems getting around the outside to set the edge on sweeps and toss plays, and will also be able to pull block well when he has to. The pass rushing in the AFC West might be the best in the league, with the likes of Khalil Mack and Justin Houston set to take aim at Denver quarterbacks. All of these guys are quick and have a solid arsenal of moves, but Bolles should be able to stand up to the test better than Denver’s offensive line did last season.
No matter how you slice it, the Broncos had to fix this issue immediately. The Broncos needed an offensive tackle more than any team in the NFL, and they got arguably the best one in this draft. Whether it’s Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, or even Mr. Irrelevant Chad Kelly under center for the Broncos, it is going to be a young guy who lacks a lot of experience. Protecting any quarterback is crucial, but especially the young ones.
Denver had a good hit on this pick.