Question: Who, exactly, is picking the Denver Broncos to represent the AFC in next year’s Super Bowl?
That being said, almost everyone in the know on such matters seems to think the Broncos are poised for an imminent resurgence under new head coach Vic Fangio. Furthermore, the continual addition of speed and athleticism throughout the roster has optimism running high at Dove Valley.
Throw in the strong arm and experience of free agent quarterback Joe Flacco, and the spirit of optimism runs rampant throughout the Mile High City.
According to reports from training camp, however, the most glaring ray of hope is being generated by first-round draft pick Noah Fant. The 6-4, 250-pound University of Iowa product combines freakish speed and size, and turned in a 4.5-second 40-yard dash to raise eyebrows at the combine.
That 40 time is usually reserved for wide receiver weighing in at about 50 pounds less than where Fant tips the scales.
A vertical leap of almost 40 inches, a broad jump of 127 inches, and 20 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press also caught John Elway’s attention. Those numbers made Fant far and away the most athletic, explosive and physically imposing tight end in the draft and prompted the Broncos to make him the 20th player selected overall.
Those same attributes will likely make Fant an obvious choice and oft-used target for Flacco, who has a well-documented history of throwing to tight ends who pose match-up nightmares for smaller defensive backs and lumbering linebackers who can’t keep up in coverage.
Not since Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe donned orange and blue have the Broncos possessed a weapon of this magnitude at the tight end position. Granted, the word “potential” means that a player might be great but has not demonstrated that greatness on the field yet. Even so, in Fant’s case, the potential for future success in the NFL seems almost certain.
Another draft pick who appears to be a can’t-miss NFL prospect brings his talents to a position where the Broncos have struggled mightily in recent years. Dalton Risner, taken with the 41st pick in the second round of the draft, is apparently everything one could want in an offensive lineman.
Risner, who grew up in Wiggins, Colo., started four years at Kansas State and allowed just one sack during his prestigious career there. The 6-5, 312-pounder is expected to start immediately and could be plugged in at center or guard.
Risner also has a reputation for having a mean streak on the field, but a stellar record of community service off the field. Leadership qualities and a track record of dependability have been important attributes among recent draft picks in Denver, and Risner fits that profile perfectly.
Finally, at pick number 42, Drew Lock has created a buzz at training camp with exceptional arm strength and poise for a rookie quarterback. The raw nature of Lock’s talent and the fact that he played in a typical spread offense in college make him a long-term proposition as opposed to an immediate starter. Lock figures to benefit from learning in a backup role to Flacco for the foreseeable future.
What is most encouraging, however, is that the University of Missouri product has the look of a future franchise quarterback. That, Broncos fans, should be music to your ears.
So is a 2020 Super Bowl appearance likely for these Broncos? Absolutely not. But by all appearances, the future looks extremely promising.