ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (247 SPORTS) – The Denver Broncos walked out of the NFL Draft this past weekend with a much-improved roster and football team. While two of the biggest needs on the team, adding a legitimate franchise quarterback and fortifying the offensive line, were relatively ignored, the Broncos took the other often-used path in roster building with their first round pick this year.
Instead of adding a player to help fill in a roster weakness, GM John Elway and the Broncos used the fifth overall pick to help add to an area of strength on the roster. The Broncos selected Bradley Chubb, edge rusher, North Carolina State.
Considering the immediate and long-term impact this pick will have, even before playing an NFL down, this pick looks like a home run by the Broncos. Here’s why.
Edge rusher is the second most important position on a football team
Outside of the quarterback, there is no singular position that is as important, impactful, or as sought after as the edge rusher in today’s NFL. In 2018, the top-10 edge rushers will have an average cap hit of $16 million cap hit.
After that, interior defensive line ($14.1M), cornerback ($13.7M), and offensive tackle ($13.3M) round out the top-five highest paid positions, with quarterback far and away the top paid group at $25.5 million average for the top-10 paid players at the position. Edge rushers are paid large contracts because of their value and demand for game changers in the pass game.
Today’s NFL is focused around the quarterback, even if indirectly. This is why pass rushers, pass stoppers, and pass protectors are so highly sought after in free agency and in the NFL Draft, and subsequently, so highly paid.
While some detractors complain that Von Miller is overpaid, his overall impact on a team from a game-to-game basis is as big as any non-quarterback in the NFL. However, even for how valuable Miller is to the Broncos, he is not really a true ‘value’ for his production per dollar, given that his contract averages $19 million per year.
However, impact players on their rookie deals at edge rusher can provide tremendous value per-dollar over the duration of their rookie contract. Joey Bosa, arguably a top-10 edge rusher in the NFL right now, is paid just $6.4 million per season, making him the 35th highest paid edge rusher in the NFL. Projected to be paid $6.845 million per season over his rookie deal, Chubb will be 31st highest paid rusher in the NFL over the life of his contract.
If Chubb can prove worthy of the fifth overall pick and play anywhere close to the level of Joey Bosa, someone who he has been compared to by NFL Draft analysts, he will provide the Broncos tremendous value per dollar given his position, and will give the team cap flexibility to address needs elsewhere on the roster.
Makes the Broncos best player, Von Miller, that much better
Another reason the selection of the Bradley Chubb by the Broncos is a likely slam dunk by Elway is it helps make Denver’s best player even better. Last season, no player was double or triple teamed at the same rate as Von Miller was by opponents.
Of course, he was still able to make an impact each and every week because; well… he is Von Miller, but the combination of Shane Ray and Shaq Barrett last season was not enough to keep teams from planning their entire blocking scheme around stopping No. 58. While there are no guarantees that Bradley Chubb will be a star NFL player, he is as safe of a prospect as any in the 2018 NFL Draft class.
With Chubb lining up across from Von Miller on most snaps as the strong side edge defender, he will likely be afforded many one on one opportunities early in his career. If and when Chubb is able to take advantage of the one-on-ones and is consistently winning his matchups, and creating pressure on the quarterback, and stopping plays in the backfield, teams will have to pick and choose who to block.
Von will still see his fair share of double and triple teams because he is the best edge rusher in the entire NFL, but because of the mere presence of a dangerous pass rusher on the opposite side of him, he will have a higher rate of favorable opportunities to rush the quarterback and impact the passing game himself. Pass rush is synergistic, and the more rushers that can win one-on-ones with regularity makes everyone around them better.
While the Broncos are still looking to fulfill the role of an elite interior pass rusher since the departure of Malik Jackson (Hello, 2019 NFL Draft Defensive line class), having an edge rusher with the upside of Bradley Chubb opposite Von Miller helps the Broncos take a giant step forward in replicating the deadly pass rush of the 2015 Super Bowl Defense.
Combination of instant and long-term impact
Bradley Chubb is a fantastic pick for the Broncos for so many reasons. Beyond being a cheap, controlled asset at a highly valuable position and making Denver’s best player even better on the field, Chubb was the best marriage of the ‘win now and from now on’ and ‘draft value positions round one’ philosophies of any player in this class.
Drafting a quarterback at five likely would not have made the 2018 Denver Broncos the best they could have been. Sure, adding Josh Allen or Josh Rosen would have given the Broncos a real chance at a long-term solution at quarterback for the first time in a long time.
However, given the recent signing of Case Keenum, that likely would not have been the best allocation of resources, both salary cap and Draft capital wise, and wouldn’t of had such a huge impact on the win and loss record of the upcoming season.
On the other end of the spectrum, drafting a running back like Saquon Barkley, offensive guard like Quenton Nelson, or linebacker like Roquan Smith would have arguably made the 2018 Broncos as good as the selection of Bradley Chubb, especially considering the pressing and immediate needs at those positions. However, given the value of the edge rusher position compared to that of running back, guard, and off-ball linebacker, the selection of those prospects likely does not help the Broncos of 2020 and beyond as compared to the selection of Bradley Chubb.
Furthermore, when looking at the other edge rushers on the roster in Shaquil Barrett and Shane Ray, the Broncos would have had an impending dire need for an influx of talent at the position if the team had not selected Chubb fifth overall. The selection of Chubb guarantees that no matter what, the Broncos have at least two talented pass rushers on the defensive front going forward, making it very likely the team has at least an upper-tier defense over the next four to five seasons.
While edge rusher was not an immediate need and did not fill a giant hole on the roster, Bradley Chubb was essentially a perfect pick for the Broncos. Sure, it is possible that Josh Rosen or Josh Allen go on to be franchise quarterbacks, making many always question ‘what if’ if the Broncos are still stuck in the myriad of mediocrity at the quarterback position.
Its also possible that Chubb goes on to be just ‘solid’ compared to his peers at his position, whereas players drafted directly after him go on to be All-Pro caliber players for their teams. Still, given the value of the edge rusher position in today’s NFL, the immediate and long-term impact he will have on the team if he reaches his ceiling, and the positive impact both Chubb and Miller will have on each other, both on and off the field, the selection of Bradley Chubb is arguably the best first round pick by Elway since he choose Von Miller second overall in 2011.
With the pick, the Broncos added to a strength and helped embed their identity as a football team in playing tough defense up front, living in opponents backfield, and hitting the quarterback early and often. If Bradley Chubb is able to live up to the fifth overall pick, and Von Miller can maintain his level of dominance, the rest of the NFL will be put on notice by what is sure to be one of the most dynamic pass rushing duos in the entire NFL; Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, the quarterback killers.