The Denver Broncos Needed a Player Like Garett Bolles

The Denver Broncos' offensive line has been in need of an upgrade for a while now. Is Garett Bolles the missing link?

In the NFL, you can't magically sprout a top-level quarterback. But by assembling a strong supporting cast, you give mid-level options a chance to succeed. In selecting tackle Garett Bolles, the Denver Broncos are doing exactly that.

Bolles is a unique prospect partially due to his age. He's already 24 years old following a long, winding path to this selection that included missionary work and time at a junior college before his move to Utah last year. It only took one year at a major school to convince scouts he was good enough for the next level.

An impressive NFL combine certainly didn't hurt Bolles, either. He was one of three offensive linemen to run the 40-yard dash in under five seconds, and his 115-inch broad jump ranks in the 93rd percentile among offensive linemen. While his list of top workout comparables doesn't necessarily blow you away, it's encouraging that every single name on the list wound up getting drafted, not something many incoming rookies can boast.

Year Player Draft Pick Similarity Score
2013 Tanner Hawkinson Round 5, Pick 23 95.91%
2014 Wesley Johnson Round 6, Pick 13 93.72%
2013 David Quessenberry Round 6, Pick 8 92.99%
2004 Adrian Jones Round 4, Pick 36 92.77%
2002 Kyle Kosier Round 7, Pick 37 92.24%
2006 Guy Whimper Round 4, Pick 32 91.68%
2008 Jeremy Zuttah Round 3, Pick 20 91.38%
2009 Xavier Fulton Round 5, Pick 19 91.23%
2006 Daryn Colledge Round 2, Pick 15 90.89%
2003 Jordan Gross Round 1, Pick 8 90.50%

If we take it a step further and account for Bolles' draft stock, we get this as a list of comps for players who went within the first two rounds.

Year Player Draft Pick Similarity Score
2006 Daryn Colledge Round 2, Pick 15 90.89%
2003 Jordan Gross Round 1, Pick 8 90.50%
2003 Jon Stinchcomb Round 2, Pick 5 90.10%
2014 Joel Bitonio Round 2, Pick 3 89.99%
2013 Eric Fisher Round 1, Pick 1 89.59%
1999 Chris Terry Round 2, Pick 3 89.14%
2010 Rodger Saffold Round 2, Pick 1 89.11%
1999 Matt Stinchcomb Round 1, Pick 18 89.00%
2014 Jake Matthews Round 1, Pick 6 88.84%
2008 Duane Brown Round 1, Pick 26 88.36%

There are some pretty sweet players on that list, and the Broncos should be encouraged by the type of athlete they're getting in Bolles.

If the Broncos want Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch to take the next step, Bolles could be a big part of that process. We can get a glimpse of this using numberFire's Net Expected Points (NEP), the metric we use to track the efficiency of both teams and offenses. This tells us how efficient an offense operates by measuring the expected points they add on each play throughout the season and then adjusting for strength of schedule.

The Broncos finished 2016 ranked 18th in Sack NEP per drop back, meaning their offense felt the negative effects of sacks more than the average unit. If you give Siemian and Lynch time to find their elite weapons in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, good things can happen. Bolles can't get you there all by himself, but he certainly won't hurt.

Those sacks are at least part of the reason the Broncos finished 24th in schedule-adjusted passing efficiency despite those two studs at receiver. Given what the cost of a quarterback wound up being in this year's draft and the Broncos' low draft slot, you knew they weren't upgrading that way. Bolstering the offensive line was the best option available, and it makes Bolles a key addition.

Individually, there's still reason for hope for both of Denver's signal callers. Siemian was 26th in Passing NEP per drop back out of 39 quarterbacks with at least 100 drop backs -- one spot behind the Philadelphia Eagles' Carson Wentz -- in his first season as a starter. Lynch has the first-round draft pedigree and had solid collegiate efficiency stats at Memphis. Neither guy is completely devoid of talent. If they have time to make good decisions, this offense should operate better than it was in 2016.

While the main focus in drafting Bolles is and should be the passing offense, he'll likely help in the run game, too. Denver was 29th in schedule-adjusted rushing efficiency, meaning they had no true method for taking pressure off the quarterbacks. This is very much a secondary concern given the importance of passing in the league, but you know Siemian and Lynch will take any help they can get.

Bolles shot up draft boards after an awesome season at Utah. He backed all of that up by putting up respectable marks at the combine. If the Broncos get the player they're expecting by taking him 20th overall, the effects on the offense could be huge, and it could help shore up another concern on offense with the performance at quarterback.