Denver picks Bonitto, Dulcich after sitting out in 1st round

By Arnie Stapleton
AP Professional Football Writer

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — The Denver Broncos drafted a pass rusher and tight end after trading former first-rounders Von Miller and Noah Fant for the past six months.

With the first of two picks they got from the Rams in the Miller trade last November, the Broncos selected Oklahoma outside linebacker Nik Bonitto with the 64th and final selection in the second round of the NFL Draft on Friday. evening.

They nabbed UCLA tight end Greg Dulcich in the third round after including Fant in the trade for Russell Wilson last month.

They also sent the third-round pick they got from the Rams as part of the Miller deal to Indianapolis in exchange for a fifth-round pick this year and the Colts’ third-round pick in 2023.

Getting a Day 2 pick next year was high on GM George Paton’s wish list, as he only had four picks in 2023.

Bonitto called Miller one of his idols, saying the pro pass rushers he seeks to start are “one of the greats who’s been there for sure” in Miller, who signed with Buffalo after he helped the Rams win the Super Bowl.

The Rams sent their second- and third-rounders to Denver for Miller, a carry that helped the Broncos part ways with first- and second-round picks this year and next in exchange for Wilson, the first passer they had. from Peyton Manning. retired in 2016.

Wilson’s acquisition left the Broncos without a first-round pick for the first time in a decade. Paton swore, however, that he didn’t care, suggesting he’d rather spend his Thursday night watching highlights of his new quarterback anyway.

And on Friday night, he got another big goal for Wilson at Dulchich, who is 6-4 and 250 pounds.

“We’re going to win the Super Bowl,” Dulcich exclaimed after the Broncos used the 80th overall pick against him after trading five spots with Houston for an additional midterm pick. “I’m just excited about it. We’re going to be such a successful team and I can’t wait to get out there and work with him.

Dulcich, a former receiver, is more polished as a receiver than a tackle with four 100-yard receiving games over the past two years for the Bruins.

Still, Dulcich insisted, “I’m good at blocking. That’s what I was mostly asked to do at UCLA – we’re a top notch team, so I never hesitate to do it. I pride myself on being a tough player who blocks at the point of attack. I’m mean in the trenches, that’s for sure.

Bonitto (6-foot-3, 248 pounds) is a better pass thrower than a run stopper. He had 18½ sacks over the past three seasons for the Sooners and had 32 tackles for loss during his career at Norman.

He should contribute immediately as a passing thrower on a defense that will feature free agent acquisition Randy Gregory and former first-rounder Bradley Chubb on the edges.

“I just learned from these guys, it’s going to be great for me,” Bonitto said.

And vice versa, Paton said.

“We thought Nick was one of the best pass runners coming out, just the turn, the speed, the burst. Very natural. In Oklahoma he had a lot of production,” Paton said.

Denver’s top two picks need to hit the weight room, Paton said, Dulcich so he can block defenders in the ground game and Bonitto so he can take the lead against the run.

New head coach Nathaniel Hackett called Dulcich a “threat on the field,” like wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler, who are ready to take advantage of Wilson’s arrival.

“When you have a guy who can stretch the court like he can, I think that’s really exciting,” Hackett said.

The Broncos have eight picks on Saturday, although Paton said he would like to bag some to add to the five selections he now has in 2023. At the top of his wish list for Saturday is a cornerback, he said. – he says, and maybe a tackle.

One of 10 teams that didn’t pick in the first round Thursday night, the Broncos tweeted a fake video of the team drafting Wilson with the ninth pick they handed out to Seattle.

“It wasn’t a lot of fun last night,” Paton said. “We got bored. But we kinda looked at Russ.

Paton’s first four picks in his first draft last year were productive rookies. Having given up so much draft capital this year, it might be harder to find immediate starters, but Paton said getting top-notch backups will also make for a successful draft.

“Obviously we want starters, but we want good quality youthful depth,” he said. “I think we have a chance to do that. We are off to a good start. »

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