ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — After a long wait, the Broncos finally got to make their draft pick. With the No. 64 overall selection, Denver general manager George Paton added Oklahoma edge rusher Nik Bonitto.
In the second round, Paton traded back from No. 75 and took Houston's No. 80 pick in the second round while adding another pick in the fifth round. With the No. 80 pick, the Broncos took UCLA tight end Greg Dulcich.
He wasn't bashful when asked what he thought about playing with quarterback Russell Wilson.
"We're going to win the Super Bowl,'' Dulcich said in a conference call with the Denver media minutes after his selection.
Bonitto was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2021, as awarded by Pro Football Focus. Bonitto had 16.0 sacks the past two years. He is 6-foot-3, 248 pounds and runs the 40 in 4.56 seconds. Bonitto, 22, joins a pass-rush stable that includes Bradley Chubb, Randy Gregory, Malik Reed, Jonathon Cooper and Baron Browning.
Chubb and Reed are free agents after the 2022 season. And with Gregory currently in a sling recovering from shoulder surgery, Bonitto gives the Broncos' much-needed depth at the pass rush position -- a defensive priority in an AFC West Division that includes such QB likes of Patrick Mahomes II, Justin Herbert and Derek Carr.
"This is crazy man—how everything happened,'' Bonitto said in his conference call with the Denver media from his Fort Lauderdale, Fla. home. "Now waiting—just getting that call. I couldn’t even hold it back. I can’t wait to get to work.”
Bonitto had a top 30 visit to Broncos' headquarters last week.
"They were one of my last top 30 visits and just getting the vibe from the staff and all the guys that are upstairs, I mean, they really made me a priority and really made me feel like they wanted me,'' Bonitto said. “I just had a feeling that if I made it to them, that I would be blessed enough to get picked there and that’s what happened.”
The Broncos did not have a pick in the first round or early in the second round after sending those picks to Seattle in exchange for Wilson. Before Friday night is through, the Broncos had one more pick in the third round, 96 overall. The pick used on Bonitto, and No. 96 were acquired from the Los Angeles Rams last season in exchange for Broncos' all-time pass rusher Von Miller.
The Broncos traded that No. 96 pick in the third round to Indianapolis in exchange for another 5th-round selection this year and the Colts' third-round pick in 2023. The Broncos now have eight picks on the final day of the NFL Draft Saturday -- two in the fourth-round; three in the fifth; one in the sixth and two in the seventh rounds.
They also have two, third-round picks in 2023 when they don't have a first and second-round pick because of the Wilson trade. In 2023, the Broncos have two picks in the third round, one in the fourth, one in the fifth and one in the seventh rounds -- just five total.
There was pass-rush symmetry in the Broncos' first pick of the draft. The No. 64 selection came from the Von Miller trade last November. Miller is the Broncos' all-time sack leader with 110.5. Elvis Dumervil -- another great Broncos' pass rusher who is 8th all-time on the team's sack list -- officially announced Bonitto's selection at the draft in Las Vegas.
And now Bonitto has expectations of becoming the next great Broncos' pass rusher. From Von to Elvis to Bonitto.
"They're looking to make a push and win a championship and that's what I'm trying to add,'' Bonitto said of the Broncos. “I’m trying to add in that championship position and just come in and work, that’s all.”
Dulcich, 22, is 6-4, 243 pounds and runs the 40 in 4.69. Among the tight end prospects in this draft, he was the most similar to Noah Fant in that he's a deep-ball threat. In his last two seasons for the Bruins, Dulcich had a combined 68 catches for a robust 18.3-yard average.
"I knew I was going to be an NFL player since middle school,'' said Dulcich. "That was always the goal, always the dream. Every situation in my life I had that in the back of my head. That was my driving force. There was never a doubt I would be getting this phone call today."
Fant was traded to Seattle in March as part of the Russell Wilson trade. Dulcich will join Albert Okwuegbunam, Eric Tomlinson and Shaun Beyer as Broncos' tight ends.
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