Five NFL Combine standouts the Denver Broncos could draft

Henry Chisholm Avatar
March 3, 2024

The underwear olympics aren’t everybody’s cup of tea, but Denver Broncos general manager George Paton has a track record of drafting players who perform well at the NFL Combine.

Clevanalytics found that Paton ranks second among NFL GMs in average Relative Athletic Score when using premium picks.

RAS combines prospects’ height, weight, 40-yard dash time and about a dozen other measurable traits to create a single score that evaluates an individual’s overall athleticism.

Not only does Paton rank second in average RAS score when drafting with premium picks, but New Orleans GM Mickey Loomis also ranks in the top 10. Loomis was Broncos head coach Sean Payton’s GM for about half of his time with the Saints.

With all of that in mind, here’s who could have caught the Broncos’ eye this week at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis…

Michael Penix Jr.

Of the 10 quarterbacks who participate in combine drills, Michael Penix Jr. was easily the most impressive.

Penix showed off great placement on out routes, anticipation on corner routes and a stronger arm than expected on deep balls. While other quarterbacks had their moments, Penix was the sharpest from start to finish.

It’s worth noting that the projected top three quarterbacks in the draft (Caleb Williams, Drake Maye and Jayden Daniels) opted out of on-field drills.

The biggest win for Penix was his medical testing.

Penix didn’t finish any of his first three seasons as a collegiate starter because of injuries. He tore both ACLs and had a major shoulder surgery. He played every game in each of his final two seasons.

Penix reportedly passed all medical testing, which should help his draft stock considerably.

Theo Johnson

Penn State tight end Theo Johnson put on a show in Indianapolis.

He measured in at just over 6-foot-6 and 259 pounds.

He ran a 4.58 40-yard dash, the second-fastest of any tight end.

He registered a 39.5-inch vertical, the second-highest of any tight end.

Combine all of that and the rest of the tests and you’ve got a near-perfect 9.99 RAS score. According to RAS, the most similar athlete to Johnson is Jimmy Graham.

Johnson, 23, grew up in Canada. He’s coming off his best collegiate season, catching 34 balls for 341 yards and seven touchdown. The production is nothing special, but the Broncos might gamble on Johnson’s traits early in Day 3, if he’s still on the board.

Braden Fiske

Florida State defensive tackle Braden Fiske is another freak who made a name for himself in Indy.

The 6-foot-4, 292-pound inside rusher ran a 4.78-second 40-yard dash, an absurd number for a man his size. He beat the rest of the defensive tackles by at least seven hundredths of a second.

Fiske also recorded the best vertical (33.5 inches), broad jump (9’9″) and 20-yard shuttle (4.37 seconds).

Fiske played his first four seasons at Western Michigan, where he was an All-MAC performer. He transferred to Florida State for his senior year and recorded six sacks and nine tackles for loss as an interior rusher.

Before his breakout performance at the combine, Fiske was projected to be a Day 3 pick. He may be off the board earlier now.

Payton Wilson

NC State linebacker Payton Wilson might be the best linebacker in this year’s draft, but he’s an older prospect who will be 24 on draft day and his medical history is extensive.

Still, Wilson is a freak. He ranked 27th on Bruce Feldman’s 2023 Freak’s List ahead of the college football season.

Wilson measured in just under 6-foot-4 and weighed 233 pounds. He ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash, which led all linebackers.

The Broncos took a swing on a similar prospect last year: Drew Sanders.

Sanders was a hybrid linebacker who can play inside or outside. Earlier this week, Broncos general manager George Paton hinted that he’ll probably outside this season.

Wilson can also play either position, but I’d fit him in inside. With Josey Jewell heading to free agency and Sanders likely playing outside, Wilson could be a perfect fit next to Alex Singleton.

Sanders was a younger prospect, but Wilson is far more polished, especially when playing in space.

Wilson could still be available on Day 3 of the draft.

Luke McCaffrey

The youngest of the McCaffreys (and the best athlete growing up according to his mother, Lisa), Luke McCaffrey made a case for himself at the combine,

McCaffrey, 22, began his career as a quarterback at Nebraska, but couldn’t hold onto the starting job. He transferred to Louisville briefly before moving on to Rice, where he lost a quarterback battle in fall camp.

Before the 2022 season, McCaffrey flipped to wide receiver, and immediately made an impact. In 2023, he caught 68 balls for 963 yards and 12 touchdowns. He ran for another 101 yards.

McCaffrey was a Senior Bowl standout, and he looked just as smooth at the combine when working through drills.

He separated himself in the testing, where he earned a 9.56 RAS score, which ranks 11th among receivers. His 4.46-second 40-yard dash, beat his brother Christian’s mark by two hundredths of a second. His 10-yard burst tied for fourth among receivers.

At 6-foot-1.5 and 198 pounds, McCaffrey is a prototypical slot receiver. The Broncos don’t have one of those, and they’ve already met with Luke McCaffrey.

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