Draft Review 2022: Rounds 5 (cont) through 7

Having reviewed the first 6 players of Denver’s draft in May (link here), it’s finally time to look at the final 3 picks

Luke Wattenberg (medial centric anterior dominant) profiles like one half a pro bowl center. In terms of efficiency/ development, Wattenberg shows excellently on his favored anterior side, both lumbar and thoracic– Wattenberg shows very quick feet, as well as excellent hand placement and speed. However, Wattenberg’s posterior areas are the opposite– noticeably under-developed and lacking in efficiency. As a result, Wattenberg lacks the strong base to anchor on passing plays, or to drive forward forcefully on run plays. And while he shows good lateral agility for an interior lineman (and good mobility in general), Wattenberg can still be outmatched to the outside due to underwhelming posterior thoracic efficiency (leading to poor lateral strength).

Overall, Wattenberg’s anterior areas are efficient enough that he will likely be able to play the wide zone scheme at a fairly high technical level. But without the raw strength/ athleticism to win many individual matchups. Likely one of Denver’s backup swing C/Gs going forward, Wattenberg is the sort of player who can play quite well for stretches and against less powerful defenders. But if thrust into a full time starting role Wattenberg would likely struggle to hold his own over time, and be exposed against some of the more powerful and elusive defenders.

Matt Henningsen (medial centric posterior dominant) shows very high levels of medial posterior efficiency, particularly lumbar. In other words, he presents a very strong trunk– particularly his lower trunk. However, this efficiency/ strength does not travel far into his limbs (particularly his arms). Meaning that Henningsen shows very strong power and balance, but within a short range of his body. He would surely be an excellent grappler– in a phonebooth, Henningsen would almost certainly win a fight– but with arms extended (and feet moving), this power does not fully translate. In addition (and compounding the problem), Henningsen shows very short arm length. As such, it is somewhat difficult to project Henningsen’s fit on the football field– with such short arms, Henningsen’s powerful base and trunk will be neutralized by any lineman who can keep him at arm’s length. And while Henningsen does move quite well (his lumbar efficiency is generally far greater than his thoracic, and impressive overall for an interior DL), his tackling is also somewhat gated by those short arms and their lack of power when fully extended.

Henningsen may be able to contribute on the interior when in the right matchup (or on special teams); when he is able to body up to his matchup, he can win with his powerful trunk going forward or ripping sideways. Likewise, if Henningsen can master the sorts of moves (swim, spin etc) that can help him circumvent (or divide) the arms of a blocker, these moves could strongly increase his effectiveness. But until Henningsen develops/ improves his repertoire of moves, linemen with long powerful arms will likely be able to neutralize him. Overall then, it’s hard to expect Henningsen to become more than a depth/ special teams player unless he is able to learn and master a diverse set of maneuvers.

Although Vic Fangio may no longer be in the building, Faion Hicks (lateral oriented posterior dominant) perfectly fits the archetype of Fangio zone corners seen in Denver over the past few seasons. Specifically in that he is a lateral posterior oriented corner who favors thoracic efficiency over lumbar. Like previous Fangio-era CBs, Hicks’s long efficient arms are quite effective at breaking up passes, and allow him to wrap up well when tacking. However, where Hicks differs somewhat from the best Fangio-esque zone corners is in his lumbar areas– while they are reasonably efficient in the abstract, for someone his size, they are simply not quite tight or powerful enough to compensate for his shorter legs. Additionally, his hips are not terribly smooth, and it takes him an extra beat to flip his hips in coverage.

For Wisconsin, Hicks often played a sort of hybrid corner/ safety position, where he was set up in deep zones and then asked keep defenders in front of him. In this sort of role, Hicks played quite well. However, against NFL grade competition, Hicks will need to significantly tighten his lumbar areas in order to respond quickly enough out of zones. Likewise, Hicks needs to improve his angles of pursuit– although he wraps up quite well when in position, at Wisconsin Hicks was often taking bad angles and missing tackles as a result. Overall, while Hicks presents a reasonably promising profile when ignoring body size, his small size/ stature means that he will need significant advantages in efficiency in order to compensate for shorter legs and less body mass. So at present Hicks appears to be more of a developmental prospect than someone who can contribute to an NFL roster immediately.