2022 Priority Free Agents

It’s (finally) time to take a look at Denver’s 2022 priority FA class. Much like with the 2022 draft class, these players are mostly anterior dominant, perhaps showing a shift of emphasis with the new coaching staff and personnel.

DJ Jones (lateral oriented anterior dominant) shows three quarters of a pro bowl DL. All three of anterior lumbar, anterior thoracic, and posterior thoracic areas show very high levels of efficiency (for an anterior dominant player). The one area where Jones shows underwhelming efficiency/ development is his posterior lumbar area.

In general, anterior lumbar areas contribute to leg lift, while posterior lumbar areas provide leg drive (in terms of gross spinal/ tendinous force). As such, for lineman, anterior lumbar areas generally help in positioning side to side, as well as quickly bursting ahead. Whereas it is the posterior lumbar areas that provide the bulk of the forward drive/ power.

DJ Jones’s superlative anterior lumbar efficiency (particularly in his favored lateral areas) allows him to move laterally very quickly and disruptively to clog running lanes or disarm blockers. Likewise, Jones’s extremely strong/ well-balanced upper body allows him to lock onto blockers or rip sideways around them. However, Jones’s one relatively lacking set of areas– his posterior lumbar ones– prevent him from generating tremendous forward push or getting up to truly high speeds when running (such as in closing on QBs/ runners). Jones shows elite quickness for a man his size, as well as excellent awareness and ability to set up for maximum leverage; he is very effective at moving into position in either run defense or pass rush. However, Jones’s lack of elite forward push prevents him from pursuing the passer as well as he is able to clog up/ disrupt running lanes. Excellent mobility and upper body strength, just without the leg drive to truly collapse the pocket going straight ahead, or get up to elite closing speed when chasing mobile QBs. Additionally Jones’s somewhat underdeveloped posterior lumbar areas may contribute to future lower body injuries (although these areas are not stunted enough to cause major concern). Overall an excellent defensive lineman, particularly on early downs or when facing a pass blocker who can’t handle his upper body strength/ overall quickness.

K’Waun Williams’s (lateral oriented anterior dominant) main asset may be his superlative awareness and play positioning. Although Williams shows high levels of lateral anterior efficiency (particularly thoracic), with good quickness and excellent soft hands even at full extension, he is neither very fast in a straight line, nor does he show particularly smooth hips. Where Williams excels then is in his technique and recognition– he rarely wastes steps or motion, and does an excellent job reading the play/ eyes of the QB. As such he is rarely found out of position, and routinely sets himself up to disrupt passing lanes or to make tackles. And as long as he is not asked to cover speedy receivers down the field, he is generally able to stick to his cover targets while also keeping an eye on the global play state.

Williams is a very well rounded athlete– although his posterior areas are noticeably less efficient than his anterior areas, they are not apparently stunted. And for a CB, Williams is a physical rusher and an excellent tackler. Overall then, Williams will likely play in the near/ intermediate areas of the field, mostly in zones, and help solidify Denver’s nickel defense while setting a physical tone. And very importantly for a defense that provided very few turnovers in 2021, Williams’s combination of soft hands, long arms, and superlative awareness will likely offer consistent interception potential.

(The following, concerning Turner and Compton, is an excerpt from Part 2 of Nathaniel Hackett’s Projected Denver Offense)

Billy Turner and Tom Compton were signed from Shanahan-style offenses (GB and SF) and are perfect fits in Nathaniel Hackett’s similar-style offense. Both players are lateral oriented anterior dominant and therefore unsurprisingly show excellent lateral agility (and mobility in general). Turner shows very quick feet in setting up for pass protection (as well as good agility/ endurance), and is the more likely player of the two to start the year as an every down player (at RT) given his greater/ more balanced overall development (meaning he is more likely to stay healthy over time). Turner is also more capable in pass protection than Compton, who can be exposed by powerful rushing DE/ OLB (Compton was a major liability in pass protection against Von Miller in the NFC Championship game, where Turner at least mostly held Miller in check during their matchup in GB). Compton however is no slouch, particularly in the run game (where he is excellent at moving/ occupying defenders laterally from their gap), and as a backup/ short term starter (at either T or G) will likely prove to be very valuable. Both Compton and Turner are similar in that they combine good mobility/ agility with somewhat underwhelming forward push (and in Compton’s case, somewhat poor balance when dropping straight back). Turner was likely at least somewhat protected by Aaron Rodgers’s quick reads/ release in GB and so may be hard pressed to repeat his statistical success with a slower-playing QB in Wilson. Nevertheless, both players are excellent and experienced fits in the projected scheme, who will help teach the nuances of this technical style to their line-mates while serving as quality short-medium term starters.

Alex Singleton (medial centric posterior dominant) was not studied in enough depth to offer a full review/ profile. However based on early impressions, Singleton couples high levels of medial posterior efficiency (both thoracic and lumbar) with somewhat underwhelming lateral efficiency. Meaning that Singleton is quite powerful and speedy going straight ahead, but when forced to make quick lateral movements or changes of direction, he loses that same level of power/ speed. Singleton also shows powerful arms/ tackle ability but only within a relatively short distance from his body– his somewhat lacking anterior thoracic efficiency gates his hand strength/ control at full extension. Overall then Singleton profiles very much like an interior (interior) linebacker, one who can offer some quality pass rushing and tackle ability going straight ahead, but who may struggle staying with shiftier slot receivers/ TEs and when asked to keep up with quick lateral moves/ changes of direction.