‘What’s our vision?’ Payton outlines plan for third-rounders Sanders, Moss

Apr 29, 2023, 12:34 AM

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The exact role for the Broncos’ two third-round picks didn’t seem easy to define for those observing the draft from the outside.

Linebacker Drew Sanders, the Broncos’ choice at the No 67 overall slot, is better at attacking the quarterback than dropping into coverage, as evidenced by his 9.5 sacks last year at Arkansas. And while Iowa product Riley Moss saw most of college his work as a cornerback, his skill set could translate to safety.

And to that end, when I asked Moss what the Broncos told him about the position at which they saw him, he didn’t answer cornerback or safety.

“Right now, DB. It’s good to learn everything and be ready for [everything],” Moss said.

Moss had multiple meetings with the Broncos, including one of the 30 in-person visits allowed in the pre-draft process. Sanders didn’t have as much contact, but he spoke with both inside-linebackers coach Greg Manusky and outside-linebackers coach Michael Wilhoite.

So, for these two players, the key question is one Sean Payton asks.

“One of the things we talk about [is] … ‘What’s our vision?” Payton said Friday night.

His answers?

For Sanders:

“Our vision for him is at inside linebacker, and a core special-teams player who can go and stem down to the outside. We saw so many good traits with him, and such good production.”

And Moss:

“There was a clear vision for him, and it’s corner.”

With Sanders, the key part is “stem down to the outside.” The Broncos could use him as a chess piece. And there may be a quicker path to playing time on the edge, at least in 2023. Denver’s inside-linebacker duo of Alex Singleton and Josey Jewell is solid. The Broncos re-signed both in the last two offseasons. And a backup at that position group, Jonas Griffith, started last year ahead of Singleton.

To blossom on the inside, Sanders must clean up as a a tackler. Last year, he missed 19.6 percent of his tackle opportunities. Among 238 linebackers with at least 50 tackle opportunities last year, that rate was 215th, per the data collected by Pro Football Focus. But Sanders improved in coverage over the course of his career. Last year, he allowed an 87.0 passer rating on 26 passes thrown at him, per the data compiled by Pro Football Focus.

Denver thought enough of Moss to move up from the No. 108 pick to get him, sacrificing one of their two third-round picks next year to do it. His first role could be as a sub-package dime backer. But his long-term future is on the corner.


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