Trash Talk: 2022 Denver Broncos draft profile: Nik Bonitto

The Denver Broncos had no first-round picks in the NFL Draft but found a diamond in the rough with their 2nd-round selection of Nik Bonitto.


Chase Hontz, Collegian Columnist

The 2022 NFL Draft certainly did not offer the same high level of intrigue for Denver Broncos fans as in years past. This is due to the fact that almost all of the Broncos’ premium picks for this year’s draft were sent to the Seattle Seahawks in the team’s blockbuster deal to acquire Russell Wilson. 

Nonetheless, even without their first-round pick in this year’s draft, the Broncos had nine picks to try to further bolster their already overhauled roster through the latter rounds of this year’s draft.


As Broncos fans know better than most, the importance and potential of both mid- and late-round picks are often grossly undervalued.

Without the presence of key players such as Emmanuel Sanders (third round), Derek Wolfe (second round) and Connor McGovern (fifth round) on the 2016 Super Bowl team, the Broncos would not have defeated the Carolina Panthers for their third franchise Super Bowl title.

Having said as much, it’s abundantly clear that for top-tier teams in the NFL, strong contributions from mid- and late-round draft picks are an absolute necessity. 

With the Broncos once again poised to compete as one of these top-tier teams, it was imperative that general manager George Paton was able to select a true difference-maker somewhere within his nine draft picks this year.

Fortunately for Broncos fans, I believe the Broncos did in fact find a diamond in the rough with their second-round selection of Nik Bonitto.

A 22-year-old outside linebacker from The University of Oklahoma, Bonitto possesses a rare combination of speed and size that allows him to excel as a pass-rusher.

In fact, this unique skill set led to Bonitto being named Pro Football Focus’ Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2021. Adding to this impressive accolade, Bonitto recorded a staggering 16 sacks in his final 21 games with Oklahoma.

“Bonitto is a relatively safe pick thanks to his already NFL-caliber pass rushing abilities.”

Having run an impressive 4.54 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, Bonitto solidified his place as a second-round pick. The reasoning behind Bonitto not being up for first-round consideration is entirely due to his lackluster production as a run-defender. 

At 6-feet-3-inches and 248 pounds, Bonitto isn’t drastically undersized as an edge rusher. With that being said, it’s clear the No. 1 priority for Bonitto should be to put on some more weight. If he’s able to get stronger and improve his technique, there’s no reason to believe Bonitto cannot become at least proficient as a run-defender. 


For now, Bonitto will serve as a rotational piece behind Bradley Chubb at the weakside linebacker position. With his exceptional pass-rushing abilities, he’ll likely be on the field for all third downs and other passing situations. 

In a year or two from now, if Bonitto is in fact able to improve enough as a run-defender, I believe he will unlock the ability to be utilized as somewhat of a Swiss Army knife for the Broncos’ new defensive coordinator, Ejiro Evero. Evero would be able to switch up defensive formations by alternating Bonitto between both outside linebacker positions and occasionally defensive end.

Assuming he reaches his ultimate potential and improves in the run game, my NFL comparison for Bonitto would be the Philadelphia Eagles’ newly signed star linebacker, Haason Reddick. Reddick is eerily similar to Bonitto in size, stature and strengths. 

Like Bonitto, Reddick entered the league as an undersized pass-rushing specialist. After five years in the league with the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers, Reddick has heavily improved in defending the run and, as such, has become the defensive Swiss Army knife that I could someday see Bonitto developing into.

If nothing else, Bonitto is a relatively safe pick thanks to his already NFL-caliber pass rushing abilities. If he fails to develop in the run game, Bonitto will serve as a useful rotational linebacker at the very least.

Reach Chase Hontz at or on Twitter @HontzCollegian.