Denver Broncos: Quinn Meinerz could be stealing someone’s job
The Denver Broncos used one of their two third-round picks on Wisconsin-Whitewater offensive lineman Quinn Meinerz, who became famous in the NFL Draft world at the 2021 Senior Bowl for his dominating, physical play as well as his glorious belly.
Meinerz’s time spent in the wilderness lifting giant logs, water jugs, and knocking dead trees over was not for naught. He is truly one of the highest-level athletes on the interior position to come along in the last 30-plus years.
Meinerz had the second-highest Relative Athletic Score at the center position since 1987 and among all interior offensive linemen, he’s in the top 5-10 percentile as well.
The Denver Broncos selecting Meinerz, in general, was rather curious. Did they not just draft Lloyd Cushenberry III in the 2020 NFL Draft?
When Cushenberry was drafted, most Broncos fans were freaking out about the team getting a guy that many wanted in the second round. Cushenberry was arguably the best center in the 2020 NFL Draft, and it’s not like the Denver Broncos just threw a day three draft pick at him.
Cushenberry was picked 83rd overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, 15 picks higher than where the Denver Broncos got Meinerz in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Perhaps it’s a little recency bias, but connecting some dots that the Broncos are going to give Meinerz his first shot in the NFL at the center position — one he’s only self-taught at this point — seems to be an indicator that he’s on a fast-track to take someone’s job.
That someone could be Lloyd Cushenberry.
Immediately after Meinerz was drafted, I thought about the possibility of the Denver Broncos transitioning him to the tackle position. He has the physical tool kit to do it, and obviously, at the time of the NFL Draft, Ja’Wuan James was considered a liability for reasons that have unfortunately come to pass.
The next thought after that was that Meinerz would be training as the heir apparent to Graham Glasgow at the right guard position. Could the Broncos cut Glasgow just a year or two into his big-money free agent contract? That’s not impossible even today.
If that’s what the Broncos wanted, however, you would think they’d be giving Meinerz his first shot at the guard position, which he played in college, not center.
Given the fact that the Broncos are going to start Meinerz off at center, it seems like Lloyd Cushenberry has been put on notice. That’s not to say it’s a foregone conclusion that he will lose his job to Meinerz, but with all of the different directions the Denver Broncos could have gone with that third-round pick, you can’t help but wonder why they went with Meinerz.
The ideal scenario, in the end, is the Denver Broncos figuring out a way to get an entirely home-grown offensive line out there on the field. That doesn’t seem likely to happen in 2021 but it’s not impossible to think that at some point in the 2021 season, you could be looking at four of Garett Bolles, Dalton Risner, Lloyd Cushenberry, Netane Muti, and Meinerz starting on the line.
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Even if that means, at some point, that a talented player is on the sidelines, that’s good news for the Denver Broncos and a pretty good problem to have after years of offensive line inconsistency.