Broncos select Jonah Elliss with 76th pick: Instant grade and analysis

The Denver Broncos have added to their pass rush
Denver Broncos
Denver Broncos / Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most underrated areas of need for the Denver Broncos (outside of quarterback, of course) after the 2023 season was the pass rush. The Broncos have a number of pass rushers on the roster they already like, but the feeling has been that the team needed a “Batman” to go with some of the “Robin” caliber rushers they already had. Now, they go out and get one of the best pass rushers in the 2024 NFL Draft, Jonah Elliss of Utah.

In the 2022 season, the Broncos ranked 9th-worst in the league at just 2.1 sacks per game. In 2023, they were tied for 10th-worst at 2.5 sacks per game. Pass rush is not determined strictly by sack production, but it can be a “tip of the iceberg” sort of indicator as to how effective your pass rush truly is.

When the Broncos became successful as a defense last year after a dreadful six-game start, it was largely due to the fact that players outside of their defensive front were having success getting after the quarterback. Safety PJ Locke had a franchise-record sack in three straight games at one point. Alex Singleton and Josey Jewell were providing pressure as blitzing off-ball linebackers. Ja’Quan McMillian was having success blitzing from the slot.

The Broncos got productivity out of players like Nik Bonitto, Baron Browning, and Jonathon Cooper last year, as well as big-money free agent Zach Allen. But that unit wasn’t tricking anyone into believing they were the 2015 unit. Or 2016. Or anything we’ve seen since 2018, quite frankly.

A consistent pass-rush presence off the edge has been needed in Denver for quite some time, and after trading away Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, and former big-money free agent Randy Gregory in consecutive years, they finally get an “alpha” off the edge.

Jonah Elliss was well-liked by's Lance Zierlein for a variety of reasons:

"Blessed with a high-octane motor and a tank full of gas.
Slippery inside spin counter is already in his bag.
Bend and build make him tough to redirect at the top of the rush.
Agile and quick in lateral pursuit of runners in the backfield.
Hand usage and placement to punch and play off of blockers."

Lance Zierlein

Elliss is one of the many "legacy" players in this year's draft. His father, Luther Elliss, was a former first-round pick who actually finished out his NFL career as a member of the Denver Broncos. Now, Jonah gets to begin his with the expectation as a high third-round pick that he will factor into the lineup and rotation sooner rather than later. This could also mean good news for those who were hoping that Drew Sanders would be staying at off-ball linebacker.

He racked up a whopping 12.0 sacks and 16.0 tackles for loss last season at Utah, an All-American campaign.

If you can raise the “floor” of your defensive front, you can raise the floor of your entire team. The Broncos have invested quite a bit in the defensive front over the last couple of offseasons, and getting Jonah Elliss could take this unit to the next level in 2024.

Instant Grade: B+