Denver Broncos sleeper undrafted OL could be a factor quickly
The Denver Broncos (once again) passed on offensive tackles in the 2023 NFL Draft. It's a bizarre fact, but George Paton has not drafted an offensive tackle in three years with the Broncos, which to this point has included a total of 24 NFL Draft selections. Now that the NFL Draft is over, though, the Broncos have added a couple of tackles to the mix, and no matter what way you slice it, it looks like the team is rolling with some inexperienced players as the primary backups at a crucial position in 2023.
No pressure or anything, Zach Strief.
Despite the team's unwillingness to draft offensive tackles in recent years, it's quite possible that the Broncos have stumbled upon a steal in the post-draft frenzy with former Illinois offensive lineman Alex Palczewski (pronounced: pal - CHESS - key). Palczewski may have a difficult name to type, but this is a player who made it look easy at the college level for a really long time in Champaign.
And when I say a really long time, I mean a really long time.
Palczewski started a virtually unprecedented 65 games in his time at Illinois. I don't know that I have ever seen that in all of my years covering the NFL or the NFL Draft. A lot of times, the most games you will see guys start will be four-year players at schools consistently playing in the College Football Playoff, perhaps averaging 13 games per season. Even if they started every game over four years, that's a maximum of around 52 games, give or take.
Because of the pandemic in 2020, college athletes were granted an additional year of eligibility and obviously, Palczewski was one of the players who took advantage of that. His 65 career starts are tied for the most in FBS history and a Big Ten record.
Denver Broncos UDFA Alex Palczewski started 65 games in college
Breakdown by position:
Offensive tackle: 49 starts
Offensive guard: 16 starts
Palczewski was named a first-team All-American by The Sporting News in 2022, a second-team All-American by various other outlets, and was graded as a top-10 tackle by Pro Football Focus. Steelers Depot did a comprehensive pre-draft report on Palczewski and determined that he graded out as a mid-day-3 selection.
His RAS score checks out as very good, on the cusp of being top-tier. When you combine the fact that Palczewski has 65 starts, plenty of experience at both guard and tackle, as well as NFL-quality athleticism? Well, you're probably looking at a guy who is going to fight tooth and nail to make a roster.
The Broncos, as previously mentioned, didn't really go out and get much tackle depth this offseason. Isaiah Prince, signed to a futures contract, might currently be their best option in that department. They let Calvin Anderson, Cam Fleming, and Billy Turner walk in free agency.
It would be very interesting to know how much the Broncos gave Palczewski in contract guarantees to see where they are at with him in terms of having a draftable grade. George Paton noted after the draft that they felt they would be getting some UDFAs who were on their board as far as being draftable players, and I would venture to guess Palczewski was in that group.
Ultimately, Palczewski is going to have to go out there and prove on the field that he can be an asset to an NFL offensive line right away. He's certainly got the college experience down, but playing against NFL linemen is a different beast altogether. He will have to prove he can handle business at both tackle and guard in order to be one snap away from taking on the likes of Joey Bosa, Maxx Crosby, and others.
As of right now, though, at a position of need for Denver, he looks like a potential steal.