Head coach Sean Payton received the first lousy injury news of the season, as second-year LB Drew Sanders tore his Achilles at the beginning of the off-season and underwent surgery. Payton did not announce specifically when the injury occurred.

Coming off a challenging year on the defensive side of the ball and losing starting LB Josey Jewell, the Broncos hoped that Sanders, their third-round pick in 2023, could take another step in his development. The 6’5” Jewell received action in every game last season but only played 23% of Denver’s snaps. He totaled 11 tackles on the year but did not record a sack or turnover.

With a hole in the position, Payton and GM George Patton took OLB Jonah Ellis in the third round at pick #76. The front office felt strongly about the rookie from Utah as they used their second pick of the weekend on him, as they did not own their second-round selection. Payton called him “too good to pass on,” and it is easy to see why. He received second-team All-American and first-team Pac-12 honors for his work in his final collegiate season. Ellis became a force in the run-and-pass game, recording 12 sacks and 16 tackles for loss. He should compete for playing time with Nik Bonitto, Jonathon Cooper and Alex Singleton in the Broncos 3-4 front seven system.

Denver faced an off-season of change as the team moved off QB Russell Wilson and selected QB Bo Nix from Oregon with the 12th pick in the draft. Payton also changed his coaching staff, bringing in new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and Jim Leonhard as defensive backs coach.

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Sanders stood out during his college career, earning first-team All-American honors with Arkansas in 2022. He racked up 9.5 sacks and 103 tackles on the season. The Dallas native began his college career in Alabama and spent two years with the Crimson Tide before transferring to the Razorbacks.

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