A New Legion Of Broncos

From Boise to the League

Boise has long been a place where players have successfully developed before moving on to the NFL as draft picks or undrafted players. Since 2010, Boise has had 26 players taken in the NFL draft. While some of those players have starred at their respective teams, others have had careers on the bench or in depth roles.

Those who have done well have frequently turned into big-name stars. Demarcus Lawrence, Doug Martin, and Jay Ajayi all made pro bowls as ex-Broncos.

Some have made a career out of the NFL, while not becoming household names. Darian Thompson, Donte Deayon, and Charles Leno are all great examples of that.

Either way, Boise’s success in sending players to the NFL as a G5 school is remarkable, and they’ve done so consistently. This past NFL draft was no exception. Three Broncos were drafted in the first seven rounds (Ezra Cleveland, Curtis Weaver, John Hightower) and two more were signed as undrafted free agents (David Moa, John Molchon).

The Offensive Trenches

The only two to enter the NFL on the offensive side of the trenches are Ezra Cleveland and John Molchon.

They are two incredibly talented offensive linemen, who protected a quarterback that was sacked so much the local newspaper complained about their QB’s demolition four games into the season.

So… what makes those two special, you may be asking? They are what those in the biz call ‘diamonds in the rough’. And in Boise’s O-Line case? Very rough. But NFL scouts raved about both, and they had particularly nice things to say about Cleveland.

Cleveland out of the two is more likely to find NFL success. He arrives at a Minnesota squad offering favorable company. Former Boise running back Alexander Mattison runs one of the best sidekick games in the league with Dalvin Cook, and Minny’s two-headed monster will provide a boost to Cleveland as he adjusts to the NFL.

Cleveland’s pass protection is also extremely impressive. He was frequently the only Boise linemen to give Bronco QB Hank Bachmeier any time in the pocket. Expect him to place some pass-rushing Packer defensive linemen in grave situations during his time with Minnesota.

John Molchon is a bit less talented than Cleveland, but he makes up for that with pure work ethic. He signed at Tampa Bay as an undrafted free agent, so he will face a long road and many obstacles on his path to NFL stardom. But I believe he’ll make the Buc’s 53 man roster and earn a nice backup role in the league.

Defensive Weapons

On the other side of the line, Boise sent two studs to the NFL in Curtis Weaver and David Moa. The former is more of an edge player and the latter is more of a brick wall. While they were both excellent at Boise, they also are a bit less likely to find success than their offense-minded counterparts.

Even though those doubts are justified, it’s still true that Weaver and Moa are being slept on. And in Curtis’s case? It’s pretty extreme.

Bronco fans during the regular season nicknamed Curtis ‘Dream Weaver’ for his ability to lull offensive linemen to sleep with his moves before notching a sack. He also claimed the title of the Mountain West’s all-time sack leader… as a junior.

That’s why Weaver’s slip to the fifth round of the NFL Draft stunned many Bronco fans, who had seen draft previews claiming that Curtis would be drafted within the first three rounds.

While there are legitimate concerns about Curtis- a few minor injuries, and worries about strength- his raw talent is there. That should be enough to keep him afloat in the league as he develops. Curtis’s potential rise to  NFL stardom becomes even more believable when you consider the team who drafted him.

The Dolphins squad he’ll be joining… well, they’re likely to put you to sleep just by watching them. Curtis shouldn’t have much trouble standing out in their not-so-crowded defensive line room. After all, the Fins just got rid of Charles Harris and Taco Charlton, two semi-recent defensive line draft picks of theirs.

Weaver’s counterpart, David Moa, spent six seasons (yes, really) in Boise as a defensive tackle. His suffocating style of play earned him the nickname of ‘The Moaconstrictor’ by Bronco fans. Unfortunately, like Weaver, a couple of untimely injuries slowed his ascent as an NFL prospect. But, he’ll have his brothers by his side, because Moa will be joining both Cleveland and Mattison in Minnesota for the beginning of his NFL career.

Six years in college and starting many of those seasons only to go undrafted defines being slept on. Both Weaver and Moa suffered from that predicament in the NFL Draft.  And if we’ve learned anything at all from the NFL, it’s that players who are slept on are usually the most dangerous. So don’t sleep on Weaver and Moa for a second.

A New Philly Special

Finally, let’s talk about the most interesting player of them all.

John Hightower had a heck of a career at Boise. In two seasons, he gained over 1,700 yards from scrimmage and was a dynamic weapon on special teams. Insane catches all over the field were the norm for Hightower, and defensive backs were frequently left grasping at air, wondering where both Hightower and the ball went.

Out of every Bronco headed to the NFL, Hightower is the most intriguing to me. The combination of older Philly playmakers moving on in the near future and Hightower’s ability to make plays in different positions will mean opportunity. Even though he was a 5th round pick, that doesn’t dilute the opportunity he’s been given in Philadelphia.

In other words, he’s a sneaky pick to make in your dynasty fantasy draft. But more than that, he’s a player all Eagle fans should be excited about. He has a great shot at carving out a solid NFL career as a dynamic playmaker.

The NFL will be a tough place for the new Bronco legion. With that in mind, Boise draftees have faced long odds and prospered in the past. There’s no reason to believe that will stop happening.

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