UNDER FURTHER REVIEW – Rockies are Denver’s best NFL Draft Day story

One of the biggest nights of the year for Broncos fans was supposed to be tonight.

This is when National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell was supposed to step the microphone, center stage, and say, “With the ninth pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos select . . . 

Except George Paton stole Goodell’s thunder on March7 when he convinced Seattle to send quarterback Russell Wilson to Denver, effective March 16, for a package that included this year’s ninth pick in the dfraft. 

So, for Broncoholics, the next big day on their calendars is the first day of OTAs (organized team practice activity, if you aren’t THAT rabid) on May 23. Followed by (exact dates to come):

the first day of summer camp in late July;

the first preseason game in August;

the regular-season opener—Wilson’s official debut in orange and blue—in early September;

Every game day of the 2022 season;

the start of the NFL playoffs (opponent and date to be determined); and

Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Arizona, home of the Phoenix Cardinals, opponent to be decided, February 12.

Well, they hope so on those last two.

Somewhere along the way will come the announcement of the team’s new owner. But that date is anybody’s guess at this point.

It’s already been an eventful off-season, with the firing of Vic Fangio and the hiring of Nathaniel Hackett and the signing of nine free agents from other teams, headed by defenders Randy Gregory from Dallas and D.J. Jones, one of three former 49ers.

That leaves Denver fanatics to sit idly by as tonight’s first round unfolds—except to see who their team could have had when the ninth pick rolls around. 

Try as hard as they can, local sports talkers and website writers just aren’t able to gin up the same excitement over the Broncos first pick this year—64th overall. But they’re trying, by hypothesizing that it might be a local boy, Colorado State tight end Trey McBride, who’s from Fort Morgan.

After trading Noah Fant in the Wilson blockbuster, they are a little thin at that position. So, it’s possible. And ESPN uber-analyst Mel Kiper is predicting it.

McBride caught 90 passes for 1,121 yards with the Rams last season and is a big target at 6-feet-4. But, as the top tight end in this draft, a unanimous All-America and recipient of the John Mackey Award as the best tight end in college football last season, will he still be available that late in the second round?

Well, it’s something to hold your breath over.

MEANWHILE, the Rockies are wrapping up a seven-game road trip in Philadelphia before returning to Coors Field for a weekend with the Reds, who are the antithesis of a big machine at this moment.

The Rockies have a decent shot at finishing April with a winning record—for only the 11th time in their 30-year history.

As Denver counts down to the next Broncos season, this Rockies team might actually be a good distraction.  Through Sunday, they’re 10-5—a hopeful break from the gate, though historically inconclusive.

In 1995 the Rockies started the season with a winning record in their first month for the first time. Granted, April was only five games long that season because the 1994 players strike carried into ’95. But from 4-1 that team went on to win the first National League Wild Card with a 77-67 record.

The club’s best April ever followed two years later—17-7—but despite that hot start, the Rockies finished 83-79 and third in the NL West behind the Giants and Dodgers. The Marlins won the Wild Card berth with a 92-70 record.

Demonstrating success in April hasn’t always been a harbinger of a good season; seven times it was actually misleading. In 2011 the Rockies got off to a 17-8 start, only to finish 73-89.  In 2013, 16-11 turned into 74-88, and in 2014, 16-13 ended 66-96.

The Rockies have made the postseason only three times after starting with a winning record in April. In the World Series year of 2007, they started 10-16. And two years later, when they set the club record for victories in a season with 92, they began 8-12.

So, what does a winning record this April portend? 

Here are some encouraging signs early in 2022: Through the first 15 games, 13 of the 14 position players on the opening day roster had either scored or driven in one or more runs, and four of the eight relievers had recorded at least one save. The bullpen was 6-1 and had a compositie 2.40 ERA if you disregard one bad inning in the last Philadelphia home game (5 runs in the seventh) and two in the first game in Detroit (4 each in the 6th and 7th). Even with those 13 runs, the relievers’ ERA is a respectable 4.27.

The new guys were in the thick of it. Kris Bryant, Randall Grichuk and Jose Iglesias were a combined 40-for 127 (.315), starter Chad Kuhl was 2-0 with a 1.10 ERA in three games, and Regis Jesuit alum Ty Blach , one of only two lefthanded relievers, also is 1-0 and didn’t allow a run in his first two relief appearances covering five and two-thirds innings before back-to-back hiccups. 

In other words, everyone has been contributing.

Most significantly, Sunday’s 6-2 victory at Detroit was this team’s fourth road win of the young season. That’s four road victories before the date of last year’s first (7-5 at San Francisco on April 27), and more than a month before last year’s team won its fourth (4-3 at Pittsburgh on May 30).

So, how will it turn out? Only time will tell—as with the Broncos, their new quarterback and whomever they pick in the second round of the draft.

Denny Dressman is a veteran of 43 years in the newspaper business, including 25 at the Rocky Mountain News, where he began as executive sports editor. He is the author of 14 books, eight of them sports-related. You can write to Denny at dennydressman@comcast.net.