ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The videos of third-round pick Quinn Meinerz pushing over trees got most of the attention in the wake of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Meinerz trained on a remote Canadian island for a pair of offseasons during his career at Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater, and a highlight reel of Meinerz in the woods garnered plenty of eyes — particularly in the Broncos' war room after the team selected him with the 98th-overall pick. In the video, Meinerz does several reps on the bench press, overhead-presses a pile of lumber and, yes, pushes over a tree.
The video is entertaining — as are Meinerz's highlights from his two seasons as a starting left guard against Division III competition. At the time Meinerz was dominating his Division III foes and going one-on-one vs. nature's linemen, though, he wasn't nearly as high on NFL Draft boards as his third-round selection would suggest. And when Whitewater cancelled its 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, Meinerz's goal to join the NFL ranks only became more of a long shot.
"The challenge is obviously that they didn't have football this year at Whitewater," General Manager George Paton said after selecting Meinerz. "We had to go back two years ago when he was 20 pounds heavier, he had a neck roll and he kind of looked like a hunchback on tape. He dominated the competition, but the competition was around [Head Coach] Vic [Fangio]'s size."
Meinerz got the shot he needed when he received a late invite to the Senior Bowl — and those are the highlights worth watching. If the videos of Meinerz against trees and Division III opponents are the most entertaining, the clips of him holding his own against Division I opponents are what most directly led to his eventual draft position.
Against some of the top draft-eligible prospects, Meinerz showed the traits he displayed at Whitewater were transferable to the next level. A 6-foot-3, 320-pound player, Meinerz is explosive off the line of scrimmage and has the strength to move defenders off the line in the run game. He finishes blocks with power, and he also showed desired capability with his hands in the passing game.
During a team run drill, Meinerz pushed UCLA defensive lineman Osa Odighizuwa yards down the field. In a one-on-one pass-rush drill, he forced Pittsburgh's Patrick Jones II to the ground after Jones' spin move failed to gain any traction. Both Odighizuwa and Jones were third-round picks who were taken 23 and eight spots ahead of Meinerz, respectively.
"I think he rose up everyone's draft board because there were a lot of unknowns about him," Paton said. "When you see him in one-on-one drills blocking guys that are first- and second-round picks, it was pretty amazing. You don't see that very often. The more you dig into the person, the player, Whitewater, and where he came from, I think that he rose on everyone's draft boards."
Despite playing left guard in college, Meinerz will begin his Broncos career at center and also cross-train at the guard positions. To earn playing time, Meinerz will have to unseat an incumbent starter. Lloyd Cushenberry III played every snap at center in 2020 after the team took him with a third-round pick last year, while Dalton Risner enters his third season as the team's starting left guard. Right guard Graham Glasgow, a 2020 free-agent addition, appeared in 13 games in his first year in Denver.
Meinerz joins 2020 sixth-round pick Netane Muti as interior offensive linemen with tantalizing ability. It's no stretch to say that the interior of the Broncos' offensive line is one of the deepest areas on Denver's roster.
Despite the depth, Meinerz should provide instant competition along the interior of the line. While he will have to get used to the speed and talent at the NFL level, his body may be more NFL-ready than most prospects.
When he faces off against Denver's talented defensive line — and later against opposing NFL competition — Meinerz will aim to add a few more highlights to his reel. They may not garner as much attention as him shoving a tree in the wilderness, but they just may help him earn a spot on the field.