Fighting Irish Follow-Up: Audric Estimé lands in ideal spot with Denver Broncos

Last month, we analyzed Audric Estimé's career at Notre Dame and where he could hear his name called during the 2024 NFL draft. We hinted that his sub-par performance at the NFL Combine could sink his draft stock, which turned out to be accurate. He wasn't selected until the 147th pick, when the Denver Broncos mercifully ended his draft slide. 

While he might have waited longer to hear his name than he hoped, it's tough to imagine a much better situation in the pros for Estimé than Denver. The top two running backs on their depth chart, Javonte Williams and Samaje Perine, are entering the final years of their contracts, and neither has shown enough promise to be committed to long-term. 

Williams, specifically, has left the door open for a competition, as he struggled mightily in his return from suffering a torn ACL and LCL (amongst other ligaments) early in the 2022 season. He was held under four yards per attempt for the first time in his career and lost carries to 2023 undrafted rookie Jaleel McLaughlin. 

The fact that head coach Sean Payton has also historically preferred to go with a running back by committee approach, rather than deploying a lead back who gets the brunt of the work, is also working in the 20-year-old's favor. 

Payton previously spent 15 years as the head coach in New Orleans. In eleven of those seasons, he had at least two running backs eclipse the 100-carry mark. In short, when he wants to run the ball, he often wants to spread the work amongst multiple players. 

With McLaughlin (who would best be utilized as a change of pace option due to his slight frame) being the only running back under contract after the 2024 season, it would make sense that Denver would want to see what they have in Estimé before deciding how much they need to prioritize the position next offseason. 

The Broncos selected Bo Nix in the first round of the draft, and with only Jarrett Stidham and Zach Wilson ahead of him on the depth chart, he is expected to get thrown into the fire early in his career. Nevertheless, quarterbacks tend to have a much more difficult adjustment translating their game to the pros than running backs.

If they want to make life as easy on Nix as possible, utilizing their ground attack early and often would be the best way of accomplishing that goal. If Estimé can impress when he gets his opportunities to do so, both in training camp and throughout the season, he can earn more work as the year progresses.

The running back position has become greatly devalued over the years, and many talented players fell through the cracks of the NFL Draft as a result.  

Estimé is the prime example of someone who wouldn't have made it beyond the second round if he entered the league a few decades ago, even with the 40 time on his record. He is a human battering ram who always gives full effort and wears defenses down as the game goes on.

Much like fellow Notre Dame running back Kyren Williams, who also fell to the fifth round three years ago, he will have a chance to prove his doubters wrong in the pros. 

While his rookie contract might be less than he would have hoped, it's safe to say Estimé won't let his draft position define him. He will be eager to make the Broncos look smart for ending his draft fall. 

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