ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — The Denver Broncos didn’t grab the defensive tackle they so desperately needed in the NFL draft. They did get an offensive tackle with a mean streak in the mold of those run-stuffers in Miami’s Orlando Franklin.
Franklin moved from left guard to left tackle his junior season, but the Hurricanes’ dominant drive blocker will play right tackle in Denver, where he could be protecting Tim Tebow’s blind side if the second-year Florida quarterback beats out Kyle Orton this fall.
What Franklin really looks forward to is boring holes for Tebow or the Broncos running backs.
“I like to think of myself as the most physical offensive lineman that was in this draft, and I am looking forward to bringing that nature to the Denver Broncos,” Franklin said.
It’s hard to overlook the 6-foot-5, 322-pound offensive lineman nicknamed “Big O” now, but that was precisely his family’s fear while Franklin, who was born in Jamaica, was growing up in Toronto.
His family moved to Florida before his senior year of high school so he could get noticed by recruiters.
“It was real hard in Toronto,” Franklin said. “I think that if I never moved from Toronto that I wouldn’t be in the position that I’m in today. Once I got to the U.S. it was not real hard because I got a lot of opportunities to play really early and I got on the field and got recruited by a bunch of teams.”
Franklin chose the University of Miami, where he played in 51 games in four years, one shy of the school record, and registered 29 combined touchdown-resulting blocks in his junior and senior seasons while developing a reputation as a kindhearted teddy bear off the field who transforms himself into a mean player on it.
“Yeah, you could say that, I guess. Some people accuse me of being a dirty player, but I just like to get after it,” Franklin said. “Some people just think I’m a nasty player because I talk a lot on the field and I’m trying to get the pancake (blocks) and stuff and I’m going to talk all game to you. That’s just my game.”
His play is what spoke so loudly to the Broncos.
General manager Brian Xanders visited Miami last year and said he liked everything about Franklin, from his experience to his size and strength, but especially his nastiness.
“He takes his guy three or four yards down the field. He’s a good pass protector because he has length in his arms,” Xanders said. “We just liked his demeanor, and then we had a good interview. He had an edge to him. He was ready to go. We think he fits in also as a right tackle because of his physicality and his size and in the vertical movement he possesses.”
Coach John Fox, who is known for injecting players with a nasty streak into his defenses, looks for the same demeanor in his offensive linemen.
“He’s big and physical and knocks people off the ball. He gets his hands on you and you’re usually going the other way,” Fox said.
So, the Broncos bypassed such heralded run-stuffing prospects as Marvin Austin and Stephen Paea to select Franklin in the second round of the NFL draft last week.
“Orlando helps us big time at tackle,” said John Elway, chief of football operations. “It makes us pretty solid up front.”
Given his nose for nastiness, it’s no surprise that Franklin considers run-blocking his strength, and he said he’s eager to drive defensive linemen back for a mobile quarterback like Tebow: “It definitely makes playing football a whole lot more exciting.”
What he’ll have to hone are his pass-protecting skills, but the Broncos expect him to be able to step right in and start as a rookie in place of Ryan Harris, who is expected to bolt in free agency whenever the NFL’s labor impasse is ironed out.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)