CHICAGO (CBS4/The Sports Xchange) – Backfield help landed in Denver in the form of Utah running back Devontae Booker, a fourth-round pick of the Broncos announced at rain-soaked Grant Park in Chicago on Saturday afternoon.
Booker was the 136th pick in the three-day draft and after averaging 120.6 yards per game for the Utes, he should help the Broncos transition to a new quarterback in 2016.READ MORE: Colorado Snow Totals: Boulder County Gets More Than A Foot
Peyton Manning retired and Brock Osweiler bolted for much greener pastures as a free agent ($72 million over four years from the Houston Texans). That pushed vice president and general manager John Elway to acquire former first-round pick Mark Sanchez and trade up in the first round to select Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch.
In Booker, the Broncos have a true North-South plowhorse perfectly suited for the one-cut zone running scheme head coach Gary Kubiak employs. Booker joins C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman in the Broncos’ backfield if he recovers from knee surgery.
Worth noting of Sanchez, his most successful seasons with the New York Jets involved game plans that plotted to feature a power-running game and minimize Sanchez’s role.
With comparisons to Arian Foster, who played for Kubiak in Houston, and Terrell Davis, the former Georgia and Broncos running back whose career ended because of knee problems only after a 2,000-yard season, there is much to like about Booker.READ MORE: More Jobs Become Available As Colorado Reopens, Prepares For Post Pandemic
The Broncos habitually score big with overlooked running backs, a lineage that includes Davis, Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson and current starter C.J. Anderson, who was undrafted out of Cal but went to the Pro Bowl and helped Denver to a Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl 50.
Perhaps the best endorsements of Booker came from coaches who plotted to stop him. Stanford’s David Shaw called Booker “the real deal.” Current Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said of Booker: “That’s a man.”
There are also reasons he was still available Saturday, one of them being his relatively advanced age (24).
Booker had impressive streaks at Utah, but knee surgery that ended his season and college career last November.
Booker was productive every time he got a chance, starting at Sacramento’s Grant High School (2,844 yards and 45 touchdowns in an incredible senior year), then at American River Junior College (1,472 yards rushing, 15 touchdowns) and, after sitting out 2013 to catch up academically at Utah, he lit up the Pac-12 in 2014 with 1,512 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Booker’s running style is as subtle as a quick punch in the nose, and often just as effective. But he does not have speed to run away and needs work on pass blocking and receiving.
“I feel like I can play special teams. I played special teams in junior college and when I got up to Utah they put me on it for the first couple weeks and then they took me off of it. If they need me to play special teams, I’m all for it, whatever they need me to do I’ll do it,” Booker said after being drafted.MORE NEWS: U.S. House Passes SAFE Banking Act To Give Cannabis Industry Access To Banking Services
The pick was announced by former Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer who skied down a slope at Winter Park to make the announcement.