ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (The Sports Xchange) – The Denver Broncos had a need for speed.
Last year, Denver finished tied for last in the league in total plays that gained at least 20 yards. The offense lacked explosion; its game-breaking threats failed to dent one defense after another.
As new Broncos head coach Vance Joseph said when offseason workouts began, it was a unit that desperately needed “juice.” It needed players who were a threat to take it to the end zone every time they touched the ball.
After selecting tackle Garett Bowles and defensive end DeMarcus Walker with their first two picks, the Broncos believe they found that speed with wide receivers Carlos Henderson and Isaiah McKenzie and running back De’Angelo Henderson.
Carlos Henderson scored once every 5.25 times he caught the football last year for Louisiana Tech and led FBS in all-purpose yardage. McKenzie scored once every seven offensive touches last year and returned five punts for touchdowns at Georgia.
De’Angelo Henderson, a Coastal Carolina product who racked up 5,556 yards from scrimmage in his career, set a Division I record by scoring at least one touchdown in 35 consecutive games and is a productive pass-catcher out of the backfield.
All could emerge as vital underneath and inside targets in the quick-strike, pass-intensive offensive new coordinator Mike McCoy is installing.
“Our goal going into the draft was to add speed, especially speed in the interior of the offense,” Joseph said. “We’ve got those two guys outside (receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders) and most teams are going to play in bracket or shell coverage, so you have to have guys inside to attack linebackers and attack the slot players.
“That was accomplished with Carlos and De’Angelo and Isaiah McKenzie.”
Here is a closer look at each selection:
Round 1/20 — Garett Bolles, T, 6-5, 297, Utah
The Broncos stood pat and got a player they valued at a position of urgent need. Denver favored him over Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk because of his ability as a pass blocker and the nasty streak with which he plays. Bolles will have to adjust to working in a three-point stance, and will have to learn how to take fewer penalties, but given the issues the Broncos have at left tackle, they hope he can develop and start right away.
Round 2/51 — DeMarcus Walker, DE, 6-4, 280, Florida State
The Broncos were not able to replace Malik Jackson last year, struggling to generate the same interior pass rush the team did when he worked alongside Derek Wolfe. They hope that Walker, the most productive pass rusher among potential 3-4 defensive linemen in this year’s class, will change that. The 280-pounder racked up 16 sacks and 21.5 tackles for losses last year. He isn’t expected to start right away, but should factor in the Broncos’ sub package on passing downs.
Round 3/82 — Carlos Henderson, WR, 5-11, 199, Louisiana Tech
The explosive Henderson led FBS in all-purpose yardage last year and should be the Broncos’ kickoff returner right away. But he also has a chance to be the team’s No. 3 receiver working from the slot. A converted running back, Henderson has a sturdy build that allows him to force tacklers to bounce off him, leading to plenty of yardage after the catch.
Round 3/101 — Brendan Langley, CB, 6-0, 201, Lamar
Lengthy, strong, athletic and intelligent, Langley showed palpable growth during his work at the Senior Bowl, overcoming early-week practice struggles to post an interception in the game. The Broncos hope to see that sort of growth in him this year. John Elway and Vance Joseph acknowledged that he is “raw,” but they expect him to grow with the tutelage of Pro Bowlers Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib.
Round 5/145 — Jake Butt, TE, 6-5, 246, Michigan
There were few tight ends available who could work in both an in-line role and outside. Butt was one of them. The Broncos must wait out his recovery from a torn ACL, and the fact that it was his second ACL tear offers cause for concern. However, Butt was a potential first-round pick if he was healthy. He’s a worthy risk for the Broncos, and if he regains his full health, the 2016 John Mackey Award winner could be the steal of the draft.
Round 5/172 — Isaiah McKenzie, WR, 5-7, 173, Georgia
The electric McKenzie scored five touchdowns on punt returns at Georgia and averaged one touchdown every seven offensive touches last season. He doesn’t have the same straight-line speed as Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill, but matches him in quickness. He could be the Broncos’ punt returner right away.
Round 6/203 — De’Angelo Henderson, RB, 5-7, 208, Coastal Carolina
Incredibly productive in college — with a Division I-record 35 consecutive games with at least one touchdown — Henderson could eventually be an every-down threat for the Broncos. For now, he should settle in as the No. 3 back behind C.J. Anderson and Devonte Booker, with plenty of opportunities on special teams. An outstanding pass catcher out of the backfield, he could find an immediate role as a third-down specialist.
Round 7/253 — Chad Kelly, QB, 6-2, 224, Mississippi
Has there ever been a more relevant Mr. Irrelevant? Kelly’s arm strength and talent would have placed him in the second round if not for a passel of character concerns and a thumb injury that will prevent him from throwing in practice until August. If he steers clear of off-field issues and quietly develops, he could present an intriguing option in one or two years if Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch fail to launch.