By Thomas Hall
(247 SPORTS) – The Denver Broncos need a speed receiver to take the top off the defense, especially with strong-armed Joe Flacco taking the reins as the leader of the offense. One would think that Emmanuel Sanders could be that guy, but at age 32 and recovering from a torn Achilles — one of the hardest injuries to return from — that assumption is in doubt.
Since the Broncos did not pick up a speedster in free agency, they may be forced to do so in the draft. Maybe not. This player of need may already be on the roster, people just don’t know it yet.
Brendan Langley, once a raw but promising cornerback, has decided to switch to wide receiver for the upcoming season and it comes with blessing of the general manager, John Elway. Wait a minute. Are the Broncos’ hopes of a “keep the defense honest receiver” resting on a player who is switching positions? Yes, and here’s why it’s going to work.
Langley isn’t a cornerback. Both on the field (performance based) and in his own mind. He rarely saw the field at corner, even when the team was decimated with injuries in the secondary last season. As he announced the position change, he admitted that he does not feel comfortable moving backwards.
A cornerback not comfortable moving backwards is not really a cornerback at all. He also has stated that he was always a wide receiver, but he was trying to switch to cornerback. That experiment has failed, but this new position won’t because it is his natural position.
Now, a player can tell himself many things, but that doesn’t mean he will actually perform to the level he has built up in his mind. However, there are other concrete metrics that support his claim.
First, his measurables and athleticism. He is 6-feet tall, weighs in at 200 pounds, and has 32-inch arms. That does not make him a freak of nature like D.K. Metcalf (who nearly broke the Combine) but these numbers are more than adequate for the wide receiver position. There are several day-two prospects in the 2019 NFL draft that are of equivalent size.
Langley ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds, which is plenty fast. He also performed the 3-cone drill in 7.06 seconds, the short shuttle in 4.21 seconds, and the 60-yard shuttle in 11.19 seconds. These athletic measurements are part of the reason John Elway took a flyer on Langley in the third round. They also would rank him in the top-10 of all the wide receivers at this year’s Combine.
Athletic ability alone does not make a star in the NFL nor does it make a good wide receiver. Langley has other evidence showing he can make it in the NFL at said position. Reports state that he was tough to handle when playing as a wide receiver on the scout team in Broncos’ practices. It is decent anecdotal evidence that he can compete at the NFL level, but there is more.
He was a four-star recruit while playing wide receiver and cornerback in high school. He began his career at Georgia as a receiver before being asked to move to cornerback. Upon transferring to Lamar, he lined up at wide receiver in 2015. In limited action at that position he tallied four receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown.
At the very least, Langley has knowledge of route trees and can catch the ball. When he was entering the draft, one scouting report indicated he had excellent ball skills and that he was adept at high-pointing the football.
Langley is also a play-maker, though he hasn’t shown it in Denver yet. While at Lamar, he had a 55-yard touchdown run and as a punt returner he had a 90-yard touchdown return to go with a total of two return scores. In total, he had 559 career all-purpose yards. Get the ball in his hands and he can make plays, especially now that he feels more comfortable in his role.
Langley was considered a raw prospect at the cornerback position and he can be considered the same as a receiver. At 24 years of age, though, he has a little time to make the transition.
If the Broncos line him up on offense with the strategy to get him a free release, he can perform as a speed option as he learns to be an NFL level pass catcher. If they put him in position to succeed, he can, otherwise it will be chalked up as a third round bust regardless of position.