Denver's most recent late round RB selection seems to be getting a bit of a cold shoulder from the faithful.
If you have learned anyhting about these Denver Broncos it is that they don't mess up the RB picks. I could very easily file this one away under success without pulling out my notes to corroborate what they are doing here, but I enjoy checking up on the Broncos, so it is my pleasure to introduce you to the newest 1000 yd rusher for the Broncos.
But first, let's get something out of the way. We all get a little too caught up in "this guy should go here" and "that guy should go there". Here is a mental exercise: take all of the currently active NFL players and throw them in a pot and then draw lots and draft to build a team (not a fantasy team here, guys. An actual team.) There will be a top fifty or so (around 3 rds) that everyone will be vying for. But after that, the players you want will differ drastically from the players other people want. When the pure talent is off the board, the only consideration is what you think of them, not what anyone else thinks. You may compete for a player here or there, but generally speaking, the most important asset you have is knowing what you want. And Denver knows what they want.
They want Mike Anderson.
Ok, ok, I know that's not fair. I don't like to make player comparisons, but for once I just can't help myself. Ryan is strong, but he isn't too strong. He is fast, but not too fast. He can take a pounding, but not too much of a pounding. He's great north-south runner between the tackles, but not that great. He has great cutback agility and vision, but he doesn't have elite speed to break it every time. He can catch, but he isn't a great catcher.
Ryan and Henry should be BFFs. Where Henry goes, Ryan should be right with him. Not because of similarities in character, as Ryan is a standout character guy with a great blue-collar work ethic (to be fair, I don't lambast Henry as much as some, because he always struck me as accountable. To err is human, just take your lumps like a man.) When you recognize the type of runner that Ryan is, you will recognize what his role in denver will be, if he can earn his way into it:
Protect Travis Henry.
Right now Shanahan likes to start 3 true tailbacks. One bruiser and two change of pace backs. Whether this is a preference of his is debatable, but it is certainly what he had to work with. To me, this doesn't make any sense. Why would you have a breather guy for your changeup specialist? From what I have seen the past two years, I really think that Shanny has integrated the "change-up" back into his play-calling, and I think Hoosierteacher would probably agree with this assessment: Shanny is specifically setting up the homerun ball. But what Shanny needs to be more successful here isn't a fast back to spell Selvin Young, its another durable, tough between the tackles, hard yardage guy that can keep Henry fresh, whether it be in long games or on long drives. Part of this has to do with Henry's injury history, and part to the long fields we have been facing on offense, but regardless, Shanny is leaving nothing to chance.
I have said that the number one priority of the reloading season is finding ways to make the team better at scoring in the redzone, and keeping our goalline bruising back fresh and tough (and hopefully healthy) is a big part of that. No team is scared to face Selvin Young or Hall on the goalline, but even an injured Henry isn't a trifle, because he can break tackles.
Add in ST tackling, which Ryan should be a standout in, and injury insurance for Henry, where our running game doesn't become utterly one dimensional and frail when Henry gets hurt, and this is an awesome, and very solid pick. And this is without even considering what this kid can earn for himself, such as goalline reps ala Marion Barber. I made the mistake of looking at Young/Hall depth late in the draft, partly on the assumption that the durable bruisers would be gone, or non-cutback runners (i.e. Hart). I never once considered Ryan on the grounds that his toe injury would make him a less than ideal choice, and it is possible we should be concerned about it, but he is a durable back with a mild injury history (toe, cramping, an ankle sprain).
He fits the system and Denver wanted him. When it comes to RBs, that all that we need to know.