When the Broncos snagged running back Devontae Booker on day three of the NFL Draft, many noted that the former Utah Ute could be an immediate contributor to the Broncos' offense - an offense that will likely look much more like a traditional Gary Kubiak offense this year with lots of help from the backs.
Prior to Utah, Booker played for American River Community College in his hometown Sacramento, Calif., where he led the conference in rushing yards per game and touchdowns. As a Ute for just two years, Booker became the bedrock of the offense, logging more than 2,700 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns in just 23 games. He averaged 120.6 yards per game while at Utah.
Of his fourth-round pick, Broncos' GM John Elway tweeted that the Broncos were able to pick "one of the highest rated RBs on our board. Physical, versatile and has great ball skills."
Shane Roberts, writer for Utah's Block U, tells us that is exactly what we are getting.
MHR - Getting Devontae Booker in the fourth round was considered very lucky and many fans see Booker as potentially a big impact running back in the NFL. Is this highly optimistic, or is the love for Booker warranted
Shane Roberts - It's completely warranted because "Book" is a complete running back. He's obviously a great running back, but he's also a really good receiver out of the backfield, and he's turned into a good blocker. Booker is about as hard of a worker as you'll get, and he will let his play do his talking.
MHR - Among our writers and readers, Booker was considered the draft pick to potentially have the biggest impact on the team this year and some see him as perhaps the best RB on the team. How close or far off are we in our "assessments" (aka, optimism)?
Shane Roberts - I think you're right on. I've seen some Bronco fans, and even media members, say Booker's the best back on the Broncos right now, and I think that is accurate. Combine Booker with that scheme, and you could have a potential Pro-Bowler on the roster.
MHR - Among Booker's strengths listed on our scouting report were "patient runner with excellent vision, good balance, explosive, great footwork, elusive, quick, follows blockers well." Agree?
Shane Roberts - I would agree wholeheartedly, with what I added above. Often times in college football, you can run by people, or run over people, but in the NFL you need to be patient and set up your blockers. Booker is great at that. He will let a play develop and what may look like a lost play, due to his patience, it will eventually pan out.
He's also really hard to bring down. It usually takes more than one guy to tackle him because he's what I would consider a "slippery" running back. He just shreds tacklers, and he does it better than almost anybody I've ever seen.
MHR - An SBNation article last fall noted Utah ran the "Booker offense" as the running back led the team in both rushes and receptions, due in part to an outstanding offensive line. The Broncos have what we will euphemistically call "an improving O-line." Will this be a problem for Booker, or is his "elusiveness" good enough to overcome a struggling line?
Shane Roberts - No, it won't be a problem. While Utah's line was good, it struggled at times, and there were times Booker would get hit in the backfield, and while a lot of backs would fall for a loss, Book would find a way to at least get back to the line of scrimmage. His patience and elusiveness will be a major addition to a team with a developing line.
MHR - One of the weaknesses of Booker's game we listed was ball control, pointing out his 9 fumbles in two years. Is this an issue for him as a running back and do you see him being able to correct this easily?
Shane Roberts - It was a big problem his first year on campus, and frankly kept him off the field for the first three games of his career. However, he was able to get that fixed, for the most part, in his second and final season. He did have some unfortunately timed fumbles, but it was basically fixed his second season.
MHR - Gary Kubiak loves running backs and has been known to develop some excellent ones others overlooked, such as Arian Foster and Justin Forsett. Do you see Booker being a good fit for Kubiak's style of running back (powerful, willing to block, workhorse of the offense) in this Broncos ZBS offense?
Shane Roberts - Without a doubt. Booker has been compared to Arian Foster for a couple of years now, especially since he's such a good pass-catching running back. Book is a workhorse, and was a workhorse for Utah. He gets stronger as games go along, and when you see him bust a big one or two in the fourth quarter, it's all due to him wearing down the defense the previous three quarters.
MHR - What kind of teammate is Booker and how do you see him fitting in to the Super Bowl mindset of the Broncos?
Shane Roberts - He's quiet, so he's not a big vocal leader. So he's not going to come in and rattle the cages or anything like that. He'll fit in just fine. At Utah, he sat his first three games, basically, and a lot of people had a hunch (myself included) that he was the best back on the team. He didn't make a fuss or anything; he just waited for his opportunity.
MHR - What is something we may not know about Booker?
Shane Roberts - Probably not a lot. While he is coming off of a knee injury, Booker was very durable at Utah. He had a ton of carries over his two seasons at Utah and lasted really well, until he took a bad tackle against Arizona. Even after he tore his meniscus (and maybe MCL?), he still played another half on that knee and was productive.
MHR - What is your favorite thing about this kid?
Shane Roberts - He's just a quiet workhorse and will do whatever it takes to win. Whether it's tote the ball 30 or 40 times, he'll do it. Whether it means pass block, he'll do it. Whether it means splitting out and catching passes, he'll do it. He'll do it all without complaining. The Broncos got a good one, and they have another fan in me.