Comparisons are always hazardous.
Some may love them and some will feel the side effects and hate them. Welcome to the NFL Draft and the wide world of sports, where an analysis must have a comparison to become complete.
So right on cue, let’s make one for the Denver Broncos first pick in the fifth-round, Michigan tight end Jake Butt. Had he not torn the ACL in his right knee in the Orange Bowl, he would have been a second-day pick. That’s incredible value for John Elway, Vance Joseph and Mike McCoy.
The comparison some have made about Butt is to Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten. Even Cowboys fans have made the comparison. They really wanted the Cowboys to take Butt. When you look at Butt’s game, you can see it. Like Witten, Butt catches everything thrown his way. As his profile on NFL.com said, his strong hands are like magnets.
“Can snatch and secure at the catch point. Tough and reliable when working in traffic. Fearless in the middle of the field and understands how to protect himself and the ball while there.”
What seals the comparison is how effective Butt is in the red zone. When you look at the last few seasons, that is sorely needed in Denver’s offense. They now have that with Butt. As the profile added, “Effective in intermediate work adjusting routes according to defensive positioning. Competitive after catch with ability to add to his yardage through force.”
The major weaknesses in Butt’s game are his poor blocking, lack of athleticism, speed and limited catch radius. Geep Chryst and McCoy should be able to assist Butt on all of those fronts. As is the case with the other picks in this draft for Denver, they all want to get better and put in the work to do so.
The major question about Butt: When will he see the field? The Broncos think he’ll be ready by August or September. As Mike Klis added, hopefully he’s farther along than last year’s second-round pick Adam Gotsis, who also was coming off an ACL injury that impacted him the whole season. Perhaps this is a situation where Butt sits the year, but they won’t know until he gets on the field.
“In terms of the injury, I’m right on schedule,” Butt told the Denver media. “The plan right now is to be ready for the beginning of the season. I don’t see why that’s not possible, so I can’t wait to get out there in Denver and start working.
“That is ambitious, and last time when I tore my ACL the first time around, they told me, ‘You’re probably going to get redshirted or you won’t play until Big Ten season.’ I said, ‘You know what, you guys can think that.’ I ended up playing in week two, so I’ve always been ambitious. I think that’s what helps me unlock my full potential, setting goals that many people might think are crazy and then going out there and doing it.”
Broncos believe Jake Butt will be recovered for training camp. Adam Gotsis had ACL last year and full go in camp. Did affect him. #9sports— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) April 29, 2017
For the Witten comparison to hold water, Butt has to stay on the field. Witten has been a model of consistency in Dallas, to say the least. Since the 2004 season, he’s started 207 out of 208 games. That is incredible. If Butt can stay on the field, the sky’s the limit for what he can do in McCoy’s offense.
We may not see Butt on the field for a while, but there’s still a chance he could. Paired with third-round pick Carlos Henderson, the Broncos have the juice and sizzle they craved on offense. If Butt lives up to the comparison to Witten, this is a remarkable pick.
“You’re going to get a versatile tight end that you can line up really anywhere on the field who can do a lot of different things,” Butt told the Denver media. “I think I can move the chains on 3rd-and-8 in man or zone coverage, whatever it is. Then 3rd-and-1, I want to stay on that field and make the key block to move the chains if we need a big run. You can line me up in the backfield, flex me in the slot, use me as move tight end or an in-line blocker. I know I’m not where I need to be as a player, where I want to be, but I’m excited to work towards it and become a better and better player for this organization.”
Receiver Isaiah McKenzie
If the selections of Henderson and Butt weren’t enough juice, Denver added even more with Georgia receiver Isaiah McKenzie. He’s another change of pace, ultra fast weapon for the Broncos - on offense and special teams. The latter of those is where you’ll probably see McKenzie make an immediate impact.
For a comparison’s sake, it’s been thrown around McKenzie looks and plays like former Broncos returner Trindon Holliday. Same kind of elusiveness, quickness, cutting ability and speed. It will be fun to see what McKenzie looks like in training camp and throughout the preseason in special teams drills.
The last few seasons Denver has had no punch from its returners. Now they have three guys, all taken in this year’s draft, who have that proven ability. Henderson, McKenzie and Brendan Langley. That’s a major upgrade and will be fun to see how emerges has the No. 1 guy. Or if there’s a duo. Or a triumvirate of returners. Perhaps the only person happier than McCoy is new special teams coordinator Brock Olivo. He has some serious weapons of his own.
As Andrew Mason said on Twitter, McKenzie has work to do to become every-down contributor as a receiver, but like Langley he has the chance to learn and work with some of the best while getting action on special teams.
My breakdown of Isaiah McKenzie. Love this pick. Between McKenzie, Carlos Henderson & Jake Butt -- this is the "juice" Vance Joseph wanted. pic.twitter.com/zs4XvIia0i— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) April 29, 2017
Running back De’Angelo Henderson
Elway and the Broncos carried over the juice theme with the selection of Coastal Carolina De’Angelo Henderson. This cat knows who to find the end zone. Henderson scored at least one touchdown in 35-straights games. For his career, he scored 58 touchdowns.
On top of that, Henderson is a model of consistency in terms of carries, yards and average per carry. Some of the comparisons were made to Danny Woodhead and Brandon Oliver, both weapons at running back that McCoy had in San Diego. Henderson believes he’s a complete running back. He can run, he can catch and he can block. On top of the speed, he’s also a physical runner.
At the very least, it adds depth at the position and a change of pace as the receiving threat out of the backfield. In other words, another weapon for McCoy to play with on Denver’s offense with a guy who is willing to do whatever is asked of him.
Henderson even told the media he’s willing to play special teams: “Whatever it takes to get me on the field, that's what I'm going to do."
Our 6th rounder is RB De'Angelo Henderson from Coastal Carolina. A very productive back who scored lots of TDs & plays bigger than his size.— John Elway (@johnelway) April 29, 2017
Quarterback Chad Kelly
Mr. Irrelevant is the quarterback from Ole Miss, and now the Broncos have their No. 3 quarterback when he’s healthy. Kelly is the nephew of Hall of Famer Jim Kelly.
There are some off the field concerns and injury issues, but Mike Mayock loves the pick of Kelly. He won’t be expected to do much other than learn and serve as the scout quarterback in his first year, but it fills another need and is a good risk-reward for Denver at the right time. Elway in the post-draft news conference said that the organization will bring on another arm until Kelly is healthy.
It also caps what could be considered the best final day of a draft in Elway’s tenure. Another day where the Broncos bring in guys with chips on their shoulders, potential play makers and ones who want to put in the work to become great. In all, a very good draft for Denver.