The 2017 NFL draft is in the books. A lot of people in Broncos Country had highs and lows in this draft replete with curses aimed at the Denver Broncos’ front office. But let me help you all take a step back from that ledge. I’m an eye test guy who has been studying the NFL game for a long time. I’ve taken the time now that we’ve made our picks to study some film on these guys including interviews / conferences so I can form some No Bull thoughts on our picks, pros / cons, and what I think the picks tell us about the thinking of the Broncos organization.
Reviewing Needs vs Picks
Before the draft I posted a preview article where among other things, I laid out the team’s needs as I saw them. Let’s apply some hindsight and see where things ended up.
Defensive End: Nailed it. The Broncos took DE in the 2nd in DeMarcus Walker with big upside as a pass rusher.
Running Back: I’d call this more of a lesser need in retrospect. The Broncos got a late round RB in De'Angelo Henderson who is very comparable to Danny Woodhead and not really a primary 3-down type of back.
Slot WR / Returner: I’d call this one accurate as well. The Broncos got Carlos Henderson in the 3rd and Isaiah McKenzie in the 5th. Both have great return skills and are of the smaller, faster mold you’d like to see in the slot.
Inside Linebacker: If there were any question on if the front office valued this position, it should be answered at this point. Denver had a shot at a couple of very solid linebackers in this draft and moved on without blinking. Denver will likely keep filling this part of the defense with undrafted players or by poaching other team’s practice squads.
Tackle: Having this in the “lesser” category was clearly a miss on my part. The Broncos either thought supremely highly of Bolles or felt their need at tackle was enormous (or maybe both).
Cornerback: I’d say this was another slam dunk. The Broncos selected Brendan Langley at the end of the 3rd round (which many would call a little high). There’s almost no way to read that high of a pick being used on Langley as anything other than the defensive coaches loving the guy and thinking he’s got a lot of potential they can get out of him in a couple of years.
Tight End: Another hit here as the Broncos used a 5th round pick on Jake Butt. If it weren’t for his injury, he would have likely gone in the 2nd round. As it stands, the Broncos have another injury question tight end that they can work on developing who has what looks like a high ceiling.
Pros / Cons and Potential
Now let’s dig in a little deeper into our draft picks. Here I’ll give my two cents on each pick as far as pros and cons on each player as well as where I’m seeing their potential (just my opinion...feel free to disagree in the comments!).
1st - Garett Bolles OT Utah
- Consistent run blocker
- High athleticism
- Nasty attitude
- Loves football
- Technique needs a work especially in pass blocking
- Some red flags in his history
I’m not backing away from calling this a fairly risky pick in the 1st round. That being said, I do like a lot of what I’m seeing on film from this guy especially in run blocking. He’s got a lot of pluses on the football field that look like they will translate into some improvement in our team’s run game right away. I will say that Bolles has got some work to do on pass blocking.
I do think overall this kid has the opportunity to be a strong left tackle for us. Why? Because I’ve seen the attitude and drive that he has before in Derek Wolfe. The talk he talks is the same kind of fire and drive. If he can walk the walk too, he’s going to have a lot of people in Broncos Country very pleased with Elway’s first pick in 2017.
Upside: 7+ year starter at LT
Downside: Average NFL LT a little weak against good pass rushers.
2nd - DeMarcus Walker DE FSU
- Some really impressive hand fighting technique shown
- Relentless motor for pass rushing
- Multiple pass rush moves in his repertoire
- Versatile in playing either side of the formation inside or out
- Larger linemen gave him trouble in both areas
- Needs to increase his size and strength
- Doesn’t look like a full time starter year one, though he may develop into one
I really like what DeMarcus Walker brings to the table for the Broncos. I’ll be a little surprised to see him make a big impact in year 1, but he’s the kind of player who is very likely to develop into a big time NFL lineman by the end of year 2.
Also, in reviewing his interviews, you have to absolutely love the attitude this kid brings. He’s a guy that is going to work hard, earn his place, and fight every day to help this team win. I know that’s a bit cliche, but I can’t say enough about how much attitude plays into success in every facet of life.
Upside: Long term starter at DE
Downside: Rotational pass rusher
3rd - Carlos Henderson WR Louisiana Tech
- This kid has the jets
- Very elusive in traffic
- Home run threat after the catch
- Will need to sharpen route running at NFL level
The potential for Carlos Henderson in a Mike McCoy offense is very big. McCoy loves to design plays for big gains after the catch and this is the precise kind of weapon he can use to help put points on the board for the Broncos’ offense.
His speed alone is going to have him see the field in all likelihood this year as our #3 or #4 WR. He’s another jet sweep threat as well and his game reminds me a bit of Emmanuel Sanders honestly.
Upside: Dangerous NFL Y WR
Downside: 3 year depth WR
3rd - Brendan Langley CB Lamar
- Size and speed combination is a plus for corner
- Likely special teams impact player with return skills
- Very raw prospect development wise
This pick was a bit of a head scratcher to many as Langley was more likely to be a 4th or 5th round pick according to most draft profiles. The Broncos must have really fell in love with his athletic ability though.
While we’ll likely see him contribute this year on special teams, watch for his development at corner over the next two seasons. With hard work, training, and the best examples of cornerback play the NFL has to offer in Denver, he’s going to have every chance to develop into a key starter in a few years.
Upside: Some potential to turn into a legit #1 or #2 CB
Downside: Special teams ace
5th - Jake Butt TE Michigan
- Great route runner
- Sneaky speed for a TE
- Red zone threat
- Injury history is a sizeable risk
- Needs to improve run blocking for NFL level
If Jake Butt can get healthy and stay that way, this 5th round pick could be the steal of the 2017 NFL Draft. He is another smart, talented weapon for the offense with high upside. In reviewing some of his game tape, I see an awful lot of Jason Witten’s sneakiness in his play at tight end for Michigan.
I’m honestly not sure if he’ll be successful rushing back to health to start the preseason, but if he can get healthy, he has just as good a chance as any other Broncos TE to give the offense signifcant snaps in 2017.
Upside: 5+ year starting TE
Downside: Injury casualty < 3 years
5th - Isaiah McKenzie WR Georgia
- Talented Returner
- Gadget use for jet sweep and end around type plays
- Great top end speed
- Elusive after the catch
- Surprisingly lacks top end quickness you’d like to see in a Y WR
- Small frame
- Needs development in route running at the NFL level
The most exciting thing I see from McKenzie’s game is his return running. He’s got the kind of return skills we haven’t seen since Trindon Holliday in his prime. Hopefully McKenzie doesn’t have the same trouble with stone hands.
If used properly and smartly, this receiver can be a very potent weapon for a team much like a Tyreek Hill or Golden Tate. He isn’t going to get there in year one, but the hope is he develops a lot of NFL skill in his first year while he may have a shot to make the team as a pure returner.
Upside: NFL deep threat #3 WR / Return Specialist
Downside: Special teams return specialist < 3 years
6th - De'Angelo Henderson RB Coastal Carolina
- Runs with more strength than his size would suggest
- Shifty runner in and around traffic
- Brings some level of pass blocking skill (rare for RBs out of college)
- Inconsistent play
- A little undersized
I definitely see flashes of potential when I watch video on Henderson. His running really does remind me of the little bowling-ball style of Maurice Jones-Drew, with a little power shaved off the top. I’m curious to see if he bulks up some in order to bring some more power to his game. His lower body bears a lot of power in his runs which is evident in seeing players try to tackle him below the waist and get ran through or left in the dust.
That being said, I always like to temper my expectations on guys from smaller schools. The competition I saw for him wasn’t exactly stellar. This leaves me really wanting to keep an eye on him in training camp and the preseason. What can he do against NFL level talent?
Upside: Rotational RB / possible starter
Downside: practice squad player
7th - Chad Kelly QB Ole Miss
- Big arm
- Strong runner
- Can buy time using his legs
- Decent ability to notice routes coming open
- Throws fearlessly
- Throws fearlessly
- Off field red flags
Let me start off by saying I’m not a proponent of another Jay Cutler here in Denver. That’s what I see when I look at video of Kelly’s play. He’s a gunslinger for sure and has the attitude to go with it. That’s not all bad honestly if it can be harnessed and focused into desire to win as part of the team. I like a QB who has confidence (/ cockiness). I can very much see positives in Kelly’s play that help me understand the Broncos taking him in the draft.
My expectations aren’t high here though. He’s coming off a fairly serious injury and is going to need time to develop in order to get up to speed on the NFL game. I find it pretty likely honestly that he spends his first year on injured reserve as that just seems like a smart move for the team.
He’s got a lot to prove before he should even be in the conversation for a starting QB for the Broncos. He needs to show maturity, stability, and some serious upside on the field after this year if he wants to get in the mix.
Upside: Long-term Starting QB (yes, this potential exists in his game)
Downside: Practice squad wash out
Insights on front office thinking
I always find the offseason such a fascinating part of the NFL cycle. It is interesting to analyze the moves teams make in both free agency and the draft as actions speak very loudly if you pay attention to them.
Here’s my take-aways on the way the team drafted and what it means for our personnel:
- There really wasn’t a serious potential starting LT on the team prior to this draft. All the talk to the contrary was smoke and mirrors
- The new offensive coaching staff asked for more juice and the front office delivered
- Someone in the Broncos organization made some serious noise about needing returner talent on the team
- Until someone proves their worth as a starter, Denver is not going to stop searching for a QB (I’m a very big proponent of this methodology BTW...spend a pick every draft on QB until you find one)
- The trading we did I thought was honestly fair to above average. With 10 picks in the draft, trading one off for a higher pick in the next year was a smart move. Also, their move up was a good use of a late 7th round pick.
Now we get into OTAs with training camp around the corner. Hit up the comments and add your insights and thoughts on this draft. Did you like it? Did you hate it? Did you think it was a good time as always (this is me, btw)? Which draft pick was your favorite and why?