Name: DeMarcus Walker
Height: 6’4" Weight: 280 lbs
Age: 22 Experience: R
College: Florida State
When I saw the quote from Jimbo Fisher, I was hooked on DeMarcus Walker.
For those who have yet to see the quote, the head coach at Florida State said this of the defensive end: “He is one of the best players in Florida State history.” As I said in my column when Walker was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the second round, there’s always a level of coach speak when it comes to the NFL Draft.
But, as I said then, Fisher doesn’t seem like one to throw praise around like that willy-nilly. You know when he says something like that it means an awful lot. And when you consider the history of the Seminoles on defense, it makes you pause and say, “holy crap. I can’t wait to see what Walker will do in this defense with all of that talent around him.”
That hasn’t changed from April. In fact, after Jeffrey Essary’s story on how the Broncos may have found their replacement for Malik Jackson with Walker, I got even more excited about his prospects in Denver and what he could do in this defense.
The best aspect of Walker is how versatile he is. He can play inside and outside on the defensive line. In other words, he stays on the field. Walker also is strong against the run and pass. Think of the guys who have been effective for the Broncos at defensive tackle or defensive end. They had that same versatility that made them hard to block or prepare for.
Let’s look at the numbers of the recent No. 1 pick Myles Garrett and Walker. For the 2016 season, Garrett finished with 33 tackles, 15 for loss and 8.5 sacks for Texas A&M. Walker finished with 67 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss and 16 sacks. But it’s not just the numbers. As NFL analyst Brian Baldinger pointed out on Twitter in April, Walker has the best swim move in the draft. Baldinger added he will see a lot of one-and-ones and thrive in those situations. That’s the key right there. With the other pass rushers on this team, when Walker is on the field he will see nothing but a one-and-one.
As our Christopher Hart said in his scouting report of Walker, “His penchant for terrorizing opposing quarterbacks earned him All-ACC honors in his final two seasons, as well as the title of the ACC Defensive Player of the Year as a senior.”
The other positive for Walker is the chip on his shoulder. Prior to the start of the second round, he tweeted “8 rushers got picked before me. PLEASE remember this.”
Walker is still a rookie. Regardless of what he did in college, how his numbers compare to Garrett and where he ranks in FSU defensive history, he has to show it in the NFL.
While everyone in the Broncos organization hopes they found their replacement for Jackson, let’s pump the brakes. Let’s see how he looks come training camp and the preseason games.
For some of the other issues Walker may face, let’s go back to Hart’s scouting report:
“Can be streaky and inconsistent. Might not have the length or desired athleticism to stick at defensive end in a 3-4 scheme. Only has average range as a defender. Can be overpowered at the point of attack by larger lineman. Far too often plays with a higher pad level. Despite a high level of snaps played with the Seminoles, his best fit might be as a rotational player in the NFL to keep him fresh as a pass rush specialist.”
Some may view the fact that Walker will, more than likely, be a situational player as a negative. I’m not one of them. As Joe Mahoney said in his story, Walker may not play a ton of snaps, but he’ll still get plenty of opportunities to shine. For a rookie on this defense, that’s a recipe for success.
Walker on how he describes his game and who he hopes to learn from on the Broncos defense:
“I’m just a relentless player with skills. I’m all in wherever they want me to play. I’m going to go after the quarterback to win games. All of them. You can never get enough knowledge. I’m going to learn from all of them.”
Walker and the Broncos are in a win-win right now. Give him the chance to get acclimated and comfortable with the NFL. Have a realistic set of expectations for Walker. If he blows by them, you adjust. But as with any player, put him in the best position to have success and leave it up to him.