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DeMarcus Walker’s misused wasted season

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DeMarcus Walker gained a lot of experience being shuffled around to new positions during his rookie season.

Kansas City Chiefs v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

DeMarcus Walker is a defensive end. He played college ball at roughly 285 lbs and would on occasion shift down into an interior (DT) role, particularly on passing downs where his wicked swim move could be deployed to get after the QB and make some offensive guard look foolish.

Unfortunately, with the injury to Shane Ray, someone on the Denver Broncos coaching staff had the brilliant idea to try and convert him to an OLB (much like we did with Robert Ayers back in 2009). Walker is a team player, so he lost some weight (reports stated he was down to about 250 lbs) in order to try and help the team as an OLB (see the picture below).

DenverBroncos.com

The problem is that OLB is not a position that fits his skill-set at all. Walker does not have great lateral agility or straight-line speed. As a defensive lineman, he generally wins with technique, anticipation and effort. One thing that an NFL OLB needs is lateral agility (quickness) and Walker is deficient there, so this was an experiment that was doomed to failure from the start. To give you an idea about his lack of speed and quickness, he was not used at all on special teams—not a single snap, which is very odd for a backup “LB.”

At some point the coaches must have realized that this was a bad idea, so they let Bill Kollar have him (who should have had him in the first place). Walker started gaining back the muscle mass that he had lost to play OLB. By the end of the year, he looked like he might make a good situational pass rush DE for the Denver Broncos in 2018.

Walker played only 100 total defensive snaps for us in 2017: 54 pass rush, 44 run and 2 in coverage. Exactly 36 of those snaps came in the final game against the Kansas City Chiefs where he looked effective, but it’s hard to read into anything from that game.

In very limited snaps he was graded by Pro Football Focus with a 75.2 overall grade, which would have ranked him somewhere in the 50s for edge rushers had he been given enough snaps to qualify. He finished the season with 7 tackles (3 in the final game) and 1.0 sack (also in the final game). By comparison, Ray was graded at 50.7 overall (one of the worst in the league), Shaquil Barrett was graded at 82.1 (33rd for edge defenders) and Von Miller was graded at 95.0 (2nd overall behind Cameron Jordan).

As a second year second round draftee, Walker is slated to make $1.1MM next season with a cap number of $2.0MM. Even if he only becomes a situational player (pass-rush DT), he will be more than earning his keep next season. Given his performance in college (he lead the FBS in sacks in 2016), he should be able to at least be a situational player next season. If he turns into an every down defensive lineman, he will buck the trend of John Elway who commonly drafts busts in the second round.

Poll

Demarcus Walker in 2018 will...

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    continue to disappoint and spend most of the year on the bench
    (80 votes)
  • 2%
    get many snaps, but not produce
    (46 votes)
  • 24%
    become a force on 3rd downs, but not get used much on first or second down
    (417 votes)
  • 27%
    become a decent every down DE
    (479 votes)
  • 30%
    become an above average every down DE
    (531 votes)
  • 10%
    become an elite every down DE
    (181 votes)
1734 votes total Vote Now