The former fourth-round pick who is now a veteran in the NFL is entering his fourth year with the Broncos and should still have an important role in the teams backfield.
Devontae Booker says don’t count him out.— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensBSN) May 31, 2019
"In this offense, you utilize the running back out of the backfield catching the ball. That’s a big asset of mine, my hands."
Experience: 4th season
Booker has never really lived up to his potential as a starter in the NFL, but he has been a very good compliment to have behind your starter. His ability to be a pass blocker, pass catcher, as well as a runner, has helped be the Broncos third-down back the past few seasons. This is something I see continuing in 2019.
Through three NFL seasons, all with the Broncos, Booker has totaled 287 rushing attempts for 1,094 yards and 6 touchdowns. His best ability, however, has been as a pass catcher. Through three NFL seasons, Booker has caught 99 balls for 815 yards and 1 touchdown.
Booker’s best season in the NFL came his rookie year when he played in Gary Kubiak’s zone-based offensive system. Well, the Broncos are returning to that zone-based offensive system under new Offensive Coordinator Rich Scangarello and Booker feels it fits his strengths well.
“In this offense, you utilize the running back out of the backfield catching the ball. That’s a big asset of mine, my hands. It’s really kind of similar to what we ran my rookie year with [former Head Coach Gary] Kubiak and his system. It’s pretty similar to me. It gets a little wordy at times to where we really have to listen to the play call, but at the end of the day it’s still pretty much the same.”
During Booker’s rookie year, he rushed 174 times for 612 yards and 4 touchdowns. He also caught 31 balls for 265 yards and 1 touchdown. I would look for Rich Scangarello to use Booker in the passing game often this year, and potentially in some split back scenarios with Phillip Lindsay or Royce Freeman.
In the end, he gives the Broncos a reliable pass blocker and a sure-handed target out of the backfield or in other words, a solid third-down back.
Every NFL team is looking for a reliable third-down back to lean on in certain scenarios, and that is exactly what Booker can do. Most of the time, defenses are bringing the heat on third-down, so Booker will be once again tasked with finding the free rusher and keeping him off the quarterback, Joe Flacco. He is arguably the best pass blocking back on the Broncos roster right now and that is one way to earn some roster security, especially in today’s NFL.
His pass catching ability should also serve him well in this offense. If you look at Kyle Shanahan’s history as a play caller, he likes to use the running back in the passing game. So I would imagine Scangarello would look to do the same in his offense. This bodes well for Booker who may have the best hands of the running back group. So I would expect him to earn some opportunities in that role this upcoming season.
Another positive for Booker is the lack of competition behind him. You have the undersized, but speedy Khalfani Muhammad behind Booker as well as undrafted rookie Devontae Jackson who is also an undersized, but speedy back. It is always possible Jackson proves to be the next Phillip Lindsay, but odds are that neither will really push Booker for a roster spot.
This offense should benefit Booker and his pass blocking ability most likely locks him into a roster spot. Add in the lack of competition behind him, and things are looking good for Booker.
Booker has found his niche as a solid third-down pass blocker/pass catcher for the Broncos, however, he has yet to prove he can be a feature back in an offense.
Outside of this past year where he rushed only 37 times and had a YPC of 5.7, he has years of 3.8 and 3.5 yards per carry. His only 100+ carry year came his rookie year where he only averaged 3.5 yards per carry. Now the quarterback and offensive line situation both weren’t great and could have impacted his numbers, but he still hasn’t proven he can be a full-time rusher in the NFL.
With Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman ahead of Booker on the depth chart, he isn’t expected to have these responsibilities. However, if something happened to either of those backs and Booker gets some more extended playing time, It would be nice to see him have some more success as a runner.
Booker on if he would like to be a feature back.
“Absolutely. That’s just how my approach is to it. I’m pretty sure every guy in our room wants to be the feature guy. They want to go out there and work at it each day to be that guy. I’m not just going to sit here and say that I don’t want to be that because I know that I can offer a little more. As of right now and how my role is, the pass protection and being a pass catcher out of the backfield, that’s just where they need me right now.”
Devontae Booker’s roster status with the Broncos:
Barring an injury or surprise acquisition, you can pretty much lock Booker into a roster spot.
I get that he gets a decent amount of hate, but he’s likely your best pass catcher and best pass blocker of the running back group. This isn’t a knock on Lindsay by the way, he’s the most dangerous pass catcher, but Booker’s hands and route running ability give him the edge right now.
Freeman can likely turn into a solid pass blocker because of his size, but he doesn’t offer a ton in the passing game. Meanwhile, you really do not want your 190lb(or less) running back taking on a linebacker or defensive lineman, so Booker gets the edge here.
Booker is your third-down back once again in 2019 and hopefully, he can flourish a little more as a pass catcher in Rich Scangarello’s offensive system.