While still assumingly riding whatever is left of that Super Bowl 50 victory high, Denver entered the 2017 NFL Draft with hope to find the missing pieces needed to get them back to World Champion status. In their first year without Peyton Manning and longtime backup Brock Osweiler, the team missed the playoffs with plug and play guys under center, and a defense that lost a couple players after the championship season. As they look ahead to a season where rings are the main goal, GM John Elway may have done just what was needed for a title run. Here is a recap of players selected to the Mile High team along with grades and notes on the picks.
Denver Broncos 2017 Draft Class
Round 1, Pick 20: Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
Round 2, Pick 19 (No. 51): DeMarcus Walker, DE, FSU
Round 3, Pick 37 (No. 101): Brendan Langley, CB, Lamar
Round 5, Pick 1 (No. 145): Jake Butt, TE, Michigan
Round 5, Pick 29 (No. 172): Isaiah McKenzie, WR, Georgia
Round 6, Pick 19 (No. 203): De’Angelo Henderson, RB, Coastal Carolina
Round 7, Pick 35 (No. 253): Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss
— McNeil (@Reflog_18) April 28, 2017
Garett Bolles, OT: With their first round pick, Elway decided to take the top tackle in the draft. After making calls on what the price would be to move up and grab Stanford’s Christian McCaffery, he decided to build up the offensive line. Ryan Clady was traded to the New York Jets last offseason which left a big hole on that line for QBs Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch. Bolles is a solid pass blocker who will be able to protect the blindside of whichever QB is under center for years to come. At 6’5” and just under 300 pounds, Bolles will need to add weight, but his upper body strength and solid footwork and technique will allow him to hold his own while he figures out the learning curve and gains more weight on his bottom half. Bolles will be tested early by premier pass rushers in the league, but it will quick allow him to build solid foundation to his game as he deals with the Chiefs’ pass rushers and at times Khalil Mack. Overall this selection will bolster the broncos line and allow their young QBs to develop without taking too much blindside damage and strengthen the rushing attack for Vance Joseph’s offense. Grade: B
DeMarcus Walker, DE: I love this pick by Denver; big, mean, physical that is what you get in DeMarcus Walker. He is a raw talent and will serve best in a rotation. 16 sacks in 2016, yes 16… This kid was a force at FSU and was very productive over his collegiate career and he should continue to develop into a passing situation player in the NFL. Walker will be moved all over Denver’s front 7, but will primarily be on the defensive line as he was at Florida State. You may even see him play alongside Shane Ray and Pro Bowler Von Miller. He will grow to round out his skills as a pass rusher and will help in the run game as well. I think this kid could become something very special for Denver and could be a key player for them in years. His work ethic and character is rare.
Jake Butt, TE: Butt was touted last year as the would be top tightend in the draft and most likely would have been a day 1 pick. Butt chose to return to Michigan to play his senior year and ended up tearing his ACL in the teams bowl game in heart breaking fashion, and as a fifth round pick he can be put in the conversation as one of the top steals if this years draft. He declared for the draft knowing a drop in selection was coming but he ended up in the right place. Since the departure of Julius Thomas a few seasons ago Denver hasn’t had its franchise TE and with a passing game that ranked 22nd in the NFL averaging 230 yards a game a down low threat would have benefitted this team greatly and may even propelled them back into the playoffs with an couple wins. Butt is your ideal body at tightend at 6’6 250 he will provide a great option down low for passers and will be able to stretch the middle of the field to help free up Sanders and Thomas outside, he will need some help in the running game, with some work on his blocking technique and footwork he could develop into a viable blocker on the edge for rushers and allow himself to really become an all-around tightend at the next level. Broncos fans may have to wait to see Butt take the field but when he does he will become a fan favorite.
Chad “Swag” Kelly, QB: My favorite QB in this class Chad Kelly. You know, rapper Chad Kelly, Chad Kelly who slid into a former Pornstar’s DM’s and was exposed by her on social media. The same Chad Kelly who got into an on-field brawl at his younger brother’s high school game. Yes, the same Chad Kelly who was photoed asleep on his couch during the draft. Also the same Chad Kelly who was kicked off Clemson’s football team for conduct reasons. Oh, and his uncle is Hall of Famer Jim Kelly. Has there ever been a bigger name as your “Mr. Irrelevant”? Kelly is a PR nightmare if he doesn’t clean up his act, but possesses the skills to steal the Broncos QB job if Lynch and Siemian aren’t careful. He has good mobility but only uses his legs when needed, he has great arm strength and downfield vision on his passes where he needs to scramble out of danger. The kid can play and make any and all throws needed to play at the next level. Film doesn’t lie, and Chad Kelly’s film shows he shares his uncle’s DNA. The future can be bright for this young passer, and if he can harness his talents and potential while keeping his head on straight, we may see Mr. Irrelevant become Mr. Face of the franchise sooner rather than later in Denver.
Pick Grade: C+
Entertainment Grade: A
Overall Grade: B-
Coming into the draft, Denver was ready to compete. This draft class provides depth at some spots, but also provides new starters and impact players at others. Filling these holes will allow them to become the team they want to be. While Bolles and Butt will provide impactful snaps as soon as they step onto the field, other guys like Brendan Langley and De’Angelo Henderson, provide good change of pace and depth for position groups that already have solid starting talent. Elway and company added value to a team that was the best in football a couple years back and there is no reason to believe they can’t be again. QBs Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch have experience on their side and will enter camp competing to see who will become the guy to lead the Broncos, and try to rebuild that prestigious legacy. With future stars and role players selected in the draft, Denver is going to be right at the top of the AFC West for years to come, and may even have another championship left in the tank of their current starters. At the end of the day, Denver got better, and will be good for a very long time, assuming their QB situation pans out.