The Big Leagues: Broncos add skilled, speedy players in NFL Draft

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The Denver Broncos continued a busy 2017 off-season by selecting eight players in the 2017 NFL Draft. Selecting six offensive standouts, Denver addressed several weaknesses which plagued the team in last year’s playoff-less season.

Round 1 (20), Garett Bolles, Offensive Tackle, University of Utah: Bolles possesses unique athleticism for an offensive tackle. Already 25 years old, he is an older rookie with less room to grow, but he is expected to be more NFL-ready than most players. He will compete immediately for the Broncos’ vacant left tackle position. NFL Comparable: Ricky Wagner, Minnesota Vikings

Round 2 (51), Demarcus Walker, Defensive End, Florida State: With 25 sacks over his last two seasons, Walker has a penchant for getting after the quarterback, though he may be more of a run-stuffer in Denver. Playing a similar game to Denver’s Derek Wolfe, the rookie will serve as a key rotational piece on the defensive line. NFL Comparable: Datone Jones, Minnesota Vikings

Round 3 (82), Carlos Henderson, Wide Receiver, Louisiana Tech: Sorely missing a third option in the passing game last season, Denver should let Henderson vie for playing time early with 4.46 speed, as well as a nose for the end-zone with an NCAA-leading 19 scores last season. He is a playmaker after the catch, forcing 48 missed tackles last season. No other receiver has had more than 33 in the past 3 years. NFL Comparable: Golden Tate, Detroit Lions

Round 3 (101), Brendan Langley, Cornerback, Lamar College: Langley is an unrefined project at corner who originally played for the University of Georgia before transferring to a smaller school for more playing time. He has good size (6-foot) and speed (4.43). He’ll likely slot in as Denver’s fifth or sixth corner and contribute on special teams. NFL Comparable: Eric Rowe, New England Patriots

Round 5 (145), Jake Butt, Tight End, University of Michigan: Having torn his ACL in a New Year’s Eve bowl game, Butt was projected to be picked closer to the third round before his injury. Although not overly athletic or an outstanding blocker, he is a mismatch for most NFL linebackers and a superb route runner. NFL Comparable: Zach Miller, Chicago Bears

Round 5 (172), Isaiah McKenzie, Wide Receiver, University of Georgia: A 5-foot-7 speedster, McKenzie is a gadget player who specializes in returning the ball. He had five punt return touchdowns in three years, while also posting four rushing scores and seven receiving. NFL Comparable: Taylor Gabriel, Atlanta Falcons

Round 6 (203), De’Angelo Henderson, Running Back, Coastal Carolina: Having scored a touchdown in 35 straight games, Henderson has a nose for the end-zone despite also being 5-foot-7. He made 73 receptions over the last two years, which is where the scat back could carve himself a niche in Denver. NFL Comparable: Branden Oliver, Los Angeles Chargers

Round 7 (253), Chad Kelly, Quarterback, University of Mississippi: Off the field incidents have been plentiful for the talented quarterback, as have injuries (both knees, wrist). As a mobile passer with a quick release, he will fight to win the third quarterback spot. NFL Comparable: Johnny Manziel, Free Agent

Denver helped shore up their offensive line with Bolles, added to their defensive trenches with Walker and loaded up on speedy, agile offensive skill players. After getting burned by Tyreek Hill’s running, receiving and return ability last season, and watching Jordan Norwood and Khaliff Raymond struggle with returns, it’s clear Denver valued playmaking dynamos in this draft. Henderson can return kickoffs, Langley returns punts and McKenzie can do both.

The Broncos will report for training camp in late July or early August to prepare for their first preseason game on August 10 against the Chicago Bears.

Braiden is a senior at the University of Denver and currently in his third year working in the sports section at The Clarion. Originally from Aurora, Colorado, he is studying Finance, Economics and Data Analytics in the Daniels College of Business. He is also involved on campus with the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity and was previously a Resident Assistant. He enjoys rooting for the Broncos, Avalanche, Nuggets, Marlins, Buffaloes and of course, the Pioneers. In his free time, as well as playing basketball and hockey.

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