Broncos’ Elway hoping to buck trend with pick of Walker
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — With the 51st pick of the NFL draft, No. 7 was looking for a change of fortune in his seventh season as architect of the Denver Broncos.
General manager John Elway has grabbed some first-round steals and some late-round gems.
It’s Round 2 that’s been his bugaboo.
After starting his tenure with solid second-round picks in Rahim Moore, Orlando Franklin, Derek Wolfe and Brock Osweiler, Elway’s last four second-round picks proved more head-scratcher than headliner.
Adam Gotsis, Ty Sambrailo, Cody Latimer and Montee Ball have 11 combined NFL starts and Ball is out of the league entirely.
Elway chose Florida State defensive end DeMarcus Walker in the second round Friday night.
Walker was a consensus All-American and the ACC’s defensive player of the year after piling up 16 sacks and 21 1-2 tackles for loss during a sensational senior season that began with 4 1-2 sacks in the second half of the Seminoles’ opener against Ole Miss.
“I’m just a relentless player with skills,” said Walker, whose Twitter handle is (at)livinglegend—44. “I’m all in wherever they want to play me. I’m going to go after the quarterback to win games.”
Walker’s selection came 24 hours after Elway bypassed some highly regarded defensive players to finally plug a persistent, gaping hole at left tackle with Utah’s Garett Bolles .
The Broncos used their third-round selections on Louisiana Tech wide receiver/kick returner Carlos Henderson and Lamar cornerback Brendan Langley, who’s also a return specialist.
“I was born to play this game,” said Henderson, who caught 82 passes for 1,535 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2016 and can relieve pressure on Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.
Langley replaces free agent departure Kayvon Webster in the Broncos’ “No Fly Zone” secondary.
Elway’s first draft, where he nabbed superstar Von Miller with the second overall pick, included Moore and Franklin, who combined to start 111 games in four seasons before leaving Denver as free agents following the 2014 season.
Moore started 48 games but is best remembered for giving up Jacoby Jones’ 70-yard TD in Denver’s devastating loss to Baltimore in the playoffs.
Franklin started all but one game in his four years in Denver.
In his first three drafts, Elway had a five second-round picks and the only one who reached a second contract in Denver was Wolfe, the 36th overall pick in 2012.
Osweiler started seven games in the Broncos’ Super Bowl-winning season in 2015 but bolted to Houston in free agency after being benched for Peyton Manning in the playoffs. He’s now in Cleveland.
Some teams stick to the mantra of picking the best player available in the first round but tip the scales in the second round and give more credence to the voices of coaches than scouts, filling pressing needs they may have bypassed in Round 1.
Whether or not that played a role in any of Denver’s drafts, Gotsis, Sambrailo and Latimer were all called reaches by draft analysts. To a lesser extent, so was Ball, the only one of Elway’s previous eight second-round selections who got cut before his rookie contract was up.
A look at Elway’s second round selections since 2013:
GOTSIS : The Australian was coming off a torn ACL when Elway chose him with the final pick of the second round last year. Gotsis played in 16 games but didn’t start any and finished with 14 tackles. His highlights were breaking up a Tom Brady pass in Week 15 and recovering a fumble against Oakland in the finale.
Games: 16. Starts 0.
SAMBRAILO: Sambrailo won the starting left tackle job as a rookie in 2015 when Ryan Clady got hurt. He started three games there before going on IR himself (shoulder). Last summer he hurt an elbow in camp and made just seven starts. He’s finally able to hit the weight room and this offseason is crucial for him.
Games: 13. Starts: 7.
LATIMER: Hailed for his hands and his athleticism coming out of Indiana in 2014, Latimer often displays his talent at practice but hasn’t transferred that playmaking ability to game days. In three seasons he has just 16 catches for 158 yards and a TD.
Games: 34. Starts: 2.
BALL : The NCAA career TDs leader averaged 4.7 yards as a rookie but never regained his explosiveness or his starting job after rushing back from an appendectomy in August 2014. He proved prone to injuries and fumbles.
Games: 21. Starts 3.
Denver’s owns the 126th, 177th, 203rd, 238th, 252nd and 253rd picks on Day Three of the draft.
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