ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- As the Denver Broncos move into the next phase of their offseason program Monday, allowing for some offense vs. defense, the rookie class will begin to try to get into the mix.
Bolles and Ty Sambrailo will battle for the starting left tackle job, and the Broncos probably feel better about Sambrailo’s chances than the fans. The feeling in-house is that another offseason has done Sambrailo good, as he continues to build strength following his 2015 shoulder injury. The arrival of new offensive line coach Jeff Davidson will help as well.
But the Broncos used a first-round pick on Bolles because they believe he has what it takes to be a walk-in starter.
The Broncos drafted Henderson in the third round, at No. 82, because they believe he can be the No. 3 receiver -- Bennie Fowler and Cody Latimer were put on notice with this pick -- as well as the team's kickoff returner.
The Broncos considered Walker a bit of a steal -- second round, No. 51 -- and have already seen the get-to-work mentality of a player who had 16 sacks last year at Florida State, was second on the team in tackles (68) and believes he was overlooked draft weekend. It will be a major disappointment if Walker isn’t a big part of the defensive end rotation, especially on pass-rush downs.
Who else could make a much-needed impact? The Broncos have had a crying need for a punt returner since 2013, when Trindon Holliday’s inconsistency in catching punts came to outweigh the potential of his returns. With no explosive replacement, Denver hasn't had a punt return of longer than 25 yards in two of the last three seasons.
So one of the team’s two fifth-round picks, Isaiah McKenzie, has an opportunity to carve out a meaningful role. A key item on his to-do list will be to show enough as a wide receiver to make him a game-day option.
Who can benefit the most from following doctor's orders? Tight end Jake Butt likely would have been drafted at the bottom of the first round or the top of the second round had he not suffered a torn ACL in January during the Orange Bowl. The Broncos got him at No. 145. If Butt and the team can navigate the remainder of his recovery without causing complications, the Broncos will have a potential starter.
However, Butt has torn the ACL in each knee -- he injured the left one in 2014. There is data showing that players with multiple ACL tears can be statistically prone to another, so this will be something to monitor. But if good fortune smiles on all involved, the Broncos will have a quality contributor at the tight end position who could be an every-down player.
Who has the potential to rise the most from his draft spot? Well, quarterback Chad Kelly was the last pick of the draft -- No. 253 -- so that gives him the longest road.
But there was a time -- very early in the pre-draft process, before scouts and personnel executives started to peel the onion -- when Kelly was considered one of the top prospects at the position. Then his decision-making in games began to be questioned, his off-the-field behavior was heavily scrutinized and he tore his ACL to end the 2016 season. Toss in a thumb/wrist injury that forced a quick end to his pro day workout, and all of the ingredients were there for a draft-day plunge.
The Broncos took a chance after executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway spoke to Kelly’s uncle, Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, about Chad’s potential to rise above the past. It was a low-risk move by the Broncos. If Kelly doesn’t make something of the opportunity, it will have cost Denver a seventh-round pick. And there is potential for a big return if Kelly can get his house in order.