John Elway and Vance Joseph used free agency to target toughness in the trenches. In the draft, Denver’s new duo zeroed in on prospects with an attitude.
“You want guys who love to play and hate to lose,” Joseph said. “These eight guys we picked this weekend all fit into that category: They love to win, they hate to lose and they’re tough guys. But they’re all good kids, so we’re excited about that.
“It’s an attitude game and you have to acquire guys with those attitudes. You can’t hope that players have that. You have to go find those guys.”
Utah left tackle Garett Bolles, Louisiana Tech receiver Carlos Henderson and Michigan tight end Jake Butt all bring an edge to an offense that suffered a cumulative crisis in confidence last season.
Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly brings an attitude that has often crossed the line. Elway said fellow Hall of Famer Jim Kelly personally vouched for his nephew, so Elway signed off on the selection.
Adding to an already wicked defense are Florida State end DeMarcus Walker and Lamar cornerback Brendan Langley , whose 22 bench press reps were the most among the 60 DBs at the combine.
“I definitely have a mean streak in me,” declared a defiant Langley in which could just be the mantra for No. 7’s seventh draft class.
“We want to have that same mentality on the offensive side that we have on the defensive side right now,” Elway said.
The imbalance in the locker room last year led to squabbling, particularly between the league’s leading secondary and the leaky O-line, which the DBs criticized for not pumping enough iron or carrying its weight.
Russell Okung left in free agency over the winter and Ronald Leary and Menelik Watson arrived, adding some venom to the offensive line.
It wasn’t entirely the offense’s fault when Denver missed the playoffs a year after winning it all, however. Tops in the league in run defense on their way to winning Super Bowl 50, the Broncos slid to 29th last season after losing Malik Jackson to free agency and Vance Walker to a camp knee injury.
Enter free agents Domata Peko and Zach Kerr and second-round pick DeMarcus Walker.
“I just love dominating,” Walker said. “That’s one thing that I love to do is to dominate. Just taking the will out of a man in this game football.”
Here are some other takeaways from the weekend for the Broncos:
Mr. Irrelevant isn’t so insignificant this year.
The 253rd and final pick of the draft, Kelly has a long list of run-ins with police and coaches. He was kicked out of Clemson. He also has medical issues: He hurt a knee last season and injured his right wrist this spring.
“I think right now they’re confident in the way I handle myself and the way I prepare for football games,” Kelly said. “So, I think they’re excited to get me and I’m really excited to be a part of a great franchise.”
Elway, who expects Kelly to be healthy by late August, said the vetting process included a call to his fellow Hall of Famer.
“I called his uncle and he said, ‘He’s a good kid.’ I said, ‘OK, that’s all I need,'” Elway recounted. “I trust Jim with that.”
He added that the kid is “a great competitor” and “he’s got some good lineage.”
Joseph called Kelly “my favorite quarterback in the draft.”
“He beat ‘Bama twice. That’s tough to do as a college quarterback,: he said. “He’s a tough guy. He’s smart. He’s made some childish mistakes in the past but he’s learned from those things, so I’m comfortable with him.”
Butt, a versatile tight end who can block and run routes, was considered a potential first-round pick until he injured his right knee against Florida State in the Orange Bowl.
Butt, who will collect on an insurance policy for slipping down the draft, insists he’ll be ready for the start of the season. He had surgery Jan. 10 to repair his right ACL, the same one he tore in 2014.
His latest injury made him this year’s cautionary tale after running backs Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey skipped their bowl games a year after Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith cost himself millions by blowing out his left knee in the Fiesta Bowl.
Fournette and McCaffrey were both top-10 picks.
“I’ll never regret playing in a football game in my life,” Butt said Saturday. “I don’t play football because of the money or the fame or the hype or anything. I play football because it’s what I love to do. I was dedicated to my team at Michigan. I’m going to be a dedicated Denver Bronco.”
RETURNERS’ ARRIVAL: Elway also used this draft to address special teams holes. Langley, Henderson and wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie will vie for those returner duties.