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On the Offensive

Posted Apr 23, 2010

The Broncos added three more players on offense on the second day of the draft. Offensive linemen Zane Beadles and J.D. Walton and wide receiver Eric Decker were all excited to don the orange and blue.

NFL Draft

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When you make four trades on the first day of the draft, even having three picks on day two seems tame.

"I know it was a boring day, wasn't it?" Head Coach Josh McDaniels joked.

On Friday, the Broncos had one pick in the second round and two in the third -- one was the team's original selection, and the other came from the Philadelphia Eagles in a trade that saw them drop from the 13th pick to the 24th in the first round.

With those picks, the Broncos grabbed Utah offensive lineman Zane Beadles, Baylor center J.D. Walton and Minnesota wide receiver Eric Decker, respectively, keeping the offensive theme going.

"It was a very productive day, we thought," McDaniels said. "The board kind of fell a little differently than we'd anticipated. It obviously tilted more heavily towards the offensive side. I don't think that was necessarily by design, but I think we knew that we needed to add some interior depth offensively."

Adding that depth started with the first pick of the day, Beadles, who started 50 of 51 games for the Utes. By the end of his career, he had been voted Utah's Most Valuable Offensive Lineman twice, and earned first-team All-Mountain West Conference honors in two seasons.

"He's a very smart player," McDaniels said. "He's tough, a good finisher, and he's played a lot of games."

After redshirting as a freshman, Beadles was the team's starting left guard in 2006, starting 12 games. His other 38 starts came at left tackle, a position he switched to as a junior in 2007. That year, he earned second-team All-MWC and first-team Academic All-MWC honors.

As a junior, the first-team MWC lineman blocked for a Utah offense that generated 400.9 yards per game and led the MWC while ranking 15th nationally in scoring at 36.9 points per game. He was a Lombardi Award candidate as a senior, and was named All-American second-team by Walter Camp in addition to earning All-MWC first-team honors for the second consecutive year.

In his final two seasons with the Utes, he allowed just 3.5 sacks and three quarterback pressures on 819 pass plays.

"I think (the Broncos) are really excited about my versatility and they can see me playing multiple positions along the line," Beadles said. "I think that was one thing that maybe sparked their interest in me and something that I take pride in as well.

The team snared another offensive lineman in the third round -- Walton, who McDaniels said was "the second-rated center on our board, behind (Pittsburgh first-round selection Maurkice) Pouncey. We were fortunate that he was still there in the third round."

The center was a redshirt freshman at Arizona State before transferring to Baylor, sitting out the 2006 season and eventually starting the final 36 games of his career.

Walton said he recognizes that if he wants to continue that starting streak with the Broncos, he'll have to earn it.

"I am going to have to come in there, bust my butt and learn the offense before I get anything," Walton said. "I will give the respect to the older guys and have them know that I am there to bust my butt and win games with them. I have to earn that position -- nothing's going to be given to me."

He earned All-American honors and was an Outland Trophy and Rimington Trophy finalist as a senior, and was named to the Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll in each of the last three seasons.

In his first season starting for the Bears, he was one of three offensive linemen to start every game, participating in 911 snaps -- the most by anyone on the offensive side of the ball. That year the line yielded just 21 sacks, and Walton shared the team's Best Offensive Lineman honor with tackle Jason Smith, who was drafted by the St. Louis Rams with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.

"He's kind of a nasty guy," McDaniels said. "Not personally, but on the football field."

He was one of eight players to start every game for Baylor as a junior, anchoring a unit that generated 2,349 rushing yards and 29 scores on the ground. He was an All-American first-team selection as a senior, and by the end of his career he had allowed only three quarterback pressures on 721 pass plays.

"I think my pass blocking is very good," Walton said. "I think I can get out in the space and get out to linebackers in the corners on screens. But, everything's going to have to be bumped up another level just because it's the NFL. Everything's got to be stepped up a notch."

The team rounded out its trio of picks with the 6-foot-3 Decker. The Minnesota receiver was targeted 354 times in his career, and he dropped just three of them.

Decker was the first player in school history to amass more than 3,000 yards receiving -- his 3,119 rank eigth in Big Ten history. That yardage total accounted for 42.77 percent of the team's total since he moved into the starting lineup for the Gophers. Now he's excited to take that production to the pros.

"I knew that wherever I'd go I wanted to go to a good organization," Decker said of being drafted. "I'm happy I landed in Denver. I'm not too concerned about what round I go in. I believe that when you get to camp, everybody's got to earn their position and create their own path. In Denver, that's what I hope to do."

The multi-talented athlete, who was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2008 Major League Baseball Draft, was also Minnesota's first athlete to catch more than 200 passes in a career. His 227 catches rank sixth in Big Ten history, and those catches did some damage -- he produced first downs on more than 70 percent of them, 22 percent of his came on third down. More than half of his catches went for 10 or more yards, and he was tackled for a loss just four times in his career.

"I think he had a 43 on the Wonderlic, so he's a very smart kid," McDaniels said. "And then, we just looked at the film. That's what we put the most stock in. What did he do as a football player on tape? He's very versatile. He's done a lot of good things (at Minnesota) and he's very determined young man."

A consensus All-American and All-Big Ten first-team preseason selection as a senior, Decker finished his career with 24 touchdown catches after starting 34 of 45 games at Minnesota.

Decker missed time his senior year with a Lisfranc fracture -- an injury suffered by Brandon Stokley earlier in his career. Stokley reached out to Decker after the injury, and the two have already texted back and forth now that they are both Broncos.

"I'm just trying to become a better man and learn from a guy like him because he's been in the league for a long time, he's been with great organizations and obviously he's a tremendous person," Decker said of Stokley.

The Broncos now have two picks remaining in the draft -- the sixth pick in the fifth round (137th overall) and the 14th pick in the sixth round (183rd overall).

"Only having two picks tomorrow in four rounds may not be as action packed as the first two days," McDaniels said. "But all in all we got three players that we really feel good about. We feel like they can really come in and contribute and increase the competition at the spots where they play and we'll look forward to seeing them here this week."