ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Broncos finished off an active draft by adding two more picks on the final day.
The team entered Saturday with one pick in the fifth and sixth rounds, but tacked on two more in the seventh after trading a 2011 fifth-round draft choice to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"When you're drafting in the seventh round, if you feel like you've got players that have an opportunity at some positions to possibly make your final roster, it's hard to pass up," Head Coach Josh McDaniels said. "Those two guys at seventh round draft picks, we had higher grades than that on them and we felt like they were better than college free agents, so at that point we felt it was worth the investment."
Those two picks both came on defense -- Cal cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson and Indiana linebacker Jammie Kirlew -- after the team moved to the defensive side of the ball with its first pick of the day, Oklahoma State cornerback Perrish Cox. The team picked up Notre Dame offensive lineman Eric Olsen with its sixth-round selection.
By the end of the day, the team had chosen nine players in the 2010 NFL Draft, and McDaniels said he and the team couldn't be happier.
"We're looking forward to getting the rookies in here next week and putting them through the first weekend where they get to get their feet wet and understand what we're all about," he said. "It'll be great to get back out on the field, putting forth some of the things we've changed in terms of our scheme and putting players in positions to compete. I'm always excited to see how it plays out."
COWBOY TURNED BRONCO
The team kicked off the day by selecting Cox with the 137th overall pick, its first defensive player drafted.
Some believe the cornerback fell to the fifth round after being suspended by his team for the Cotton Bowl for missing curfew, something Cox calls a mistake from which he hopes to move on.
"He's a player that is certainly more talented than where he was drafted -- there's no question about that," McDaniels said. "We felt good enough at that point to go ahead and make the move. We know that he has to go ahead and live up to his end of the bargain and we think that he will."
Cox started 25 consecutive games at cornerback to close his career at Oklahoma State. He amassed 36 pass breakups -- including an NCAA-best 19 as a senior -- along with 10 interceptions, 134 tackles, two tackles for loss, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one blocked kick. As a senior, when he led the nation in pass breakups, Cox earned All-Big 12 first-team honors and was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top defensive back.
But his contributitions in the return game are what help him stand out even further.
"He's not easy to tackle, he's got good quickness and great vision," McDaniels said. "There's going to be some growing for him, no question, but he's flashed some really big-time plays."
Cox holds Oklahoma State and Big 12 Conference career records with 117 kickoff returns for 2,804 kickoff return yards. He opened the season as a freshman by returning a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown, and didn't slow down for the rest of his career, ultimately returning four kickoffs -- a school record -- and two punts for scores.
Those sort of statistics earned him first-team All-America honors as a return specialist in 2008. His average of 29.8 yards per kick return led the Big 12 and ranked third in the nation that season. To top it off, he started all 13 games at cornerback, totaling 32 tackles with one tackle for loss, eight pass breakups and two interceptions.
The cornerback said he plans to bring physicality and excitement to the team, but wants to keep fans waiting to see everything else he can provide on game days.
"Gotta wait and see -- I can show you better than I can tell you," he smiled.
Olsen, who appeared to be the team's final draft pick before the trade that netted two seventh-rounders, already has a step up on some of his rookie counterparts.
According to McDaniels, some of the terminology used by the Broncos is "pretty close to identical" to what the offensive lineman grew accustomed to at Notre Dame.
Olsen appeared in 44 games for the Fighting Irish, starting his final 31 games. He spread those starts out along the offensive line -- six at right guard in 2007, 13 at left guard in 2008 and 12 at center in 2009.
"He's another player that has versatility," McDaniels said. "It's interesting, the three linemen that we ended up with, Olsen is more of a guard-to-center, (J.D.) Walton is more of a center-to-guard and (Zane) Beadles is a tackle-to-guard. So, we've got some versatility there that will help us."
As a senior, Olsen was named team captain and earned the Guardian of the Year Award, given annually to Notre Dame's top offensive lineman. That season, the Fighting Irish improved their passing attack, ranking fifth in the nation with 323.5 yards per game through the air as Olsen allowed just one sack on 447 passing plays. He was penalized just once during his final 1,731 plays, and allowed only four sacks and four pressures combined on 894 pass plays during his junior and senior seasons.
"I think I'm a tough kid," Olsen said. "I'm a physical player. I think that working with Coach (Charlie) Weis at Notre Dame over the past few years, my football IQ has definitely grown a lot, and I take pride in that."
He also earned All-American honorable mention and All-Major Independent first-team selection by The NFL Draft Report as a senior, and put together a streak of three-straight games where he did not allow his blocking assignments to record any tackles.
He now joins a Broncons roster with three former Golden Domers -- David Bruton, Ryan Harris and Brady Quinn -- and the rookie is excited to reunite with his former classmates.
"I have a good relationship with those guys," he said. "I looked up to them as leaders, the older guys. I'm excited to work with them again. I haven't been in touch with them since the pick, but I have 30-something text messages that are still waiting on my phone. Maybe one will be from those guys."
READY FOR THE EXPERIENCE
When the team jumped back into the fray in the seventh round, it used the 225th overall selection to pick up Thompson, who was a first-team All-Pac-10 selection in each of his final two seasons with the Golden Bears.
When Thompson found out he was headed to Denver, he was thrilled to join a secondary with players the likes of Champ Bailey, Brian Dawkins, Andre' Goodman and Renaldo Hill.
"Just playing in college and growing up, those are the guys that you see making plays," he said. "Just to be able to play with them now, it's going to be one heck of an experience."
The cornerback started all 52 games possible over his four-year career, setting a school record for starts as a four-year starter at cornerback for Cal. He finished his career as the school's all-time leader in pass breakups with 36.
He started his career as a Sporting News Pac-10 All-Freshman selection after starting in all 13 games, and finished it with 257 tackles, seven interceptions that he returned for 204 yards, two sacks, 20 tackles for loss, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries -- one of which he returned 15 yards for a touchdown against rival Stanford -- and two punt returns that he brought back for 389 yards, including a 73-yard return for a touchdown. He was named Cal's Most Valuable Back on defense for his junior season, when he tied a school record with 18 passes defensed, and held the title again as a senior in 2009.
"Basically, I'll do whatever the coaches what me to do," Thompson said. "Any position they want me to play, I'm going to play it. I'm just happy I was able to be a part of something that's good in Denver. I'm just hoping to go out there and compete and do my best."
The team's final pick in the draft, Kirlew, was hopeful the Broncos would select him ever since he met with defensive coordinator Don Martindale and assistant linebackers coach Roman Phifer at the NFL Scouting Combine.
"I was getting a couple of calls through the draft from them," Kirlew said. "They were telling me that no matter what they were trying to get me up there. They found a way to get me up there and I'm excited."
Like Thompson, Kirlew was also a two-time all-conference player. The two-time Hooisers MVP closed out his career tied for third on the school's career sacks list with 23 and second on the career tackles for loss list with 52.5.
"In the past two seasons I did a great job of getting to the quarterback, and particularly in the last season I did a great job of creating turnovers -- I had five forced fumbles," Kirlew said. "Consistently every year I've been getting better in tackling and just making plays throughout each game."
He played in 48 career games with 41 starts, collecting 220 tackles with nine forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries.
After starting his career being named Freshman All-Big Ten by Sporting News, he was named to the Ted Hendricks Defensive End of the Year Award, the Chuck Bednarik Award and the Rotary Lombardi Award watch lists as a senior.
Kirlew was an Academic All-Big Ten selection in all four years he played for the Hoosiers, and he said he prides himself on his work in the classroom. One of his goals when he came to Indiana was to leave with a degree -- he left with two, in public finance and management. That intelligence in the classroom helped him hone his football IQ as well.
"The smarter player I become, I think definitely my instincts are going to be faster," Kirlew said. "I'm going to be able to make more plays and be quicker on the field, which is going to be important for me to be able to be productive in the NFL."
The linebacker will now join a group that includes the NFL's reigning sack leader -- Elvis Dumervil -- the team's leading tackler -- D.J. Williams -- and 2009 first-round draft pick Robert Ayers. Joining that talented core has the rookie excited to get started.
"I just hope to get in, learn from these veterans that have been in for a while and just watch and learn and definitely try to bring what I can to the table," he said. "Just try to go out there and compete."