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Two days into the draft, Broncos feel they added 'tough guys'

Posted Apr 28, 2017

Vance Joseph and John Elway believe that toughness is what ties together draft picks Garett Bolles, DeMarcus Walker, Carlos Henderson and Brendan Langley.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- It's not that the Broncos weren't tough and confident before this offseason, Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway reminded listeners at a press conference following the second day of the 2017 NFL Draft.

But there was something missing from the Broncos last year when they faded down the stretch, and lost four of five games to be eliminated from playoff contention.

Their draft haul is designed to change that.

"It's a tough game, and you want guys with a tough, winning mentality," Head Coach Vance Joseph said Friday night. "That's contagious. That's a great trait to have as a football player. You want tough guys, confident guys and guys who hate to lose."

Joseph and Elway feel those are the common threads that connect first-round pick Garett Bolles, second-round selection DeMarcus Walker and third-round choices Carlos Henderson and Brendan Langley.

"We added four guys in the last two days with the right mentality, and guys who hate to lose," Joseph said. "That's important."

Of the quartet, Langley probably has the longest path to traverse -- but he is also at the position that is the most set on the roster. He has the size and speed to handle press-man coverage, but as both Elway and Joseph said, the Lamar University product is "raw."

"But he's got great speed and is going to take some time," Elway said. "He'll learn from the best corners in the league that we have here."

Walker is a prolific playmaker who led all draft-eligible 3-4 defensive linemen in sacks per game and tackles for loss per game last season. Elway and Joseph believe he could step in and handle the interior pass-rush role that Malik Jackson had working with Derek Wolfe during the Broncos' 2015 run to a world championship.

"You look at our defense and where our defense was two years ago, and [Joseph] and I were talking about this, how effective we were when we had Malik inside and rushing inside," Elway said. "DeMarcus has that ability and will have that ability. That's why we're so excited about him."

Even through the struggles late last year, the defense remained effective, allowing just 1.5 touchdowns per game after the bye. If Walker and Langley develop, they can help the defense maintain its standard in the coming years. That would fulfill a task Elway noted Monday, when he discussed how the defense needed to keep adding young talent to maintain its form.

The offense required more work after its late-season struggles. It needed nastiness and persistence, which Bolles is expected to provide. It also needed more playmaking "juice," as Joseph said on April 10.

Enter Henderson, an explosive playmaker who scored once every 5.25 receptions last year and led FBS in all-purpose yardage, as he supplemented his 1,668 yards of total offense with 805 yards on 25 returns -- good for a 32.2-yard average.

"Any time you can get the ball in a guy's hands like that and he's got the ability to take it to the house, that's something that you always want," Elway said. "It's not always easy to catch and run with the ball, and that's what he likes to do. He creates the big plays and that's what we really liked about him."

Collectively, the Broncos expect Bolles, Henderson and free-agent pickups Ron Leary and Menelik Watson to function within Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy's new scheme and galvanize the Broncos' attack.

"We play with so much confidence on the defensive side, but offensively, we've struggled a little bit confidence-wise," Elway said. "If we can add some toughness on the offensive side in these 10 guys, that's going to help us get that confidence back.

"We want to have the same mentality on the offensive side that we have on the defensive side right now. We want to play with that same type of confidence."