ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —The Broncos entered the 2020 NFL Draft with a glaring need at the wide receiver position.
They needed a true No. 2 receiver to play opposite Pro Bowler Courtland Sutton. They also needed a player who could stretch the field and take the top off the defense.
John Elway, Vic Fangio and Co. filled that first requirement on Thursday, when Jerry Jeudy fell to them at No. 15. The speed element, though, seemed like it would have to wait.
For later in the draft. For a free-agent addition. For, perhaps, a different draft.
But then the Broncos added KJ Hamler with the 46th-overall pick.
With cornerbacks like Trevon Diggs, Kristian Fulton and Jaylon Johnson all on the board, the Broncos opted for the Penn State receiver with reported 4.27-second 40-yard dash speed.
Will the addition of Jeudy and Hamler fix the Broncos' offensive woes that have pervaded the last several seasons? It's too soon to say. The value of the picks could take years to reveal itself, and it's only then that one can deem the selection of Jeudy over Lamb or Hamler over Denzel Mims to be the right moves.
It is possible, though, to say just hours after the Hamler pick that the Broncos have devoted every possible resource to upgrading the team's pass catchers. A year ago, Elway spent the 20th-overall pick on Noah Fant, who went on to have the best season of any rookie tight end.
The Broncos then dedicated their top two picks in 2020 to the position. And while Jeudy may be the home-run pick, it's the Hamler selection that truly shows the Broncos' desire to right an offense that hasn't been truly explosive since at least 2014.
"Obviously, with Hamler he's very, very explosive," Elway said Friday after the end of the third round. "[He] really can run and has big-play ability. A guy that, as Vic would say, scares the heck out of defenses. Plus, he's got the ability to run routes. He's quick, he's tough. And again, you go back and say he's a great returner. We'll have to see how much he does return, but he's got that ability. He's a tough guy for his size and so he's a guy that can really, really, really, really run — so that's why we're excited about him."
Hamler was exciting enough that even Fangio's friends pestered him ahead of the draft to select the 5-foot-9, 178-pound player.
"I'm from Pennsylvania and all my relatives are Penn State fans, and they've been bugging me to pick you for months," Fangio told Hamler on his introductory call with the receiver.
Hamler, who tallied 98 catches for 1,658 yards and 13 touchdowns during his two seasons playing for the Nittany Lions, is ready to prove he was a valuable addition.
"I think I bring to the table speed, quickness, play-making ability," Hamler said Friday. "I'm versatile. I can play outside, I can play in the slot and I can return kicks and punts. I'm a playmaker, and I've got a chip on my shoulder at all times. I've been an underdog my whole life, so being in this situation right now and being part of the Broncos' organization is amazing. I'm going to give them 150 percent, 24/7, 365, you know? That's me."
A SPECIAL SPECIAL-TEAMER
Hamler returned punts and kicks in college, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors during his final season in Happy Valley.
The Broncos, though, don't sound certain about whether he'll be a full-time returner.
Part of that has to do with his workload. The other aspect has more to do with Pro Bowl alternate Diontae Spencer.
"He obviously can do it in certain situations — both kicks and punts," Fangio said. "But I haven't seen many players over the years once they develop into a really good player and a primary starter do it on a full-time basis around the league. So we'll see how that goes, if he develops into where he's getting a lot of playing time on offense, then maybe it won't happen. But if he's not getting a lot of playing time on offense early on, then maybe he can be a returner. But we like 'Spence' as our returner, too. It will take a lot for us to not still have 'Spence' to do that too. So we feel good about our return game with both KJ and 'Spence.'"
Armed with four Day 2 picks and five Day 3 selections, the Broncos seemed like one of the teams that was most likely to move up during Friday's draft.
Instead of packaging picks for a second second-round pick, though, the Broncos stood pat and added four players.
They found value with their picks, as Hamler and Lloyd Cushenberry III should be near instant starters. Michael Ojemudia could push for playing time, particularly on special teams, and McTelvin Agim should provide depth on the defensive line.
"Well I think you always have opportunities during the draft," Elway said. "We had opportunities to move back, we had opportunities to move up, and I think ultimately we decided that we [were] going to stay where we [were]. And we're glad we [did], because we ended up not losing any of our picks. We still have all our picks tomorrow also. We were able to get the people that we wanted. You're always through those discussions, trying to get all the information that you possibly can — who in front of you may be taking what or what not —and that's part of the draft game. We're happy with the way that it fell today with the players that we really — after yesterday, coming out with Jerry and then Hamler was a target for us in the second round because of his explosiveness and speed to be able to really stretch the field for us. We felt like we needed another speed guy, and that was Hamler. He was our target earlier. Obviously the first part of the day when we're coming out, [we're] sitting there waiting to see if he's going to be there. And we heard of plenty of teams behind us that were obviously interested in KJ also. It fell well for us and so I think looking back on it, the way things fell, we're excited with the players that we had and it turned out it was a good day for us."
COMPETITION AT EVERY SPOT
When the Broncos return to the practice field at UCHealth Training Center, former first-round pick Garett Bolles will compete with Elijah Wilkinson for the left tackle position.
Elway, though, did not single Bolles out. Instead, he stressed that every player on the roster would be competing for their job.
"Garett's going to compete for a job like everybody else on the football team," Elway said. "The bottom line is Eli Wilkinson will be back, and so they're going to compete for jobs like everybody else. I think it's our job on the personnel side to give Vic and his staff the best players that we can to create that competition. That's what our job is to do on the personnel side. They will be competing. Garett Bolles is going to compete like everybody else. … We're all about the competition and the best players are going to play."
Elway said the Broncos have not yet decided whether to pick up Bolles' fifth-year option.