ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —** Each of the Broncos' new cornerbacks has a story, besides the clear one about how two of Tulane's starting corners are staying together in the same draft class.
Initially Lorenzo Doss and Taurean Nixon both started as freshmen, but at different schools. Eventually their roads, both starting in Louisiana, would come back to Louisiana.
With the 164th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Broncos selected Tulane CB Lorenzo Doss. (All photos via AP Images)
Lorenzo Doss, a homegrown New Orleans talent, had a great sophomore season in 2013, snagging seven interceptions. good for second in the NCAA FBS. But co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach Lionel Washington knows he should have caught a couple more.
It's no surprise Doss can reel in some tough grabs given that he's a former wide receiver, but that he converted so easily made life easier for the Tulane defense.
"He's a pretty good athlete and he transitioned from wide receiver to corner," Washington told me over the phone on Monday. "It was very smooth, since he switched, it just came natural so we knew at that time we had a pretty special football player and [he has] great hands and can catch the football. He can catch the football in all kinds of positions and angles and I know that he's the kind of guy that can catch a ball like that."
However, he followed it up trying to do too much, Washington said. That said, Washington thinks Doss still got better every year; it just took him some time to get back in the right mindset.
"...I think he had in his mind that he had to go out and get more interceptions than he did the year before so he didn't play his technique as well as he needed to play and he was looking to make big plays instead of looking to play the game and let the game come to him," he said. "And from the middle of the season to the end of the season he played a lot better because he calmed down and then he played football and did what he's done from Day 1: That's play hard and never try to make a play didn't need to be made."
Day 1 for Doss at Tulane was a transition since he was moving from one side of the line of scrimmage to the other at cornerback. He did it well, starting in nine of 12 games for the Green Wave, making 44 tackles and five interceptions as a true freshman.
After his aforementioned banner year and then slight dropoff, Doss made the decision to turn pro a year early.
"Just talking to my coaches and my family, it just felt like it was time that I came out," Doss said. "I had a great career at Tulane these past few years. I enjoyed it but we all just felt like it was time to come out."
Doss said that being drafted by the Broncos and having the opportunity to learn from two Pro Bowlers in Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. is "a great opportunity to learn from the best" and Washington agreed, saying both Doss and Nixon are going pick things up quickly.
"I think anytime you've got those types of players you're going to come and hopefully back up and learn something. I think it's a great situation, and both of them are smart football players, they're smart kids," Washington said. "...Doss and Nixon are great students of the game so they're going to come in, pick it up, watch, listen and learn. Those kids are good kids so they're going to learn everything and make a difference."
Nixon's path began in Baton Rouge and following outstanding play in high school, he would soon find himself in Memphis playing for the Tigers and starting, to boot.
But despite working his way into the starting lineup in the middle of his freshman season and becoming an impact player in the following year, he decided to transfer to be closer to home, Washington said.
Check out photos of the Broncos' three seventh-round picks, Trevor Siemian, Taurean Nixon and Josh Furman.
"He was one of those kids that before he got there, we had recruited him to come here and he decided to move out to Memphis and wanted to come back home and he was granted the opportunity to come back home and he did well for himself and also for Tulane," he added.
Due to NCAA transfer rules, Nixon sat out the 2012 season and redshirted it to retain his eligibility for two more years. but he still had to work his way back into Tulane's lineup.
"He worked his butt off while he was learning the defense and understanding the big picture," Washington said. "He understood formation recognition, route recognition, alignment, what's he going to do on his first step—and I think that made him a better football player."
Nixon's biggest strength is probably his speed, as Washington can attest. A former state champion in high school track and field who later tied Memphis' 60-yard dash record, Nixon is a blur—he clocked a 4.38 40-yard dash at the combine.
Washington said speed is Nixon's biggest skill, but noted he can cover the deep ball pretty well and that he, and Doss, can both make an impact on special teams.
"I think both of them can make an impact on special teams, especially in the kickoff cover, punt cover and all those coverage teams, they're going to do a great job definitely because of the speed and their willingness to go down and make plays," Washington said.
Nixon said he knows that phase of the game is a spot to make a good first impression. Though he says he returned punts and kicks for touchdowns pretty much on a weekly basis in high school, he was kind of phased out of it at Memphis and then focused on learning the defensive system at Tulane and wasn't able to do that much there.
"I wasn't really able to get back there and do what I wanted to do kickoff return and punt return. But I think it's a great asset that I have that I can maybe get back there and do," Nixon said, adding that he can help on the other side as a gunner. "I'm really good at the gunner spot. I played there a lot when I first got to Tulane and I've got a love for it, so I think that, gunner, [or] anywhere where my feet can be used when I first get there, I think that'll be my spot."