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HC Vance Joseph offers evaluation of 2017 draft class

INDIANAPOLIS —Though much of the Broncos’ week at the Combine will focus on the prospects the team can select in April’s NFL Draft, Head Coach Vance Joseph turned his attention Wednesday toward last year’s draft class.

Only offensive tackle Garett Bolles established himself as a full-time starter during the the 2017 season, but Joseph defended the class’ potential as the team looks forward.

“I’m not down on our draft class from last season,” Joseph said. “Some guys take more time to develop and some guys need more time. We drafted those kids last year and there was some positive and some negative also. But again, some guys need more time. I’m not down on our class.”

Five of Denver’s eight selections — Bolles, DeMarcus Walker, Brendan Langley, Isaiah McKenzie and De’Angelo Henderson — did see game action for the Broncos, while Carlos Henderson, Jake Butt and Chad Kelly each missed the season as they recovered from injury.

Joseph offered his evaluation of many of those players Wednesday:

OT Garett Bolles:

“I thought Garett Bolles did a fine job. Obviously being a left tackle for 16 weeks in the NFL is a tough job. It’s the same as being a corner or being a quarterback. I was proud of how he fought. Obviously, he has to get better. He has to get stronger. He has to get better with his technique. But to face those NFL rushers every week for 16 weeks and hold up is impressive for a young rookie.”

Bolles’ development may continue on the other side of the line, as Joseph said a move to right tackle is “being discussed right now.” For now, though, Joseph said Menelik Watson would remain at right tackle.

DE DeMarcus Walker:

“He is going to be a defensive end for us in our 3-4 defense with the flexibility of being an inside rusher and also being an outside rusher on sub-downs. Speaking of him, he started off really slow, but towards the end of the season he did make some plays. That was good to see. Hopefully he comes back in the spring in great shape and kind of pushes forward from there.”

“We want him to come back bigger and stronger. Last year he lost some weight to play outside 'backer, but we’re going to make him a defensive end and have a clear role for him so he can be his best. He came on last year and made some plays toward the end of the season, but we have to find one spot where he can play and help this football team and leave him there.”

WR Carlos Henderson:

“He’s an explosive young player. Obviously he missed the season. He was injured during training camp. He was drafted to be a good football player for us, hopefully a [No.] three or four [receiver]. He’s also a hell of a returner. He can be a core guy on special teams. We’re looking forward to getting him back on the field and hopefully he can contribute for us this year.”

TE Jake Butt:

“I think Jake Butt is going to be full-go this spring. He came back about Week 8 or 9. He wasn’t quite ready yet. He’s got a bright future. He’s a worker, he’s a pro and he’s there every day. I’m excited to see him this spring moving forward.”

Butt’s potential makes him an intriguing addition to the Broncos’ offense, but Joseph said he doesn’t yet know how the second-year player will impact the unit.

“I’m not sure yet. Once we get into scheme and get to the practice field, we’ll kind of know more about that.”

RB De’Angelo Henderson:

“It was hard for De’Angelo to even dress during the season. Obviously in preseason he had some good times where he showed what he can do, but it’s hard to dress four halfbacks. We had three guys dressing at that position and one fullback dressing. Moving forward, Henderson is a young player that has shown some life as a guy that can make big plays. We’re excited about him.”

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