ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — For weeks, Denver's football brass stressed patience at the left tackle position.
The Broncos were rewarded Thursday night for their willingness to wait when they drafted Garett Bolles with the 20th-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
And with that pick, the Broncos continued to get meaner and nastier along the offensive front. Perhaps more importantly, the Broncos didn't have to trade up and sacrifice part of the future to do so.
With the 20th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft the Broncos select OT Garett Bolles from Utah. (Photos by AP)
Bolles, who embraced his faith and reformed after a rough start to his teenage years, plays with aggression on the field and has the potential to become a stalwart at left tackle for Denver.
Following the pick, Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway praised the 24-year-old tackle.
"Excited that Garett Bolles was available for us to take [with] our [first-round] pick," Elway tweeted. "He was the most athletic tackle in the draft & plays [with] toughness!"
Bolles joins free-agent additions Menelik Watson and Ron Leary on the Broncos' offensive line, which needed a boost after a 2016 season in which Denver struggled to protect the passer and provide a push on the run.
The new-look offensive line should help Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch, who were sacked a combined 41 times in 2016. On the ground, Bolles' athleticism and lateral quickness should help the Broncos improve on their 3.6 yards per carry from last season. Running back C.J. Anderson's season-ending injury impacted that output, and Denver struggled on its way to a 29th-place finish in yards per attempt.
In college, he found his way to second-level blocks, which will help free the Broncos' running backs in a way that wasn't common last season.
Bolles possesses "elite athletic ability with the sweetest feet at the tackle position," according to NFL.com's pre-draft evaluation. That particular skill set should lend itself well to pass protection, as he can deal with quick, mobile edge rushers.
Though he'll look to improve his upper-body strength over time, he found ways in college to quickly change direction and shift his weight on slides.
If his tape doesn't speak for itself, his athleticism should. The 6-foot-5, 297-pound tackle with 34-inch arms ran a 4.95-second 40-yard dash, a 7.29-second 3-cone drill and a 4.55-second 20-yard shuttle. He also turned in a 115-inch broad jump.
And while left tackle remains one of the most-difficult positions in which to slide in and play right away, Elway said earlier in the draft process that he believed at least one left tackle in the draft would be ready to play right away.
With the 20th pick and all offensive tackles still on the board, Elway had his choice of prospects – seemingly suggesting that Bolles was the man Elway always had in mind.
His path was different than most, as he played two seasons at Snow College, where he was an all-conference pick. Once at Utah, he earned first-team All-Pac 12 honors.
With the Utes, all of those positive traits became evident, and even with plenty of talented players left on the board, the Broncos pulled the trigger on their guy.
Not all of Denver's needs were suddenly solved. But with the addition of a stable left tackle that can compete for a Day-1 starting position, the road back to the playoffs is looking a lot clearer.