ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --The Broncos crossed off plenty of items from their draft checklist between April 30 and May 2. But they were unable to find a returner.
"There are a couple of guys we did talk about that ended up going before our picks came up," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said just after the draft concluded.
That's why the claim of Solomon Patton off waivers from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Tuesday could prove to be significant.
The Broncos had options at both return spots already on their roster, a group that included names such as Omar Bolden and Andre Caldwell on kickoffs and Isaiah Burse, Jordan Norwood and Emmanuel Sanders on punts.
The ideal return candidate would be able to handle both disciplines, something the Broncos have not had since the explosive -- but erratic -- Trindon Holliday.
"We're going to have to get more guys involved in that," Kubiak said May 2. "It's up to us in the offseason and preseason to find some more guys that can help us from that standpoint."
In Patton, the Broncos might have an answer.
In seven games last year, Patton averaged 11.2 yards on 10 punt returns (10th among 42 players with at least 10 punt returns) and 23.1 yards on 18 kickoff returns (36th among 45 players with at least 10 kickoff returns), while fumbling just once on 33 opportunities to field the football (kickoff returns, punt returns and fair catches).
Of the 18 players who had at least 10 punt returns and 10 kickoff returns in 2014, Patton was one of just four to average at least 23 yards per kickoff return and 10 yards per punt return, joined by Atlanta's Devin Hester, Cincinnati's Adam Jones and Kansas City's De'Anthony Thomas.
When adding in preseason numbers to get a larger sample size, Patton finished 2014 with one fumble in 49 opportunities -- much better than the league-wide rate of one every 23.5 chances. He also averaged 24.3 yards per kickoff return and 10.1 yards per punt return.
Patton showed promise last year. With some more time to develop, he could be better -- and could answer an important question as the Broncos work to upgrade their special teams.