Woody Paige: Broncos fans should be optimistic about Bolles

DENVER — Ahem.

When the Broncos’ pick – 20th in the first round of the NFL draft – was announced Thursday night (after the name already had circulated prematurely through the auditorium at Dove Valley, where the local media had convened) – the reaction throughout Denver and Colorado was subdued silence. People were disappointed, depressed, displeased and even disgusted.

Some spit.

Garett Bolles.

Although Bolles plays left tackle, a principle position of need for the Broncos, the fanatics wanted "juice" – a term advanced by new coach Vance Joseph.

Let’s be frank. Everybody wanted Christian McCaffrey, the hometown hero, the Swiss Army Knife, the dynamic runner-receiver-returner.

And when Baby Mac – son of Ed McCaffrey, one-time Broncos’ popular wide receiver – was selected by the Panthers early in the first round, the local sentiment was for the Broncos to select an exceptional tight end or a wide receiver or a running back or a sensational defensive player.

As the round progressed and teams panicked for quarterbacks and wide receivers, it seemed as if the Broncos would have their choice of players who had slipped into the teens and later – players like tight ends O.J. Howard and David Njoku and troubled linebacker Reuben Foster and running backs Dalvin Cook and even Joe Mixon, who had serious red flags.

Howard, the Alabama tight end who had performed so magnificently in postseason games, continued to drift back, and the Broncos might have a chance.  Foster, who had been kicked out of the NFL combine, should have been a top 10 pick. Jabrill Peppers, the do-all Michigan Wolverine defensive-offensive player, was available.

Reports had the Broncos trying to acquire McCaffrey from the Panthers, and the Broncos did receive offers from other teams for the 20th pick.

But, the Broncos decided to stay with going for a player they had targeted for some time who would fill a position of necessity.

Garett Bolles.

He was not a sexy pick. He was not a skill position pick. He was not an exciting pick.  He was not a vibrant pick. He was not the favored pick.

But Bolles, as I know, is an intriguing pick, and I’ll get to that in a moment.

In the Broncos’ first American Football League draft in 1960 (which was divided into two separate sections), they chose 16 – yes, 16 – offensive tackles. The first (they were listed in alphabetical order) was Boston College’s Harry Ball (yes – make your own joke). He was drafted in the 12th round by the Vince Lombardi and the Packers.  Ball decided to join the Pack. He didn’t make the team.

Bolles is from Utah. In 1962 the Broncos drafted another offensive tackle from the same state – Merlin Olsen of Utah State. He rejected the Broncos and went to the NFL and “Little House On The Prairie" and broadcasting.

The Broncos have drafted several offensive lineman in the first round over the years – from tackle Marv Montgomery (tackle, 1971), Tom Glassic (guard, 1976), Steve Schindler (1977, guard), Kelvin Clark (guard, 1979), Christ Hinton (tackle, 1983), Jim Juriga (guard, 1986), Jamie Brown (tackle, 1994), George Foster (tackle, 2003) and Ryan Clady (tackle, 2008).

Most were not very good. Montgomery was solid; Hinton would become an All-Pro after being traded for John Elway, and Ryan Clady was the best left tackle in the league until injuries put him down and out.

Elway claimed Bolles was exactly who they wanted.    

He said late Thursday night that Bolles “bring a mentality that we think is a perfect fit ... If he turns out to be who what we think it is, he solves a problem for a long time.’’ In comparison to Ryan Ramcyzk, the Wisconsin tackle, Elway felt that “athletically, we thought the ceiling was higher on Bolles ... A lot of good players were pushed down (in the first round), but we still felt Garett would be the guy. (He) was the best guy on our (draft board)."

Elway acknowledged the Broncos received offers to move back, but “didn’t want to risk’’ losing Bolles.

The Broncos had interviewed Bolles at the NFL combine, then met with him at Dove Valley last week – and obviously where impressed with his energy, enthusiasm and “’sense of humor’’.

I’m biased. Bolles was the only player I interviewed, and I was the only member of the media he talked to, before the NFL several weeks ago, prior to his outstanding performance in Indianapolis when he was the best lineman there. His story is incredible. He had a difficult childhood, and was a miscreant as a teenager. But he turned his life around, became a Mormon and spent more than a year in Colorado Springs on his mission – before becoming a football player late. He will be 25 this year, and has a wife and young child. I was impressed when writing a column about him. And he said he really had become a Broncos fan when he was here, and wanted to play here.

The Broncos’ faithful aren’t overwhelmed. Christian didn’t come.

But the draft isn’t over, and Bolles hasn’t played a down yet.


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