Denver Broncos coaches believe third-round pick Carlos Henderson’s versatility can help turn around their fortunes on offense in 2017.
Despite a 9-7 season, the Broncos offense consistently struggled for a second consecutive season and finished towards the bottom of the league in most statistical categories.
Two inexperienced quarterbacks with a limited playbook, injuries to running backs CJ Anderson and Devontae Booker, defences double teaming star wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders combined with a lack of production from other receivers and tight ends were significant contributors to the Broncos failing to make the playoffs for the first time in six seasons.
While general manager John Elway focused his free agency efforts on shoring up the offensive line and adding bulk to the defense, his focus on the 2017 NFL Draft was to give the offense more playmaking weapons.
The Denver Post’s beat reporter Cameron Wolfe believes that former Louisiana Tech wideout Henderson, who bagged 23 touchdowns (19 receiving, two rush, two kickoff returns) in a monster final year with the Bulldogs, is one of the standout names from the Broncos’ 2017 rookie class.
“The first name to me is Carlos Henderson, the guy they picked up with their third-round pick,” he told Broncos Europe’s 5280 Podcast.
“He’s an example of the ‘juice’ that Vance Joseph has been referring to for the last month or so.
“The thing with Carlos Henderson is that he was a big-play player in college with a lot of production, but he played at a small school at Louisiana Tech, so there’s a little bit of a worry on how quickly he’ll adapt to the NFL game with NFL talent.
“I talked to [Broncos wide receivers coach] Tyke Tolbert and he has high hopes for him. He believes they can move him around a lot in offensive formations, whether at outside receiver, slot receiver, or even some in the backfield as a running back.”
He’ll likely be a guy who can compete for the third receiver spot and hopefully…take pressure off of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.
Last season showed just how desperate the Broncos are for a legitimate third receiver with rookie running back Devontae Booker’s 265 yards and a touchdown off 31 receptions the most outside the Thomas-Sanders tandem.
As Wolfe highlighted in the Denver Post back in January, the production by a receiver or tight end not named Thomas or Sanders needed addressed.
And he thinks that Henderson’s 2017 snap count will depend on how the rookie performs when training camp begins later this month, but there are plenty of upsides for the 22-year-old from New Orleans.
“I think he’ll see a healthy amount of snaps this year,” he added. “How many is gonna be up to him and how he impresses this offseason. I can see him being a full-time starter and I can also see him being a limited player.
“It’s really an upside pick, but he could be a contributor in year one.
“He’ll likely be a guy who can compete for the third receiver spot and hopefully give them a playmaker to take pressure off of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.
“He’ll also likely compete and possibly be the kick returner to add some more play-making ability to their return unit, which they sorely needed last season.
“I don’t think it’s a lock that he’s going to be a day one guy at wide receiver three, but I think they would like that.
“They also added [tight end] Jake Butt and [wide receiver] Isaiah McKenzie as two other guys that can give them play makers on offense.
“I think they added enough to spice up the competition on offence, but training camp will be a big telling sign on who is ready to contribute in year one.”
Cameron Wolfe appeared on episode 2 of the 5280 Podcast. Listen to the full show, also featuring former Broncos left tackle Ryan Harris, and That’s Good Sport’s Brandon Perna below or subscribe on iTunes.