When draft day rolled around this year, a lot of folks didn’t think that the Broncos had much of a chance. Pick #12 was a little too high for comfort, the critics said. There wouldn’t be a player there that was would be worth the high salary the pick demanded. Perhaps a running back, someone like Jonathan Stewart or even Mendenhall of Illinois, would give the Broncos that needed push, that power that Denver needed to put them back on top. More likely, it was said, they should think about trading down.
Others pointed to Chris Williams, himself of Vanderbilt, as one who could protect Cutler’s blind side. He might not be top 12 material, they admitted, but Lepsis retired because after years of hard work, finally injuries had taken their toll and he wasn’t ready to be any help. Pears wasn’t ready (if he ever would be) and Ryan Harris was too much of an unknown after two back surgeries at a young age. Yes, people generally agreed, Denver needed a LT, but Clady would be long gone and the second tier of those available might not be worth the money. So, go with a RB or improve a different category of player altogether.
But, happily, the football deities (Led by Father HT) smiled down on Denver. Teams traded up or doubled down, and 5 of the first 8 picks went to D linemen. Two LBs and a CB were needed, Oakland added to its impressive stable of RBs and when the Broncos number was chosen only a single O lineman had come off the board. Mike Shanahan had the single pick he and the Goodman’s had wanted all along, and the 6’6, 320 lb. Ryan Clady was ready to be dressed in predominantly orange. With an air of stating the obvious, Shanahan immediately pronounced him the Broncos starting LT.
“I wasn’t going to try to fool anybody, pretending like there was going to be competition, because I knew he had that kind of talent” said Mike Shanahan. So far, no one has had any reason to argue. Nothing has changed Shanahan’s mind.
When you’re picked in the first round,” said Clady, “you’re expected to go out and make an impact immediately. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Friday, in the USA Today’s special football preview section, Matt Lepsis weighed in on Clady’s role in the Denver offense. He talked about his last season with the Broncos organization, and the role of a tackle in the Denver scheme.
“A lot of times I felt over my head, he admitted. “I was 285 lb. and going up against guys who weighed the same but were much faster.”
“Most of the time you’re going up against a guy who’s completely fresh. On third down, you’re dying to catch your breath and a guy with fresh legs is coming in to make you look stupid.”
“When Mike’s offense is running the way he wants it run, he wants every possible receiver running routes and he hates to waste someone helping out against a premier pass rusher. He doesn’t want to worry about the tackle,” Lepsis said.
Clady credits And1 basketball for helping him develop the footwork that has led the team to dub him Sweet Feet.
“All of my buddies were smaller And1 players and I tried to emulate those guys,” said Clady.
Since Clady was recruited as a defensive player in college, he has only two years of experience at LT. That hasn’t held him back.
“He stepped up and learned the offense,” said Jay Cutler of the man who will guard his back, “He is doing well right now.”
On Monday he will start doing it for much higher stakes.
A few people think that he’s less than perfect for the job. As the season starts, who do you think that Broncos should have gone with in the 2008 draft?