The Denver Broncos came into the 2011 NFL Draft with a big need at tight end, so they addressed it with two selections.
“(Fourth-round pick) Julius Thomas was the player at Portland State that played basketball for four years, and he tried out for football this year. He’s a guys that’s 6-5, 250 (pounds) who is very athletic and has very good ball skills from playing basketball. His athleticism in and out of breaks was great, and his football knowledge—(tight ends coach) Clancy Barone worked him out at Portland State, and he had very good football knowledge for a one-year player,” Broncos general manager Brian Xanders said. “He’s got a big athletic upside, and if he can gain some weight and lift weights, he could be a 6-5, 260 (pound) guy that can run in a couple years here. We’re excited about him.”
Barone has plenty of experience working with talented tight ends.
“One of the other things, too, with Clancy Barone—he was part of the developmental process with (San Diego Chargers TE Antonio) Gates. When he was at San Diego, Clancy was there. We did do a private workout. Clancy was involved in that and was very impressed, and that was also part of that decision,” head coach John Fox said.
The team selected another tight end in the seventh round.
“Virgil Green was the second tight end. He’s in the same mold; he’s a little bit shorter. He’s 6-3, 245 (pounds), but he’s very fast. He had a great combine; he had a 42-inch vertical. He’s tough. He’s physical. He has that athletic upside, and he may have some versatility,” Xanders said about Green.
Green, who had a terrific NFL Scouting Combine workout, would have been selected much higher had he not had microfracture knee surgery four years ago.
Had the Broncos not addressed the tight end issue in the draft, they were expected to address it in free agency. The Broncos are expected to address most of their remaining needs on defense once free agency starts.