From center to fast wideout, Broncos add depth for QB Wilson
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By PAT GRAHAM
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Russell Wilson's newest teammates include a center-in-waiting, a defensive end who grew up watching the quarterback play at Wisconsin and a potential fishing buddy who also just so happens to be a blazing returner/wide receiver.
There was nothing fishy about this draft for the Denver Broncos. It was a weekend dedicated to reeling in depth. The Broncos selected three players on offense and six more on defense.
"I do feel like we've helped our football team," said Broncos general manager George Paton, whose team is coming off a 7-10 season and a sixth straight season of missing the playoffs. "We'll see how good come the fall."
Among the picks Saturday was Washington center Luke Wattenberg, who spent several years in Seattle and saw Wilson shine for the Seahawks before being traded to Denver. He soon could be snapping to Wilson.
"Pretty insane," the 6-foot-5, 300-pound Wattenberg said. "Being in Seattle and seeing the effect he had on that city, it's a pretty surreal feeling that it could be a possibility."
Then there's Wisconsin defensive end Matt Henningsen, a sixth-round pick who happens to be a lifelong Badgers fans. One of his fondest memories was watching Wilson lead Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl following the 2011 season.
Now, he's joining Wilson.
"It's going to be crazy," Henningsen said.
This is no fish tale: Speedy Samford standout Montrell Washington likes to unwind by dropping a line in the water. When he's not catching passes from Wilson, he may be found catching trout.
"Fishing, really, it relaxes you," said Washington, a fifth-round pick. "I like the challenge it gives me, trying to catch fish. Got to figure out the right bait, what the water is like."
Washington flashed what he could on the field last season against Florida in a 70-52 loss. He scored a rushing TD, caught another and had a 98-yard kickoff return for a score, where he crossed the goal line and dipped his head like a sprinter winning a race.
The Broncos had two picks in the fourth round, taking Pittsburgh cornerback Damarri Mathis and Iowa State defensive lineman Eyioma Uwazurike (pronounced: En-yo-mah Oo-waz-uh-ree-kay). He goes by "Enyi."
In the fifth round, they took safety Delarrin Turner-Yell out of Oklahoma. The Broncos finished their work by taking Wisconsin defensive back Faion Hicks in the seventh round.
One thing in common from the Broncos' perspective: Taking high-character players.
"You look at all the guys that I've been lucky enough to coach and the ones that I feel have always been the most successful are those guys that have great character - great people off the field and in the locker room," coach Nathaniel Hackett said.
MATT "DAMON" HENNINGSEN?
Henningsen's intelligence was compared to the character played by actor Matt Damon in the film "Good Will Hunting."
"I'll agree with that," cracked Henningsen, an engineering major at Wisconsin.
Paton said he hasn't seen the movie.
"You've never seen `Good Will Hunting?'" Hackett teased.
ANSWERING THE BELL
Mathis missed the 2020 season after tearing his labrum while boxing to stay in shape.
"My shoulder was already kind of messed up from the season before, and I ended up hooking the mitt, and I threw out my shoulder," he explained.
Mathis returned last season and was the team's top cover corner. For that, he credits going up against Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett (a first-round pick of the Steelers) and receiver Jordan Addison in practice.
"It was never a normal practice - we were always getting after each other," Mathis said. "It was just a fun place to work and get better."
Uwazurike adds depth on a defensive line missing Shelby Harris, who was dealt as part of the Wilson trade. Uwazurike can play all over the D-line.
"It's just all second nature for me at this point," Uwazurike said. "I'm just ready to see how that improves over the years. I feel like the better that gets, the more useful I'll be."
Turner-Yell (fifth round) and edge rusher Nik Bonitto (second round) are reunited after being weight-room workout buddies/teammates while at Oklahoma.
Bonitto was actually in the draft room before the team picked Turner-Yell.
"I said, `Hey, tell me about your teammate,'" Paton said. "He's like, `What?' I knew they were really close. He was fired up."
GOTTA BE THE HAIR
UCLA tight end Greg Dulcich started growing out his curly hair during quarantine since "no one was going to see the awkward phase." The third-round pick has a stylish mustache to go with it.
Next up, avoiding the rookie haircut.
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Updated April 30, 2022