Broncos Select Ryan Clady in First Round

By: AP
By: AP

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan stepped to the podium and pronounced his newest draft pick, Boise State's Ryan Clady, as the team's starting left tackle.

No trace of a smirk, grin or wink followed.

Clady now has Jay Cutler's blind side after he was taken with the 12th pick of the NFL draft on Saturday.

"We're going to put him in there at the left tackle position to start with and we'll see if he can keep it," Shanahan said. "He's going to have some competition."

The team figured to be in the market for a left tackle after the retirement of Matt Lepsis. The only other tackles Denver currently has on its roster are Ryan Harris, Chris Kuper and Erik Pears.

The 6-foot-6, 316-pound Clady just moved to the head of the class. Not that he's surprised.

"Most of the teams that I came in and visited, most of them were like, 'Yeah, the first rounders are selected to start and be an impact right away,"' Clady said. "That's what I'm expecting to do as well."

Shanahan was fascinated with Clady's footwork, referencing it time after time in describing the lineman.

"I haven't been around a tackle that has that type of feet," Shanahan said. "Here's a guy that's 6-6, 315, 320 pounds and he's got excellent, excellent feet. You don't find that very often."

Clady credits his fancy footwork to years of pickup basketball games around his neighborhood.

"That possibly helped me out," Clady said. "When I was there for the visit, Shanahan asked me that and I was like, 'I don't really know.' It's just natural."

Clady was recruited to Boise State as an unheralded defensive lineman out of Eisenhower High School in Rialto, Calif. Dan Hawkins, then the coach at Boise State, decided to switch him over to the offensive line -- because of his great footwork.

"He was that way from Day 1. He really was," said Hawkins, who's now head coach at Colorado. "That was just part of his DNA. He fit in great with our o-line mentality."

The fact Boise State ran a zone-blocking scheme could help Clady as he makes the switch from the Broncos to the Broncos.

"It's the same type of system," he said. "I am on the fast track for learning and getting on the field a little faster because I know the system."

Shanahan said it didn't take the team long to submit Clady's name once Denver was on the clock. Clady was viewed as one of the top tackles in the draft, along with Jake Long who was taken by the Miami Dolphins with the top overall pick.

"To get a guy like this, who we had as the top tackle after Long, we felt pretty lucky for him to be there," Shanahan said.

However, the Broncos weren't married to the idea of drafting a tackle at No. 12. The team had three tackles targeted with the pick, and would've gone an alternate route if they were already gobbled up.

"There's a lot of different directions you could go because you're not really sure what's going to happen," Shanahan said.

Clady ran the 40-yard dash in 5.28 seconds in campus agility tests and benched 355 pounds.

But he scored low on the Wonderlic exam, a test used to gauge aptitude for learning and problem solving ability.

He chalked it up to a torn pectoral muscle that he suffered just before the test.

"I was really frustrated about that," said Clady, who's fully healed from the injury. "I was thinking, 'Am I going to be able to work out tomorrow?' A lot of stuff was running through my head so I'm a little disappointed in the score, but I know I can learn a system."

Clady's confident he can come in and contribute, just like Joe Thomas did for the Cleveland Browns last season. Thomas was taken with the No. 3 pick in last year's draft, and made the Pro Bowl squad.

"The Browns turned around tremendously with him at left tackle, and I plan on doing the same with the Broncos," Clady said. "Just having that work ethic and that mind-set coming in, you can definitely make an impact, especially at left tackle."


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