With the Denver Broncos training camp set to kickoff next week, could it be the last for Omar Bolden? I’ve been pondering this question for a few months now.
The Broncos selected Bolden in the 4th round of the 2012 NFL draft out of Arizona State. The first 3 years of Bolden’s collegiate career with the Sun Devils were replete with awards. As a sophomore, he earned First Team All American honors. Not easy to do as a sophomore.
Going into his senior year, many draftniks considered him one of the top cornerbacks in his class. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL and had to essentially miss his last year with the Sun Devils. During the pre-draft process, I remember reading a lot of breakdowns on Bolden that called him a first round-caliber talent, had he been healthy.
Alas, he was not, but he had a very impressive Pro Day, running a 4.6 40-yard dash and even threw up a whopping 25 reps on the bench press, which is flat out amazing, for a DB. When NFL teams factored in that Bolden had displayed all of this, whilst still recovering from his injury, it was very impressive. His passion for the game and work ethic were on full display.
However, you can ask Tim Tebow how far passion and work ethic can take you in the N(ot) F(or) L(ong). A player has to have the talent, too. One can argue that Bolden possesses such talent, but in his first 2 seasons with the Broncos, it’s been hard to see it.
As a rookie, Bolden saw 81 total snaps on defense, and mostly saw the field on Special Teams. He earned a -1.6 grade from ProFootballFocus. With Champ Bailey, Tracy Porter, Chris Harris, Jr, and Tony Carter on the team, nobody, including the Broncos, expected Bolden to see a lot of playing time.
But when he was on the field on defense, he was often out of position. He seemed to always be on the losing end of a first down passing play. However, such is the learning curve and ups and downs of a rookie defensive back.
Going into training camp in 2013, we were all hoping to see Bolden turn the corner and display some improvement. Then a wrench was thrown into the whole thing. Because of injuries, and some other factors, the Broncos decided to move Bolden to safety.
At first, I thought this could be a good idea. But as we got further into the preseason, it became apparent that Bolden was out of position. I looked at the upside. At least we had a backup utility guy in the secondary who could play both positions and be serviceable.
But the injury bug struck and Bolden saw the field a lot more than expected, more than doubling his snaps as a rookie, with 211. Whether he was at safety, or corner, again, opposing offenses seemed to consistently make plays at the expense of Bolden. He earned a -5.6 overall grade from PFF.
And now here we are. Going into next week’s training camp, the Broncos are absolutely stacked at corner and safety. With the return of a healthy Quinton Carter and great competition from the bottom of the roster with players like John Boyett, it will be very difficult for Bolden to make the roster as a safety.
The Broncos have selected a corner back in each of the last 3 years, including Bolden. This year, the Broncos spent a 1st round pick on one, in Bradley Roby. The corner position is no different than safety. Stacked.
The team brought in Aqib Talib as a free agent to be their CB1. Harris, Jr will likely start opposite him. Then, the Broncos have 2nd-year player Kayvon Webster and the journeyman veteran, Tony Carter. That adds up to 5 quality players at the position.
The bottom line is that for Omar Bolden to make the Broncos’ 53-man roster, he’ll have to improve enough to beat out Tony Carter. The Broncos aren’t going to give up on Webster yet, even if he has a bad camp, because he’s a 3rd round pick in his 2nd season.
I hope Bolden can do it. As much as I like Tony Carter, I’d rather see a player like Bolden, who was drafted and developed by the Broncos, make the team. As a General Manager, John Elway has had very few misses in the draft. But Bolden could represent one of them.
They say that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. If that’s true, it’s very likely that come September 7th, Omar Bolden will be on the outside looking in.