When the Denver Broncos selected Samford wideout Montrell Washington in the fifth round of the NFL draft, everyone went, "Who?" Even the most ardent draft czars, including here at Mile High Huddle, had to scramble to figure out who Washington was.
More often than not, a no-name player taken in the middle of Day 3 is usually viewed as a reach by the draft community. Only the fullness of time can reveal the truth of that but for now, the jury is out on Washington because most believed the Broncos could have saved the draft pick and signed him as a college free agent afterward.
In the immediate aftermath of the draft, it sounded like new Broncos special teams coordinator Dwayne Stukes was the impetus for the Washington pick. However, Stukes may have been the most senior coach pounding the table, but it was wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni who would brought the diminutive Samford wideout to his attention.
“To be completely honest, Coach ‘Z’ (Zach Azzanni) brought him up," Stukes said during rookie minicamp. "Coach ‘Z’ said, ‘I have a receiver that I like. He’s a small slot receiver. Would you mind watching him as a returner?’ I put the tape on, obviously."
And what did you see when you put Washington's tape on, Coach?
"I know there’s a lot of Florida graduates out there, so I apologize," Stukes said. "But anytime you have a kid at Samford that has production versus a big program, it draws your attention, right? So Coach ‘Z’ brought him up, then I went and watched him and I said, ‘This kid has talent.’”
No doubt, Washington stood out like a sore thumb in that game vs. Florida. He finished with 322 total yards (124 receiving, 19 rushing, 179 returning) and scored three touchdowns. Nearly putting 200 return yards on the board against an SEC juggernaut is what really caught Stukes' eye.
However, Washington owes his position coach for broaching the subject to Stukes. For a fifth-round pick, it seems matter-of-course that Washington will take over the Broncos' punt and kick returner duties but nothing has been handed to him. The rookie certainly doesn't feel like he's "made it" in the NFL quite yet.
“I don’t think I’ve made it yet to this point," Washington said. "Yes, I’m here, but there is still a lot of work to be done. I’m hungry, to be honest with you. Every day I have to prove myself I feel like. I definitely have not made it yet.”
With Washington in the fold, Stukes isn't the only coordinator salivating over ways to utilize his speed and burst. Offensive coordinator Justin Outten has a plan percolating in the back of his mind.
“It’s more of a speed-type thing—you can use him for fly sweeps," Outten said. "You can use him for [end]-arounds. You can use him down the field and blow the top off the defense. With him, it’s just the evaluation of how much he can handle at this point with the playbook itself. With time, I think it will come."
While draftniks around the league may have been underwhelmed by the Washington pick, the Broncos obviously are excited to have him and expect the rookie to make an impact.
"He’s just a different element for the explosive mindset because he’s just a different body in that room," Outten said. "Different is never bad. It’s always good to find packages for guys like that. It’s as much as they can handle.”
Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
Subscribe to Mile High Huddle on YouTube for daily Broncos live-stream podcasts!