ENGLEWOOD – An abundance of riches on offense. An abundance of bigness on defense.
The Denver Broncos added another big defensive tackle in the draft Thursday and felt like they got a big bargain, as well, when they chose 313-pound Sylvester Williams of North Carolina in the first round.
A team that’s all but set on offense with Peyton Manning, Wes Welker and company was thought to be looking for a pass rusher or defensive back with its top pick.
Instead, the Broncos added another 300-pounder in the middle. Williams joins newly signed free agent Terrence “Pot Roast” Knighton and veteran hole-plugger Kevin Vickerson, both of the large variety that defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio prefers.
“I think it’s fair to say he was very excited,” coach John Fox said of his defensive coordinator.
Williams widely was viewed as a top-20 pick, and when he dropped to the Broncos’ spot at No. 28, it was too good to resist for Broncos Executive Vice President John Elway.
The Broncos ran four mock drafts in the lead-up to selection day, and Williams didn’t drop below No. 25 in any of them.
“We were thrilled to death that he was there by the time it got to us,” Elway said.
The Missouri native, who enrolled at North Carolina after two years in junior college, finished with 20½ tackles for loss, 8½ sacks and 11 quarterback hurries in his two years with the Tar Heels.
It has been quite a quick rise for Williams, who only played one season of football in high school. In fact, at one point, he got kicked out of high school for poor attendance but returned and tried out for the football team his senior year. Not completely sold on football after graduation, he took a job at a factory making radiator parts.
“I worked at that factory, and it showed me what hard work really is,” Williams said. “Being able to play football as a job is a blessing.”
Without much of a résumé after a single year of high school ball, however, Williams enrolled at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College in hopes of getting noticed. He overmatched opponents there, finishing with seven sacks, 18½ tackles behind the line and even four blocked kicks.
The Tar Heels won a healthy recruiting battle for Williams, and – after two strong years there – he’ll find himself on a team looking for pieces to complete a Super Bowl run but also hoping to build for the future.
The Broncos believe they’re fulfilling both goals with this pick, though they’ll enter the second day of the draft with needs – at defensive end to replace Elvis Dumervil and also in the defensive backfield and at running back, the one notable hole on a talent-rich offense.
Williams said he took no umbrage as he watched his name linger on the draft board for an hour or longer than many people expected.
“I had no idea, but I’m just really looking forward to the opportunity to be a first-round pick and be affiliated with whatever team took a chance,” he said. “The Denver Broncos took a chance on me. At the end of the day, I’m the 28th pick of the draft, and I’m going to come in ... and we’re going to win the Super Bowl next year.”
Elway said he had opportunities to trade back into the second round, the way he did last year, when the Broncos took defensive lineman Derek Wolfe with the 36th pick. But they couldn’t pass on Williams.
This marks the first time the Broncos have drafted a defensive tackle in the first round since 1997, when they also picked 28th. The choice that year: Trevor Pryce, who won two Super Bowls with the team and was one of Denver’s most productive linemen ever, with 64 sacks over nine seasons.
“We hope he has the career Trevor had,” Elway said. “If he does, we’d be in good shape.”