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BSN Exclusive: DeMarcus Walker opens up on his surprising lack of opportunity

Ryan Koenigsberg Avatar
December 28, 2018

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In the NFL, when a player is drafted in the second round, the general idea is that he is going to come in right away and contribute. In a perfect world, he may even come in and start.

Courtland Sutton, Denver’s second-round pick in 2018, is a perfect example of the ideal arc for a second rounder in terms of usage upon entering the league. Sutton was a contributor in Week 1 and right around the midway part of the season became a full-time starter. Derek Wolfe is another example of a second-round success story.

Then, of course, there is the flip side, guys who get drafted in the second round and, as it turns out, can’t cut it in the league or just simply aren’t a starter-level player. Guys like Montee Ball or Ty Sambrailo. The swings and misses of the draft.

But there’s one thing that all—or most—second-round picks have in common, they play early. Ball got 140 touches his rookie season, Sambrailo started at left tackle right out of the gate. With the capital invested in them, the team expects them to contribute right away and, usually, is willing to deal with some growing pains as they get their feet under them.

That brings us to the curious case of DeMarcus Walker, the Denver Broncos’ second-round pick in 2017.

Walker was drafted with the hope that he could fill the interior pass-rushing void left by Malik Jackson when he bolted for a massive mound of money after Super Bowl 50. Unfortunately for the Florida State standout, an injury to Shane Ray left Denver a bit thin at outside linebacker during his rookie season and, with the rookie already being a bit undersized for the line, the coaching staff elected to start him out at OLB, hoping he could provide some depth.

What resulted was a lost season. Eventually, the team moved him back to the line where his lost weight left him far too small. The rookie appeared in 10 games but didn’t make a tangible impact until Week 17, when he got additional playing time in a meaningless game and notched a sack of Patrick Mahomes.

In the offseason, the Broncos had Walker focus solely on beefing up for the defensive line. Once as low as 238 pounds, the natural defensive end packed on 42 pounds to get all the way up to his more comfortable weight of 280. Throughout the offseason, there was real belief that the move would set Walker up to thrive, and many players and coaches thought it was happening.

Fast forward to Week 17 and Walker has been inactive for all but three of Denver’s games, making even less of an impact than he did in his herky-jerky rookie season.

It’s a difficult pill to swallow for a 24-year old who ranked second in the nation in sacks during his senior year at FSU.

“At first, at the beginning of the season, it was hard, you know?” He told BSN Denver. “But I’ve just been working on myself, working on my patience and everything, trying to be a great teammate and just help the team out any way I can.”

While his lack of usage has been eye-opening throughout the season, the situation was magnified on Monday when, in a completely meaningless game, Walker was once again inactive, a missed opportunity for a young player to get invaluable experience.

To make things even tougher, Walker says Broncos head coach Vance Joseph told him last week that he was going to “try” to get him up for the last two games of the season.

As you can imagine, Walker admits he was both disappointed and “definitely” surprised when he was told he would, once again, not get a jersey on game day, “But I guess that’s how it’s run,” he said.

The move sparked many to point to what seemed like the most logical conclusion, Walker, like Shane Ray and Su’a Cravens, is stuck in the doghouse of the coaching staff.

We asked him point-blank if he believes that is the case.

“I don’t know,” he said, raising his voice in a befuddled tone. “I don’t feel like I am. I haven’t been fined the whole season. I’ve been early every day; I’ve never missed curfew. I don’t know, you know what I’m saying? I even talked to my agent, and he talked to the guys upstairs and even they said I’m not in the doghouse, it’s just numbers.”

“I feel like my slate is clean because I’ve matured over the past year,” he added. “I couldn’t tell you where I went wrong this season on the field or off the field; I can’t tell you. I’ve been a professional. I just want an opportunity. I have to come in harder than ever, I have to apply more pressure.”

Will an opportunity come this week?

“I don’t know, man,” he said in a fashion that suggests he’s not expecting it. “I’ll walk upstairs and have one more talk, but other than that, we’ll see how it goes.”

If he doesn’t get the call on Sunday, it will mark two full years in which a perfectly healthy second-round pick contributed next to nothing for the Broncos, and never truly got an opportunity to do so.

That leaves the offseason, where Walker is planning to make a big change.

“Deadly,” he said of his mindset for the break. “No filter. I’m coming for whatever and I don’t care who it is. I just have to put the work in. I’m coming with a different mindset. I’m coming for something way bigger.”

Perhaps a new coaching staff will covet his talent. Maybe Sunday will be his last game in Denver. one thing is for sure, though, Denver hasn’t done themselves any favors in developing a player they spent valuable draft capital on.

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