The 56th overall pick was not supposed to be Denver’s pick. They traded with the San Francisco 49ers so they could select wide receiver Cody Latimer from Indiana.
In order to move up from the 63rd pick, Denver gave up their second-round pick this year (63), a fifth-round pick (171) and a fourth-round pick in 2015. This price may seem too high to some, but it’s reasonable considering how talented Latimer is.
He’s only played organized football for five years, but Latimer understands the history of the game. Covering the draft on ESPN Radio, I was able to talk to Latimer at Radio City Music Hall. He appreciates the Denver Broncos picking him, and he understands the gravitas of who picked him and who is going to be throwing him passes in 2014:
"It's a confidence booster for me that one of the greatest QBs picked me to catch passes from one of the best QBs ever." Latimer #Broncos— Cecil Lammey (@cecillammey) May 10, 2014
General manager John Elway felt good about the pick.
“He’s a big, tough, strong wide receiver who can catch the ball and is physical in the run game. We are thrilled to have him. We thought he was also going to go a lot earlier than he did, so when he was finally there, we couldn’t wait any longer. We moved up with San Francisco and were able to get Cody.”
At his pro day, Latimer ran a 4.41 40-yard dash. He has the speed to be a threat as a downfield receiver, and Latimer can track deep passes over his shoulder.
In addition to deep speed, Latimer has the body control and sideline awareness to effectively work routes on the outside. He has a wingspan of 77.625", and that helps him secure passes away from his body—and away from the defensive coverage.
Measuring in at 6’2”, 215 pounds, Latimer is able to be physical at the line of scrimmage and into his route. He can throw smaller defenders out of his way in press coverage, and Latimer will fight for contested passes when they come in.
His size and wingspan also make him great in the red zone. He’s a former basketball player who knows how to use size to his advantage. Latimer will essentially “box out” smaller defenders and go get the ball.
He played in a no-huddle offense in college at Indiana, and that will help him transition to the Broncos' fast-paced system.
Because he’s only been playing organized football for five years, Latimer is raw as a route-runner. He’ll round out his cuts and sometimes tip off which direction he’s going before he makes his break. This will be a point of emphasis the Broncos need to clean up.
Latimer is so talented that he could actually compete for playing time as the team’s third receiver behind Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker. Free-agent addition Emmanuel Sanders has the experience edge and is faster, but he’s not a big red-zone threat. Latimer should end up as the team’s fourth receiver on the depth chart.
As the fourth receiver, Latimer will get time to hone his game. He can take the time he needs to learn what it takes to become the best pro he can be. He’ll learn the professional work ethic from some of the best in the game, and it will be wise for Latimer to emulate what guys like Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker do to prepare each week.
The Broncos made a bold move to climb up in the second round, and it should have a huge payoff for this team. Elway saw the run on wide receivers and knew the team would have to trade up.
“Once you start seeing receivers go when you start the round you just kind of wait and see what happens. Once the receivers go and you’re getting closer to your guys and how many spots are left between you and the guy—that’s when you have to try to make a move. That’s why we decided to go ahead and go up.”
Latimer will begin his pro career as a reserve player, but he has the upside to be a future star for the team.
Cecil Lammey can be followed on Twitter @CecilLammey.