Broncos scoop Lelie!
By Paul Honda
Saturday, April 20, 2002, 10:15 a.m.
It's official: Ashley Lelie is now a Denver Bronco.
Two years ago, University of Hawaii coach June Jones predicted that Lelie would be a first-round pick by the NFL if he continued to work hard.
On Saturday, the Broncos made a prophet of Jones by making Lelie their first-round pick with the 19th selection of the NFL Draft. Lelie was projected as a mid-round pick by most analysts.
Denver head coach Mike Shanahan told ESPN that it was a no-brainer. "Our owner (Pat Bowlen) is from Hawaii and he thought Lelie was a great pick, so we went with him," Shanahan said.
"We needed depth at that position. We had a chance to have a guy with great speed, with a great upside. He can make some big plays and were glad to have him," Shanahan said.
Lelie, a 6-foot-3, 197-pound wide receiver, was the second wideout selected in the draft.
ESPN football analyst Chris Mortenson praised the selection, referring to Jones' forecast that Lelie will turn out to be one of the top 10 players from this year's draft.
Ron Jaworski, another ESPN analyst, panned the pick. Jaworski attributed Lelie's remarkable statistics as a byproduct of Jones' Run & Shoot offense. He also said Lelie would have a difficult time adjusting to the NFL because of the Run & Shoot's style of running patterns.
Jaworski said Lelie weighs 175 pounds. Lelie, who ran a 4.31 40 recently despite a sore hamstring, is listed by the NFL at 197.
Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey began last season as Denver's starting wideouts. McCaffrey suffered a broken leg in the season opener. He expects to be back at 100 percent this fall.
McCaffrey told the Associated Press that he is progressing ahead of schedule. "All along, the doctors indicated I was about a month ahead, but I honestly didn't expect to be running with the workout groups until May. So I'm pretty happy with the progress so far," he said.
McCaffrey has been running and cutting, but not at full speed yet.
At Denver, Lelie joins former UH standout Jason Elam, an All-Pro placekicker. Denver was also home for several years to former UH defensive lineman Maa Tanuvasa.
Atlanta, also in need of speed at wideout, passed over Lelie at No. 18 in favor of running back D.J. Duckett of Michigan State in what was a somewhat surprising move. The Falcons, with one of the NFL's most promising quarterbacks in Michael Vick, chose a back possibly because of Jamal Anderson's second knee injury in three seasons.
Anderson talked to ESPN from Barcelona, Spain. "I thought we would get a receiver. I was kind of surprised Ashley was still available," he said. Anderson noted that Atlanta had already signed Warrick Dunn, another talented back.