Broncos running backs coach Bobby Turner maintained contact with Clarett during the two seasons he sat out of football, the first year because he was suspended by Ohio State and last year because he battled the NFL's early-entry draft rule but lost an appeal.
Clarett's off-field issues weren't a problem for the Broncos, because they felt they knew him pretty well after staying in contact with him for two years.
"You don't get too caught up in (Clarett's off-field issues)," Shanahan said. "I know his situation, what happened. The slate's clean. We're giving him an opportunity."
Denver also didn't have a problem with Clarett's slow 40-yard dash times, pointing to Terrell Davis, who also didn't run well at the combine.
Clarett said he couldn't imagine a better situation than being drafted by the Broncos, who have a long track record with running backs.
"I've been waiting for this day for a long time," Clarett said. "It finally happened and Denver will win more ballgames with me there."
DRAFT REVIEW -- The Denver Broncos addressed their poor cornerback depth in the NFL draft, selecting corners with each of their first three picks.
Denver selected Oklahoma State's Darrent Williams in the second round, and Washington State's Karl Paymah and Maryland's Domonique Foxworth in the third round. The Broncos didn't have a first-round pick after trading it to Washington for a third-round pick in 2005 and first- and fourth-round picks in 2006.
Williams was chosen mainly for his special teams ability. He will be Denver's starting punt and kickoff returner right away, after the Broncos struggled in the return game most of the 2004 season.
"We feel he can help us, No. 1, in special teams," Shanahan said. "The question mark is how long does it take for a defensive back to come in and work within your system and feel comfortable with it. You can never answer those questions, but you can answer the question, can a guy return punts and kickoffs?"
Williams is short for a cornerback, at 5-foot-8, but he said he didn't see that as a problem.
"A lot of people knock my height, and they are going to always knock my height, but I play with all heart," Williams said. "I feel I'm one of the best corners in this draft."
However, the Broncos selected Paymah and Foxworth to make sure they have solid candidates to play nickel cornerback, a major area of need.
Denver drafted Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett at the end of the third round, shocking plenty of people. Denver didn't have a fourth- or fifth-round pick and didn't want to take the chance he'd be gone by its next pick, 200th overall in the sixth round.
With their final pick the Broncos took Northern Arizona kicker/punter Paul Ernster in the seventh round. He'll have a chance to make the team if he proves he can handle dual roles kicking off and punting for the Broncos.
BEST PICK: By selecting Oklahoma State's Darrent Williams with their first pick in the NFL draft, the Denver Broncos finally admitted they couldn't keep ignoring their lackluster special teams. Williams is explosive and will help the Broncos on all their special teams, and there's a chance he could develop into a nickel or dime cornerback on defense. Because he will step in and be Denver's kickoff and punt returner, Williams can make an immediate impact for the Broncos.
COULD SURPRISE: Miami (Fla.) offensive lineman Chris Myers wasn't a high draft pick because he's undersized, but that's what the Broncos look for. Myers will fit perfectly into Denver's zone-blocking scheme. Myers probably won't play for the first year or two in Denver but he will get a chance to develop into a starter down the road, which is the same path many of Denver's linemen took to breaking into the starting lineup.
A closer look at the Broncos' picks:
Round 2/56 -- Darrent Williams, CB, 5-8, 188, Oklahoma State Denver picked Williams for his skills returning punts and kicks. They don't know if the 5-8 Williams can come in and be an immediate contributor on defense, but that would be a bonus anyway. Williams will not only return punts and kickoffs, but Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said he'll be a big part of covering kickoffs and punts on special teams. Denver had targeted him as their top player that might be available at this pick.
Round 3/76 -- Karl Paymah, CB, 6-0, 204, Washington State Paymah will compete to fill Denver's hole at nickel cornerback. He is bigger than Williams and the Broncos will see if he can not only play the slot but on the outside. He should have enough size that he won't be a liability against the bigger receivers in the NFL.
Round 3/97 -- Domonique Foxworth, CB, 5-11, 178, Maryland Foxworth is very athletic -- strong for a 178-pound cornerback with decent speed as well. He will compete with Paymah and Williams for playing time in Denver's secondary. He was a productive player at Maryland and the Broncos could use cornerbacks that can get their hands on passes. Foxworth deflected 31 passes and intercepted eight in his career.
Round 3/101 -- Maurice Clarett, RB, 5-11 1/2, 234, Ohio State The Broncos think Clarett fits their offensive system, which emphasizes powerful backs who run downhill. Clarett is not very fast, but plenty of the backs who had success in Denver's offense didn't have breakaway speed. The Broncos don't have any concerns about Clarett's motivation or his personal issues which turned off some teams. Clarett will compete for a backup running back spot as a rookie.
Round 6/200 -- Chris Myers, OG, 6-4, 300, Miami (Fla.) Myers is the prototype Broncos offensive lineman. He isn't huge, but he's athletic and versatile. Myers played center, guard and tackle at Miami and the Broncos will ask him to back up at multiple positions early in his career.
Round 7/239 -- Paul Ernster, K/P, 6-0, 217, Northern Arizona Ernster is a kicker/punter, and if he can effectively kick off he'll challenge Jason Baker for Denver's punting job this season. Jason Elam doesn't kick off, so the Broncos' punter has to be able to kick off as well. Ernster averaged 47.8 yards per punt last season.
-- When Denver traded its first-round pick to Washington for three picks, including a first rounder next year, the Broncos also got a little bit more wiggle room under the salary cap. Before the trade the Broncos had earmarked their remaining cap space for draft picks, but now that they don't have to pay a first-round pick they might be able to add another free agent such as linebacker Chad Brown, who was released by Seattle.
"That does leave you some flexibility," Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist said.
-- While the Broncos waited for their second-round pick, they had to watch the rest of the AFC West add defensive players that can immediately come in and make an impact. San Diego added linebacker Shawne Merriman and defensive tackle Luis Castillo with its two first round picks, Oakland picked cornerbacks Fabian Washington and Stanford Routt in the first 38 picks of the draft and Kansas City added Texas linebacker Derrick Johnson.
"It doesn't surprise me," Shanahan said of the AFC West teams picking defensive players.
-- The Broncos have only one unsigned restricted free agent, safety Sam Brandon, after signing Lenny Walls and Anton Palepoi to their one-year tender offers. Brandon is expected to sign his tender offer soon.
Walls' agent Drew Rosenhaus said his client is still hoping to get a long-term deal from Denver.
"We would like to do that," Rosenhaus said.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "How do you know that he had speed at Ohio State when he ran as a freshman?" - Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, explaining Maurice Clarett's slow 40-yard dash times at the combine.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Broncos might be able to add one more mid-level free agent because they have some salary-cap room after trading their first-round pick to Washington. Denver could use a punter, wide receiver and interior offensive lineman.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None. UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--RB Garrison Hearst didn't play poorly when he was called upon last year, but the Broncos don't have much use for him with their crowded backfield.
--DT Ellis Johnson is a productive pass-rushing interior lineman and the Broncos would love to get him back for another season. RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--S Sam Brandon (tendered at $656,000 with 4th-round pick as compensation) slipped in the eyes of the organization. He could be back, but there's no guarantee.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
--P Jason Baker: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--T/G Cooper Carlisle: UFA; $2M/2 yrs, $500,000 SB.
--DE Marco Coleman: UFA; terms unknown.
--DT Dorsett Davis: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.
--DT Luther Elliss: UFA; terms unknown.
--OG Ben Hamilton: UFA; $16.25M/5 yrs, $5.5M guaranteed.
--TE Patrick Hape: UFA; terms unknown.
--TE/LS Mike Leach: UFA; terms unknown.
--DE Anton Palepoi: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.
--DT Monsanto Pope: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.
--TE Jeb Putzier: RFA/matched Jets offer; $12.5M/5 yrs, $2.5M SB.
--CB Lenny Walls: RFA; $1.43M/1 yr.
--S Chris Young: ERFA; $380,000/1 yr.
--TE Stephen Alexander: UFA Lions; $4.2M/3 yrs, $1M bonuses.
--DE Courtney Brown: FA Browns; terms unknown.
--LB Keith Burns: UFA Buccaneers; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--RB Ron Dayne: UFA Giants; terms unknown.
--DE Ebenezer Ekuban (trade Browns).
--LB Ian Gold: FA Buccaneers; $25M/6 yrs, $5.75M SB/$2.5M RB '06.
--DT Michael Myers (trade Browns).
--DT Gerard Warren (trade Browns).
--RB Reuben Droughns (traded Browns).
--DE Reggie Hayward: UFA Jaguars; $25M/5 yrs, SB unknown.
--CB Kelly Herndon: RFA Seahawks; $15M/5 yrs, $3.6M SB.
--S Kenoy Kennedy: UFA Lions; $14M/5 yrs, $4M SB.
--LB Donnie Spragan: UFA Dolphins; $1.9M/2 yrs, $500,000 SB.
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