Thomas failed a drug test and was kicked off of Florida's team last year. The Broncos brought him in for a pre-draft visit, needing to hear firsthand about the issues that derailed his college career.
After getting promises from Thomas that he wouldn't be a problem, coach Mike Shanahan decided to take a risk.
"I can't tell you 100 percent," Shanahan said. "But if I didn't have a very good gut (feeling) about the guy, he wouldn't be with our organization."
If the Broncos are correct and Thomas stays out of trouble, they landed a player who they had graded in the first round. And the Broncos needed to add to their defensive tackles, which was probably the thinnest spot on the roster.
Denver gave up a third-round pick in 2008, as well as their two remaining picks in this year's draft in the sixth and seventh round, to get the fourth-round pick to land Thomas.
Thomas said he has learned from his mistakes and won't blow his chance.
"I just feel like I'm already on 2.9 strikes," Thomas said. "Anything else, I'm out."
The Broncos have taken chances on players with character problems before. Two years ago they shocked many people by selecting Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett in the third round.
Shanahan used Clarett's case as proof the Broncos won't put up with problematic players. Clarett dogged it in training camp and was cut before the Broncos played a preseason game.
Shanahan promised no tolerance if Thomas gets in trouble again, and he would get rid of him. Thomas wanted to prove the Broncos right for taking a chance.
"I want to make a good story out of it," Thomas said. "I can turn it into happily ever after, make a Cinderella story out of this."
DRAFT REVIEW The Broncos tried to rebuild their defensive line, selecting a couple of ends on day one and a troubled tackle in the fourth round.
Florida end Jarvis Moss was their first round pick, followed by Texas end Tim Crowder. The Broncos were thin on the line, but those two should immediately help, at least in passing situations. Denver traded their remaining two picks, a sixth- and seventh-rounder, and a 2008 third-round pick to Minnesota to get a fourth-round pick and select Florida defensive tackle Marcus Thomas. Thomas is a talented player who was kicked off the team last season for violating team rules.
Denver also selected Notre Dame offensive tackle Ryan Harris in the third round.
The Broncos needed ends because Kenard Lang and Ebenezer Ekuban are each older than 30 years old. Lang was brought in to be a situational end, but was a starter all last season because Courtney Brown missed the season with an injury.
The Broncos also needed tackles. Gerard Warren and Alvin McKinley were penciled in as starters, with little depth behind them. So the Broncos gambled that Thomas can stay clean off the field and help the defense.
Thomas will fit well in Denver's scheme. He's a strong player who, if Warren is healthy and has a bounce-back season, should make a solid duo in the middle. They should be able to clog up the middle and let linebackers make many plays.
Denver didn't feel it gave up too much to trade up and select Thomas. The third-round pick in 2008 was worth it, Shanahan said, because Thomas carried a first-round grade. The Broncos didn't want to risk that Thomas would keep slipping until they were on the clock again in the sixth round.
Harris fits a less obvious need for the Broncos. Denver lost tackle George Foster and guard Cooper Carlisle in the offseason. Tackle Matt Lepsis is coming off a knee injury and center Tom Nalen is a year older. The Broncos needed some depth and Harris was a good player in college.
Denver had only four picks in seven rounds, so it had some unfulfilled needs when the draft was done. The Broncos didn't draft a linebacker or safety, two positions of need before the draft. However, neither of those spots were as dire as the defensive line.
BEST PICK: The Broncos needed a defensive end, and they moved quickly when Jarvis Moss was the only one left on their wish list for the 21st overall pick. Denver moved up four spots to secure Moss, who will make an immediate impact as a rookie. He will get plenty of chances to line up wide and rush the quarterback.
COULD SURPRISE: Offensive tackle Ryan Harris admitted he doesn't fit every offensive scheme, but felt comfortable going to the Broncos and their zone-blocking style. Most linemen take a year or two to get acclimated to the Broncos' offense, but Harris is smart and benefited from being in a pro-style offense at Notre Dame, so he might be able to fill in early in his career if needed.
A closer look at the Broncos' picks:
Round 1/17 -- Jarvis Moss, DE, 6-6, 251, Florida
Even after flirting with the possibility early in the offseason of trading up to select Georgia Tech receiver Calvin Johnson, the Broncos drafted for need. They had to load up on the defensive line, and Moss should have an instant impact as a pass rusher. Denver will have to see if he can play the run before committing to giving him a starting job.
Round 2/56 -- Tim Crowder, DE, 6-4, 271, Texas
Crowder is bigger than Moss, but both players are similar. They're both fast and talented pass rushers, which is what assistant head coach/defense Jim Bates needs for his scheme. Crowder was durable and productive in college and should get right into the rotation as a rookie.
Round 3/70 -- Ryan Harris, OT, 6-5, 299, Notre Dame
After spending the second half of last year dealing with upheaval on the offensive line, the Broncos spent a first-day pick on a versatile lineman who should fit their scheme. Harris was a standout left tackle who also played right tackle in college, and the Broncos think he can play the interior positions as well.
Round 4/121 -- Marcus Thomas, DT, 6-2, 314, Florida Thomas fell in the draft because of character issues. Had he not been suspended for a drug violation and eventually kicked off the team, he probably would have been a first-round pick. If he stays clean, the Broncos could have a top-notch tackle. He is powerful and can hold up against the run, and he was an effective pass rusher in college. He will have a chance to start as a rookie if there are no off-field issues.
-- The Broncos didn't draft a linebacker because they landed Warrick Holdman and D.D. Lewis in free agency a couple days before the draft. Holdman, Lewis and incumbent Nate Webster will battle for a starting spot. D.J. Williams, the starting strong-side linebacker last year, will move to the middle and replace Al Wilson.
-- Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said Denver and Detroit had agreed to the parameters of a deal about a week after the Combine that would give the Broncos the second pick in the draft, which they would have used to select Georgia Tech receiver Calvin Johnson. However, the Lions wanted to wait a day until making the trade official, and they backed out the next morning.
"Hey, that happens all the time," Shanahan said.
-- Shanahan commended NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for his stronger personal conduct policy.
"I think that's great," Shanahan said. "What it makes people do is be accountable for their actions."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think we helped ourselves with this draft." -- Broncos coach Mike Shanahan.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: Not available.
--LB Louis Green: Potential RFA; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--FB Kyle Johnson: RFA; terms unknown.
--WR Quincy Morgan: UFA; terms unknown.
--DT Kenny Peterson: UFA; terms unknown.
--FB Cecil Sapp: RFA; $1.3M/1 yr.
--CB Dre' Bly (trade Lions).
--TE Daniel Graham: UFA Patriots; $30M/5 yrs, $15M guaranteed.
--RB Travis Henry: FA Titans; 5 yrs, $12M guaranteed; other terms unknown.
--LB Warrick Holdman: UFA Redskins; terms unknown.
--OG Montrae Holland: UFA Saints; $1M/1 yr, SB unknown.
--LB D.D. Lewis: UFA Seahawks; terms unknown.
--DT Alvin McKinley: UFA Browns; $8M/4 yrs, SB unknown.
--QB Patrick Ramsey: FA Jets; $4.5M/2 yrs, SB unknown.
--P Todd Sauerbrun: UFA Patriots; $820,000/1 yr.
--FB Paul Smith: UFA Rams; $2.55M/3 yrs, $300,000 SB.
--WR Brandon Stokley: FA Colts; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--WR David Terrell: FA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--RB Tatum Bell (traded Lions).
--DE Courtney Brown (released).
--LB Keith Burns: UFA; retired.
--OG Cooper Carlisle: UFA Raiders; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--DE Patrick Chukwurah: UFA Buccaneers; $5.5M/5 yrs, SB unknown.
--OT George Foster (traded Lions).
--DT Michael Myers: UFA Bengals; $1.65M/2 yrs, $100,000 SB.
--RB Damien Nash (deceased).
--QB Jake Plummer (traded Buccaneers).
--CB Darrent Williams (deceased).
--LB Al Wilson (released; post-June 1 designation).
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