Ever year, usually in the first couple days of May, rounds four through seven of the NFL Draft come and go in a flash. It's Saturday, the shine excitement of the draft has worn off for many, and a large percentage of the names that average fans have heard of are off of the board.
It's the least exciting time of the draft, but it's also where John Elway, the general manager, has shined. Virgil Green, Malik Jackson, Danny Trevathan, Julius Thomas and Matt Paradis were all final-day finds for Elway, and the next diamond in the rough is beginning to shine through.
Lorenzo Doss, cornerback out of Tulane University, was a fifth-round pick in the 2015 draft. Throughout his first year, he was often confused with his college teammate, Taurean Nixon, who was selected by the Broncos in the seventh round of the same draft. He didn't necessarily stand out in his debut season, in fact, his bio on DenverBroncos.com only has one line about it, "appeared in six games and made one special-teams tackle," it reads. As a result, he was largely forgotten, but he has been kind enough to give those in attendance at Broncos training camp a refresher course on who Lorenzo Doss is.
How many interceptions has he had in the last week, again?
"Four picks?" he told BSN Denver, pretending not to know exactly. "Yep, yep, four picks."
He added another on Tuesday, five picks in eight days, eight overall in training camp. A ways ahead of the nearest competitor.
He's always been a ballhawk, Doss ranks second all-time at Tulane in terms of career interceptions, and now he's taking that to the NFL practice field and the preseason, one of those five picks coming in the opener against the Bears.
"I'm feelin' real good, just going out there and making plays, making the plays I need to make," he says humbly. "I'm not over-thinking things in my second year. Everything is coming easier; I know what the coaches expect, and I know what my teammates expect. I love getting my hands on the ball and I' glad I'm able to show that."
"I'm enjoying football, that's why I'm out here," he adds with an ear-to-ear smile he maintained throughout our interview. "I love it. I love being around the guys; I'm with a great organization, I mean, top of the line, you get players that come here and say, 'Man, I wish we had this back where we were.' I'm just loving it; I'm enjoying every moment of it."
His teammates are taking notice.
"He's grown a lot, he's matured, he's learned more, he's making a lot of plays, man," Bradley Roby chimed in of his progress. "He's making a lot of plays on the ball. He's always been a guy that made plays on the ball, but he's actually finishing them, catching them this year. He's learning from all of us; that's good to see a young guy like him progressing."
It may not surprise you to find out the man who has been his on-the-field mentor is another pick chaser, Aqib Talib, who led the team in training camp picks—and real picks— last year.
"I'm always talking to Aqib Talib just about the little things," he explained. "Just technique and all of that, he's just been helping me out along the way, ever since I touched down in Denver."
"That's my son!" Talib screamed as Doss took one of his interceptions of Sanchez to the house last week.
"He's been a great leader, he's one of the guys that's been mentoring me since I stepped foot out here in Denver," Doss added. "Watching him play and guys like Chris [Harris Jr.], T.J. Ward, just all the guys in the secondary that make plays, I just want to be a part of that, and I'm glad I'm able to show that when I touch down on the field."
His teammates are starting to believe he is, in fact, ready to be a part of the vaunted No Fly Zone, " If anything were to happen, we're definitely getting him ready to fill in," Roby said.
Most importantly, the head man sees that too.
“He’s much more mature. The thing that I noticed about Doss is that he’s now a more physical player than he has been," Gary Kubiak said of his second-year talent. "He’s always been a pretty good at coverage and a good space player, but he’s starting to tackle. He’s starting to shoot his guns, so to speak, in those ways as a football player with confidence. That’s what I see, but we’ll see. He obviously has received a ton of reps, a lot of starter-type reps over some of those guys and [CB Taurean] Nixon is out. He’s becoming a good player.”
The Broncos defense has proven that success breeds success. When a player like Shaq Barrett is surrounded by Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware every day, he's going to improve, when Todd Davis learns from Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan, he's going to improve. But as the player learning from an entire secondary of All-Pro players explains, that only works if the proverbial grasshopper has the same desire to be great as the sensei.
"It starts with yourself. You have to want to do it; you have to want to watch film, put in the extra work after practice," Doss explained. "It all plays a part in your overall success as a player and the team as a whole. I just try to do the little things because the little things equal big things. I try to work on my technique, [defensive backs] coach Joe Woods is strict on me with my technique, so I try to work on that each and every day I'm out here. I just find something new to work on, something new to get better at."
As things stand now, the talented Doss is still stuck at third on the depth chart, behind Harris Jr. and Roby at right cornerback, but that doesn't mean he won't play. As Wade Phillips has often displayed, if you can play, you're going to play. Doss is trending towards defensive playing time, but he just wants to get on the field.
"Man, I just want to contribute in as many ways as possible," he said. "Special teams to defense to just any way I can contribute, I just want to go out there and make plays. If it's punt team, make the tackle or down the ball inside the five-yard line, just anything like that. Kickoff, running down and making plays, hitting somebody. I just want to make plays in all aspects of the game."
Playmakers make plays, and that's all Doss has done in training camp. The Broncos may not need him to make as many plays as he's capable of this year, but he is quickly becoming a big part of their future plans. Next year, the team will owe Doss' mentor Aqib Talib $12 million, but the contract only has $2 million left in dead money.
Eventually, the prince becomes the king.
"I know I can play with these guys," he said. "I can run with them; I can cover them, and it's showing."