Two more Broncos saw their 2017 seasons end, Monday.
Rookies Jake Butt and Chad Kelly will both spend the rest of the 2017 season on injured reserve, according to head coach Vance Joseph. Both players began the season on the Non-Football Injury list due to injuries sustained during their collegiate careers. They won’t be able to practice with the team for the rest of the season.
During his press conference today, Butt said he was disappointed he wouldn’t see the field this year, but he trusts the decisions made by the coaches and training staff.
“I still have stuff I need to handle every day in here,” Butt said. “That doesn’t mean I’m just going to be checked out of these meetings and waiting on next year. I’m still going to be locked in and trying to learn as much as I can this year.”
The Broncos selected Butt in the fifth round of this spring’s NFL Draft after a torn ACL in the Orange Bowl. The second torn ACL of his career sank his draft stock. The 6-foot-6 tight end started 39 games for Michigan and set school records for receptions and receiving yards by a tight end.
Butt earned the John Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end for his efforts during his senior season. He was also named first-team All-Big 10 his junior and senior years and a first-team All-American his senior year.
Most draft analysts expected to hear Butt’s name called on the second day of the draft, before the injury. Butt was praised for his ability to find open space against zone coverage and could have been a threat in the passing game as a 22-year-old rookie.
The tight end explained his style of play after he was drafted.
“You’re going to get a versatile tight end that you can line up really anywhere on the field who can do a lot of different things,” he said. “I think I can move the chains on 3rd-and-8 in man or zone coverage, whatever it is. Then 3rd-and-1, I want to stay on that field and make the key block to move the chains if we need a big run. You can line me up in the backfield, flex me in the slot, use me as move tight end or an in-line blocker.”
Butt seemed to be progressing over the last few weeks, and there were rumors that he could have played as early as last Sunday in Philadelphia. The Broncos are fairly thin, talent-wise, at tight end, making the addition of a talented rookie even more enticing. Virgil Green, Jeff Heuerman and A.J. Derby have each flashed starter-caliber play, but none of them has been able to string together consecutive strong performances.
Like Butt, Kelly also tore his ACL during his senior season, but the quarterback seems to have finished his recovery.
Prior to the draft, Kelly tore a ligament in his wrist while doing pull-ups. He began throwing in mid-October, but the Broncos’ coaching staff decided he wouldn’t be able to contribute to the team this season, despite the lack of production coming from Denver’s quarterbacks.
The Broncos selected Kelly, nephew of legendary NFL quarterback Jim Kelly, with the last pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. NFL scouts loved his arm strength, poise and athleticism, but most teams were scared off by his lengthy history of injuries and behavior issues.
Kelly was a blue chip dual-threat quarterback prospect out of high school and played five games for Clemson as a true freshman, where he posted an 87.5 passer rating. Kelly was later released from the program following his freshman season because of what head coach Dabo Swinney called “a pattern of behavior that is not consistent with the values of our program.”
Swinney called Kelly into his office to discuss a minor car accident in the team parking lot, two days after the team’s spring game. The meeting didn’t go well, and he was escorted out of the stadium by campus police and dismissed from the team.
Kelly played his sophomore season at East Mississippi Junior College, the subject of the Netflix series “Last Chance U.” He led the team to a perfect 12-0 record and a National Championship, while throwing 47 touchdowns and just eight interceptions.
The controversial QB played his final two years of college football at Ole Miss. In 2015 he led the SEC in passing yards, total yards, and touchdowns responsible for. He led the rebels to a 10-3 record, including a win over the eventual national champions, Alabama.
Kelly tore his ACL during the ninth game of his senior season. He finished his career at Ole Miss with a 152.3 passer rating in 786 attempts.