Deeper and more talented at cornerback than almost anyone in the NFL, Denver surprised Tulane’s Lorenzo Doss by taking him in the fifth round on draft day.
Yet, as he prepares for the start of training camp on July 31, Doss insists he is not intimidated by the prospect of earning playing time with the perennial Super Bowl contenders.
“I’m just looking to come in there and help the team out anyway I can,” he said. “I know my abilities, and it will show. I just want to bring excitement to the team. I’m planning to be a playmaker, and that’s how I’m going to make a niche for myself in the league.”
Doss, a St. Augustine High product and one of only two players in Tulane history to declare for the draft after only three years in college (Lynaris Elpheage, 2002), made his mark with the Wave by intercepting a whopping 15 passes. His career total was lower than only one cornerback in the 2015 draft, and Mississippi State’s Senquez Golson needed four seasons to grab 16.
Still, Denver was an unlikely destination considering its depth chart, particularly when the Broncos doubled down on fellow Tulane cornerback Taurean Nixon in the seventh round.
Denver’s starting cornerbacks are Aqib Talib, a two-time Pro Bowler who was a second-team All-Pro in 2013, and Chris Harris Jr., a Pro Bowler and second-team All-Pro in 2014 who signed a long-term contract last December.
Their top backup is Bradley Roby, a first-round draft pick in 2014 who had 63 tackles and two interceptions.
Barring injury, Doss will compete with No. 4 cornerback Kayvon Webster (23 stops in 2014), a third-round pick in 2013, and seven-year veteran Tony Carter for the remaining spots on the active roster.
Doss plans to leave an impression one pickoff at a time, just as he did at Tulane. After playing wide receiver almost exclusively for St. Aug, he started nine games at cornerback as a true freshman and appeared comfortable right away, making five interceptions.
“The mantra I have is I have to come down with the ball no matter who’s throwing and no matter what level we’re on,” he said. “That’s just always been my mindset. I don’t see it changing any time soon. I’m very confident.”
Even a disappointing junior year did not deter him. He entered 2014 as an All-America candidate but finished with a career-low three interceptions, half as many as fellow starting cornerback Parry Nickerson, a redshirt freshman. It was not just a matter of opponents avoiding Doss. He got burned for a handful of big plays as quarterbacks took advantage of his gambling nature.
“One thing about that position is you definitely have to have amnesia,” Tulane coach Curtis Johnson said. “He has the ability to come back from some stuff. When he gets settled in and learns what to do, I think he’ll be good (in the NFL).”
At the very least, the odds are overwhelmingly in his favor to stick in Denver this year. All but two of the 32 fifth-round picks from 2014 remain with the teams that drafted them. Three more spent the entire season on the practice squad, and three were placed on injured reserve.
At OTAs and minicamp, Doss tried to soak up the knowledge from Talib and Harris.
“It’s a great blessing to see what it takes to be a Pro Bowler,” he said. “They are on top of their game. They practiced like it was game day every day. I watched them day in and day out, listened to them talk in the film room and learned. It’s a huge honor.”
Doss likes everything about the Broncos. He said he bonded with fellow New Orleanian Peyton Manning and appreciated the professional atmosphere.
The Broncos, who reached the Super Bowl in 2013 and went 12-4 last year before losing to Indianapolis in the divisional round, are expected to be prime contenders again under new coach Gary Kubiak.
“It’s a winning organization,” Doss said. “We talk about that every day in the locker room. When you are around winners, it’s a whole different locker room. We are looking to go all the way.”
Along those lines, Doss also forecasts a much better outcome for Tulane than outside observers expect. Although he elected to skip his senior year, he has spent the time in between the Broncos’ minicamp and the start of training camp working out in the Green Wave weight room.
He discounted the Wave’s 3-9 record in 2014 as the byproduct of too many freshmen and sophomores starting.
“Their whole mindset is so much different than last year,” he said. “They are a year older and they have played in games. I definitely expect it to be a bowl season this year.”