Two years ago, much like last month, the Denver Broncos made a left tackle position a high-priority selection in the NFL Draft.
And on Wednesday, “Stokley & Zach” co-host Brandon Stokley said the former, not the latter, could be the team’s starter come opening day despite the assumption Denver could start 2017 first-rounder Garett Bolles.
“I think he’s got a good chance, as good a chance as anybody,” Stokley said of Denver’s 2015 second-round pick Ty Sambrailo.
“If he can stay healthy, we’re going to see a different player,” Stokley said. “He’s going to be more confident. He’s going to be able to practice. He’s going to be a better player.”
And it’s not as if Sambrailo would be foreign to the left tackle role.
As a rookie, the Colorado State product earned the starting job in relief of two-time First-Team All-Pro Ryan Clady, who went down with a season-ending ACL tear during OTAs.
Sambrailo played in three games in 2015 before being placed on injured reserve with a torn labrum. He played in 10 games last season as well, starting four at right tackle.
“Ty Sambrailo played left tackle for us two years ago and was playing very well, but hasn’t been able to stay healthy,” general manager John Elway said at the end of April, adding he could still be an option at the position in 2017.
“With the way Ty was playing a couple years ago, we felt that he was going to be a very legitimate left tackle until he got hurt,” Elway later added.
Three days later, Elway and the Broncos took Bolles out of Utah with the 20th-overall pick.
Presumably drafted to start as a rookie, Bolles will compete against Sambrailo, along with 2017 and 2016 free agent acquisitions Menelik Watson and Donald Stephenson, which Elway said will be “great” and can “make players better.”
However, head coach Vance Joseph, along with Elway, said it would not be a disappointment should Bolles fail to crack the starting lineup by September.
“The best player should play,” Joseph said after Day One of the NFL Draft. “Obviously, (Bolles is) a first-round pick and is going to come in and compete for that job, but he has to win that job, and the best guy will play.”
And it’s the transition from the college game to the NFL that Stokley said could hamper Bolles’ chances at starting, and thus elevating Sambrailo.
“It’s tough to transition from college to the NFL and play left tackle. And it wasn’t like you were a four-year starter at Utah. One year,” Stokley said of Bolles.
“So, you played at junior college. You were very good. You played at Utah. You were very good. But listen, you weren’t a top-five pick. So to transition from college to the NFL and be a starting left tackle and play at a high level or just win the job, it’s not easy.”
Follow digital content producer Johnny Hart on Twitter: @johnnyhart7.