Better late than never
Broncos hope Griffin follows in other backs' footstepsPosted: Tuesday April 29, 2003 1:25 AM
DENVER (AP) -- The Denver Broncos have had outstanding success in past drafts with their late-round running backs: Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary and Mike Anderson.
Have they done it again with Oklahoma's Quentin Griffin, a fourth-round choice.
"We like this kid," coach Mike Shanahan said. "He's not very tall, but he's been productive throughout his career. We think he can fit into our system and do the things that we look for."
Griffin stands only 5-foot-7, but he weighs 195 pounds and proved to be a durable and explosive runner for the Sooners. He set a school record with 1,884 yards rushing last season and scored 15 touchdowns.
He topped 100 yards in 12 games, also a school record. His 3,756 career yards rushing ranks as the fourth-best in OU history, behind only Joe Washington, Steve Owens and Billy Sims.
If nothing else, Griffin projects to be an effective third-down back in the NFL because of his receiving skills. He caught 146 passes -- third-best in Oklahoma history -- for 1,217 yards and six TDs.
"At Oklahoma, we throw the ball at lot," Griffin noted. "If you can't catch the ball out of the backfield, it's kind of hard to play for this school."
Asked if he envisions himself as a third-down specialist with the Broncos, he said, "We'll see. I don't know what the future holds."
But like any running back, Griffin wants to carry the ball.
Compact and elusive, he has some Barry Sanders-type moves, befitting someone who idolizes the former Detroit Lions star.
"Barry Sanders is my favorite running back," he said. "When I was in middle school and high school, I used to watch him play all the time. But I don't really compare myself to anyone."
Although the Broncos have had a recent glut of quality running backs -- making playing time hard to come by -- Griffin could be stepping into a good situation.
Davis, a sixth-round draft choice from Georgia in 1995, was the NFL's top running back in the late 1990s, winning the NFL's MVP award when he rushed for 2,008 yards in 1998. He helped lead the Broncos to two Super Bowl victories before blowing out his right knee.
Enter Gary, a fourth-rounder from Georgia who subbed for Davis as a rookie in 1999 and ran for 1,159 yards.
With Davis and Gary both injured in 2000, Anderson, a sixth-round choice from Utah, bolted for 1,487 yards and the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Davis, however, was on injured reserve all last season and is contemplating retirement, and Gary signed a free-agent contract last week with Buffalo. Anderson was switched to fullback last season, making room for Clinton Portis, who ran for 1,508 yards in earning the league's offensive rookie honor.
As a result, Griffin figures to be Portis' backup in 2003.
"The Broncos have always had a strong running game, and that's exciting," Griffin said. "Those guys have been big-time players."
Griffin acknowledged he draws extra motivation from those who say he's too short.
Asked if he was annoyed that scouts downgraded him because of his height, he said, "I would say so because people are so concerned with size. I can't really control that. I just want to go out and play well and see what happens."
Shanahan said Griffin "does everything. He blocks. He can catch the football. He's got great hands. He's got the ability to make people miss. He's got the speed and agility to make big cuts and big plays.
"Very seldom do you see a guy 5-foot-7, 195 pounds in the National Football League, but what he's done throughout his career is very impressive."