The only thing separating Omar Bolden from the second round — or perhaps the first — was his left knee.
In the last three seasons, Bolden missed one year (2011) entirely and most of another (2009) because of problems with it. A sprained MCL torpedoed his sophomore season three years ago; a torn ACL during last spring’s practice brought his college career to a premature end.
A torn labrum that necessitated post-season surgery in 2008 only adds to the litany of pain that has dogged Bolden throughout his career. But his talent and potential was undeniable; in his only full season of the last three years (2010, Bolden was a first-team All-Pac 10 cornerback and second-team all-conference returner.
Two of Bolden’s 17 career kickoff returns went for touchdowns — perhaps the best evidence of the explosion he possesses — and might still possess, even after the torn ACL. He was clocked by some stopwatches at 4.45 for the 40-yard dash when he ran at ASU’s Pro Day last month.
Those numbers are what the Broncos considered. The risk-reward ratio on a player with an injury history as extensive as Bolden’s was right with the 101st pick. If he stays healthy, he ought to be the third immediate-impact player from this draft class, joining defensive tackle Derek Wolfe and running back Ronnie Hillman.
Whether any of the three are starters is questionable; whether all three contribute is not.
Bolden could slide into the lineup immediately as a nickel or dime back — depending on whether he can beat out second-year nickelback Chris Harris — and appears to be the favorite to handle kickoff returns and may take punt runbacks, as well.
That’s not a shabby scenario for a cornerback who had been largely forgotten outside of Arizona State’s locker room last year.
At the Combine, Bolden described his scenario as a cliche’, sang, “It’s like the old saying, out of sight, out of mind.”