Broncos defensive end Demarcus Walker dominated at Florida State University in his final two years before coming to the NFL, earning 25 sacks in just 26 games and 16 sacks in his final 13 games. He was vicious and routinely single-handedly blew up opposing offenses. When the Broncos drafted Walker in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, it seemed that Walker was destined for greatness. However, in his first two seasons, Walker has only played in nine games while recording just two sacks. With Vance Joseph now replaced by Vic Fangio, could Denver see a new and improved DeMarcus Walker in 2019 or is he doomed to suffer the same fate as Paxton Lynch?
Will Fangio Fix DeMarcus Walker?
The biggest underlying reason for Walker’s resurrection is the change from Joseph to Fangio. Joseph’s two seasons fell extremely short of expectations and thus created a reason to doubt all of Joseph’s decisions, including how he used DeMarcus Walker. With a new head coach in place, there are reasons to think that Fangio will find a way to make use of Walker. Here are some reasons why Fangio can save Walker’s career.
If one was to bet that Walker will be used more in 2019 than in the previous two years, they will likely be pointing at new Head Coach Vic Fangio. Fangio is renowned for his defensive prowess throughout his lengthy tenure in the NFL, most recently leading a Chicago Bears defense that was ranked first in takeaways, first in points allowed, and third in yards allowed. If there is a coach who can turn Walker around, most would say that it is Fangio.
Walker’s draft position should give reason to believe that he has a shot at resurgence. Whether it was his physical attributes, history of dominance, or that “it” factor, Walker was drafted in the second round of the NFL Draft for a reason. Walker’s time at FSU shows that there is something to work with. The question is whether Fangio can figure how to use him.
Another reason why Walker should have some hope is his contract situation. Walker still has two more years before becoming a free agent. Meaning, Fangio still has two full years to develop him assuming there is actually something to work with.
Will Walker Be Saved?
There are strong arguments on both sides. Essentially, one side argues that Joseph erred on DeMarcus Walker and Fangio can fix him. Meanwhile, the other side argues that the only possible reason why Walker rarely played is that he was a bust from the beginning and he is not redeemable.
In the end, it seems that Walker should have enough potential to interest Fangio if he could show the coach in-person what he can do. Unfortunately for Walker, there are not any real opportunities for this to happen on the football field before free agency and the Draft, where Fangio would look at replacements. However, if Walker’s replacement doesn’t come as a free agent, Walker will have a great chance to impress Fangio during the spring workouts that take place a couple of weeks before the Draft. As a second-round pick, Walker should have a decent chance to convince Fangio to not look for a replacement in the Draft this year. That being said, if Walker is not able to prove his worth to Fangio during the offseason training, there will be a decent chance that Fangio will try to find his own guy in the 2019 NFL Draft. If Fangio were to commit to someone in the Draft or in the undrafted free agent pool, Walker would then be at a disadvantage because the new player would be Fangio’s pick and therefore more liked by him at the beginning of the preseason.
DeMarcus Walker’s future will likely hinge on his performance in the offseason training workouts. If he can convince Fangio to believe in him, there is a solid chance that Walker will become a solid player for the Broncos. That being said, if Fangio were to bring in someone else, Walker’s career in the NFL could find itself on life-support. Can Walker convince Fangio to believe in him? One can only wait and see.