The Denver Broncos have taken a liking to adding former Utah Utes to the team.

After selecting former Utah defensive end Jonah Elliss in the third round of the 2024 NFL draft on Friday night, Denver went back to Kyle Whittingham’s program in the seventh round Saturday, drafting wide receiver Devaughn Vele with the 235th overall pick.

“It’s awesome. I’m just grateful for the opportunity. I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a kid, so being able to hear my name on draft day, it’s a big blessing,” Vele said at a press conference with Denver reporters.

Vele will join former Utes Elliss, wide receiver Tim Patrick, offensive lineman Garrett Bolles, linebacker Cody Barton and undrafted free agent tight end Thomas Yassmin in the Mile High City.

Vele is the first Utah receiver drafted since 2015, when Kaelin Clay was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the sixth round.

“They’re getting the ‘Mayor of Sack Lake City,’” Vele said of Elliss. “He’s a heck of a player. I was super excited for him, and it’s awesome to be reunited with him and bringing that Utah culture to Broncos (Country).”

The Broncos signed Patrick to their practice squad in 2017, and he earned a full contract after that, becoming one of the team’s most productive wide receivers in 2020 and 2021 before missing the last two campaigns due to injury.

It’s easy to see the similarities between the two Utah receivers — they both stand at 6-foot-4 and are just over 200 pounds — and both walked on at Utah before eventually starring for the Utes and making it to the NFL.

Vele will be catching passes from former Oregon quarterback Bo Nix in the fall, someone he’s all too familiar with after Nix and the Ducks beat the Utes twice during Vele’s time in Salt Lake City.

“It’s a great opportunity. He’s a great quarterback. He kicked our butts at Rice-Eccles Stadium. I know the kind of energy he brings and the leadership he brings. I’m excited to work with him and catch some balls from him,” Vele said.

It’s been a long journey for Vele, who served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Tonga before walking on at Utah in 2019.

Over his career at Utah, Vele had 1,689 receiving yards and nine touchdowns on 123 catches, ramping up his production in the 2022 and 2023 seasons.

In 2022, catching passes from Cam Rising, Vele had a career-high 695 receiving yards and five touchdowns, and last year, he had 593 receiving yards and three touchdowns to lead the Utes even as the quarterback play struggled.

Vele closed his season out with a pair of 100-plus-yard games — 145 yards on five catches versus Washington and 111 yards on five receptions at Arizona.

Vele’s height and strength is a big plus for him, and he is a sure-handed receiver with the ability to make tough catches. He also is a great route runner.

At 26 years of age, Vele is an older rookie, and knew that was a concern some had in the pre-draft process.

“I knew that the biggest concern coming into the draft was going to be my age,” Vele said. “I am a little bit older because I served a two-year mission. At the end of the day, the NFL is a business. It is going to be based on your production, so if you can play at the end of the day, does it matter how old you are?”

Aside from the football experience gained by playing at Utah for five years, Vele said his mission was a big factor in his development.

“I feel like I have that sense of maturity where teams won’t have to worry about me (with) on- or off-the-field issues,” Vele said. “Those are experiences that I learned from the mission. I feel like that is going to help me have that sense of maturity to be coachable and also be humble in the standings of wherever they need me to contribute for the team. That is what I am going to do.”

How did analysts react?

The Athletic’s Dane Brugler highlighted Vele’s route running and catch radius, but says he could have trouble separating in the NFL.

“Vele will have trouble creating quick pockets of separation versus NFL coverage, but he can stretch the field vertically and has rangy ball skills that won’t force the quarterback to be pinpoint accurate. He is a potential WR4/5 and adds some return ability,” Brugler wrote.

ESPN Denver Broncos beat writer Jeff Legwold says Vele has a chance to get snaps because of his athleticism, but faces an uphill climb due to the number of receivers in the room.

“He is the second wide receiver in what will likely be a seven-player draft class and he faces a scrap to find his way into the rotation, especially if Tim Patrick shows he has regained his form after back-to-back seasons impacted by injuries. Vele ran 4.47 in the 40 at the combine and has punt return skills as well, so athletically he has a chance to carve out a role in what may be, because of his age, a tight career window,” Legwold wrote.

CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso gave the selection a “B.”

“Tall long-striding vertical field-stretcher. Lacks burst off the ball. Can box out near the sideline and in traffic but not dominant in that area. YAC is good, not great. Intriguing type,” he wrote.