When the Denver Broncos closed out the 2014 NFL Draft, a couple of things were apparent. Number one, they had addressed every need they had this offseason, except for one. Number two, they had come away from the draft seemingly without any room for an undrafted free agent to make the team.
But then you dig a little further.
The one thing the Broncos did NOT come away from the draft with is a kick or punt returner. One of the main reasons the Broncos lost to both the Colts and Patriots last season was due to the ineptitude of their punt return team.
That has to change.
But the Broncos aren’t in it for a one trick pony. Not after trying Trindon Holliday, who made some huge plays in his Broncos career, but couldn’t do squat offensively.
The Broncos were in the market for a dual-threat. Someone who could come in and potentially provide some actual depth offensively as well as giving the team the spark it needed from the kick/punt return positions.
One player that was signed specifically for that purpose was UDFA WR Isaiah Burse, who we looked at in-depth and feel like has a really good shot of making this final 53-man roster thanks to his incredible versatility. However, there’s another player the Broncos picked up that shouldn’t be overlooked for kick/punt return duties, and one of the more intriguing playmakers from the small school ranks. His name is Greg Hardin, and he comes from the North Dakota Fighting Sioux football program.
Here’s what you need to know about Hardin, why he fits the Broncos, and how he can make this team.
Wt: 171 lbs
2013 Stats and Accolades
3rd-team FCS All-American
1st-team All-Big Sky (WR)
3rd-team All-Big Sky (KR)
- Playmaking ability
- Versatile weapon
- Smooth route runner
- Works hard to get open and plays bigger than his size
- Hands catcher
- Works back to the ball
- Good field awareness
- Knack for making big plays
- Four-year, productive starter and special teams player
- Lower level of college competition
- Slight build
- Limited upside as vertical WR
What Hardin Brings to the Table, And How He Makes the Broncos
Now this is the kind of sleeper I’m talking about at the WR position.
One thing the Broncos need desperately is a solution at the KR/PR position. Hardin was prolific in this area as a college football player, but also displayed big time speed and playmaking ability, albeit at times against lesser competition but also against the bigger name teams North Dakota played.
If he is to make the Broncos, it will be because he made a mark on special teams. He has an uphill grind ahead of him with competing against guys even like UDFA Isaiah Burse, who may have been the Broncos’ priciest free agent acquisition with other teams vying for his services. Hardin is a guy that you could stash on the practice squad and he’d pay dividends down the road.
Sometimes you see guys described as natural football players, and that’s what I see when I watch the little of Hardin that is available. It’s clear he has a passion for the game. He’s got big play ability and has shown a willingness even at his size to fight for the ball and fight for extra yardage. Anytime a guy is used in as many ways as possible (receiver, returner, out of the backfield) you know that player simply has a knack for playing the sport, especially if they’re proficient in all areas. Hardin, even at low competition level, was an All-American or All-conference player at both WR and KR.
Return specialists come in all shapes and sizes, and come from all different types of college backgrounds. This is an underrated signing and a guy who is going to come in and compete at camp, catch a lot of punts, and try and prove that he deserves to be one of the next in a long line of Denver Broncos UDFA players to not only make the team, but make an impact early in their career.
Here are some videos so you can make your own determinations.