Jan 1, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; Michigan State Spartans wide receiver Bennie Fowler (13) stiff arms Stanford Cardinal safety Ed Reynolds (29) during the second half at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

2014 Dark Horses: Wide Receiver Bennie Fowler

We all know the Denver Broncos are one of the deepest teams in the league, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t roster spots to be won, even at positions of strength.

I want us to take a look at a few players on the Broncos’ roster that could step into the spotlight in 2014. It’s not necessarily that these players are going to come out in 2014 and put together Pro Bowl seasons, but these are guys who aren’t getting a ton of publicity at all that could surprise come pre-season or training camp.

Starting today with wide receiver Bennie Fowler, an undrafted free agent out of Michigan State.

Fowler, a 6’2″ 217 pound receiver who spent five years at Michigan State contributed immediately as a redshirt freshman as a kickoff returner, leading the team with almost 23 yards per return on 15 total. He improved over the course of his career to eventually lead the Spartans in receiving yards and touchdowns in his senior season before he was undrafted and signed by the Broncos.

Fowler is absolutely lights out athletically, posting a 4.35 second 40 yard dash, 36-inch vertical jump, and 18 bench press reps of 225 pounds. In addition to his impressive measurables, Fowler has apparently been showing out at Broncos practices. Here’s a snippet from a recent column by Jeff Legwold at ESPN.com:

But of the undrafted rookies in this group, Bennie Fowler at 6-foot-1 and 217 pounds has shown some quality work and is worthy of a long look. Fowler suffered fractures to both feet during his career at Michigan State, impacting his playing time in the 2009 and 2011 seasons.

When healthy in 2013 he sported a robust 17.3 yards per catch average. He’s shown a physical presence off the line of scrimmage, good footwork along the boundary and more than enough speed in the open field.

That’s a pretty good report for a guy like Fowler, who wasn’t even mentioned in the pre-draft process. Despite it being very limited, Fowler has experience returning kicks and could provide the Broncos a boost in that area if need be. History tells us this is a team that won’t likely carry six wide receivers, but the strategy could change up a bit if they decide to keep three tight ends or three running backs. It may not be likely, but it’s something worth looking into.

Fowler’s size, speed, and strength will allow him to win battles at the line of scrimmage in the NFL, where the trend right now is to have bigger, more physical press corners. This is a really interesting prospect whose physical tools are only matched in the Broncos’ receiver group by Demaryius Thomas and Cody Latimer. If Fowler progresses through training camp, he is a name to watch as a strong practice squad candidate and ‘dark horse’ name for a spot on the 53-man roster as the 5th or 6th receiver.

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  • Erick Trickel

    Two out of the three years Elway and Fox have been in-charge, they’ve carried six WRs.
    2011, Thomas, Decker, Lloyd (though later traded) Stokely, Willis, Royal, Goodman.
    2012 Thomas, Decker, Stokely, Willis, Caldwell, Holliday though he was only a returner he was marked as a WR.

  • Nathan Bates

    i dont think they will go with 3 TE. I Think they will have 5 WR and 4 TE with robinson being the 4th TE and emerency 6th WR given that hes a transitioning TE from WR. Fowler could still beat out Caldwell for that fifth WR spot. Caldwell is by no means a lock

  • anon76returns

    Yeah, I’ve had my eye on Fowler since we picked him up as an UDFA. I keep harping on his athleticism, and that if he pulls through with the on field play to match his potential, he’ll be very good for us down the road. Seeing Legwold’s report last week was very encouraging- Fowler is even further along than I had hoped for.

    That being said, I don’t see him making the 53 this season. IMO Thomas/Sanders/Welker/Latimer/Caldwell are set in stone, and I think the #6/ST guy will be Isaiah Burse, Fowler’s OTA roommate, as Burse is quicker in the open field (not that Fowler is bad mind you), and has more sure hands. I think Fowler makes the PS this season, develops even better hands/route running, and then outcompetes Caldwell next season.

    Next year’s potential lineup of either Thomas/Latimer/Fowler + TE against normal defenses, or Sanders/Burse + 2TEs is exciting for me. I think the way to beat Seattle’s enormous press CBs is to go with quickness and keep ‘em off the line. Burse/Welker/Sanders should IMO get tons of reps against the Seahawks this summer, even if it means camping DT on the sidelines.