The Denver Broncos have an amazing track record of mining talent out of the undrafted rookie free agent player pool. Last year, running back C.J. Anderson made the team, despite a serious injury to his knee in the preseason.
In 2012, the Broncos were able to cut their longsnapper, Lonnie Paxton, and his bloated salary (thanks McDaniels) because they found Aaron Brewer. So far in his young career, Brewer is batting .1000 as the longsnapper and will often make tackles down field on Special Teams.
In 2011, the Broncos found an undrafted player who impacted the team in a huge way, in Chris Harris, Jr. He was like a having an extra 1st round pick.
This year, the Broncos have carefully selected a group of UDFA. Will they find another diamond in the rough?
Wide Receiver, Fresno State
For most of the last two seasons, the Broncos rostered a talented, but volatile kick and punt returner; Trindon Holliday. His upside was that he could take any return to the house on any given day. The downside was that he could fumble away a Broncos possession just as easily. The team decided to move on from Holliday Road and set their sights on the 5’10, 188lb Isaiah Burse. Although he had a prolific senior season with the Bulldogs as a receiver, Burse’s hope to make the Broncos’ final roster lies in his abilities as a returner. In 2013, he returned 2 punts for TDs. He has the dynamic talent to be an effective return specialist in the NFL, with the added ability to impact the offense. Two birds, one stone. However, with a team as stacked at WR as the Broncos are, it won’t be easy for Burse to make the 53.
Running Back, Colorado State
When we talk about dynamic talent, that’s something that Kapri Bibbs has in spades. What he doesn’t have is a long track record of performing at a high level vs top competition. After playing 2 seasons of Division II football, he made the jump to Colorado State for his junior year. He went on to have one of the most remarkable seasons that a running back in NCAA football has ever had. Rushing for 1,741 yards and 31 TDs, Bibbs joined only Barry Sanders and fellow Broncos RB, Montee Ball, as the only players to rush for 30+ TDs in a season. I have to agree with the young RB, when he said that had he played in the SEC, he would have been a 1st round pick. Well, maybe not a 1st rounder, but he would have been drafted in the first 4 rounds. Bibbs’, like any rookie RB, toughest challenge in a Peyton Manning offense, will be pass protection. The subtleties of that aspect of a RB’s game are not easy to pick up over night. It took Knowshon Moreno 4 years to become the excellent pass pro back that he is now. But if Bibbs can keep his eyes up and just be a sponge, I won’t be shocked to see him land on the Broncos’ 53 when the dust settles.
Outside Linebacker, Colorado State
The Broncos kept it close to home yet again with Shaq Barrett. He has more in common with Bibbs that just their alma mater. Barrett also possesses talent that can at times be dynamic. He’s rough around the edges, as far as technique goes, but is a very instinctive player who has a knack for getting to the ball. His pass rushing repertoire is solid, but could use some NFL coaching. That, he’ll get. Barrett will have to compete with Lerentee McCray and and Brandon Marshall for a roster spot, but he does have the skills and work ethic to be a NFL-caliber player. He will definitely be a player to watch in training camp.
Running Back, Oklahoma
Some people are higher on this kid than I am. But I do think that Brennan Clay offers value to the Broncos. With no real veteran at running back, the team is going for a strength in numbers approach to backing up Montee Ball. One thing that Coach Fox likes about Clay is that he doesn’t have a lot of tread on his tires. Fresh legs and a clean bill of health. He only carried the ball 379 times as a Sooner. He has some things to work on, similar to Bibbs, in order to be a bona fide NFL running back, but hey, nobody thought that Arian Foster was going to become one of the most dominant running backs in the NFL when he went undrafted. With Ronnie Hillman’s plummet down the depth chart last year, and currently residing in the doghouse, these young guys are ready to strike while the iron’s hot.
Wide Receiver, Michigan State
I’m more stoked on Bennie Fowler, as it pertains to individual skill and talent, than I am Isaiah Burse. However, because Fowler’s not much of a return specialist, it makes it even harder for him to make this team. But he has the size and the skill to do it. At 6’1, 217lbs, he does an excellent job of using his size to make plays. He’s not easy to bring down after the catch and will make the oppostion work to do it. If you watch any Bradley Roby highlights, you’ll see him battling it out with Fowler quite often, when Ohio State and Michigan State clashed. Fowler could end up getting stashed on the practice squad for a year. But once Wes Welker moves on, the Broncos will look much harder at their young talent at WR. Again, with this position being one of such strength for the team, it decreases the odds of these young guys making it. But anything is possible in football, as we’ve all come to know and understand.
You tell us, Broncos Country. Which of these players do you see having the most impact on the team? Tell us in the comments!