Dec 31, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Duke Blue Devils running back Juwan Thompson (23) runs the ball past Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Jay Arnold (96) during the second quarter in the 2013 Chick-fil-A Bowl at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Players slip through the cracks every year, and the Denver Broncos know this more than a lot of NFL teams. In addition to having placed an undrafted free agent on the 53-man roster in their rookie year for 10 years straight, the Broncos also have some of the league’s best UDFAs currently starting for them.
Ever heard of Wes Welker? He wasn’t drafted. Chris Harris? Him either.
All three of the Broncos’ specialists were undrafted players, and this team is proof that even with one of the best rosters in the league, you don’t have to be drafted to make the squad. In 2013, arguably the most loaded the Broncos’ roster has been since the late 90s, a running back named CJ Anderson worked his way onto the 53-man roster even with an injury during pre-season practice, and the Broncos are primed to add a couple more undrafted players to an historic list in 2014.
For these reasons, I want to make sure we cover every undrafted player the Broncos brought in, and show you why they were signed to NFL contracts and how they can make this star-studded team.
One position where there will be plenty of competition and youth is at running back, and one player that I really enjoyed watching even if only in highlights was Duke’s Juwan Thompson.
Here’s what you need to know about Thompson, and how he can make the Broncos.
Wt: 226 lbs
Bench: 22 reps
Career Offensive Stats
3 rec. TD
- Coaches rave about how good of a teammate he is
- Great special teams player (ST captain at Duke)
- All-Conference Academics
- Excellent size for the position
- Good quickness
- Pretty good speed for his bulk (4.57)
- Athletic ability
- Football IQ
- Good, natural pass catcher
Areas of Weakness
- 4-year production?
- 3rd leading rusher at Duke?
- Why less touches in senior year?
Why Thompson can make the Broncos
On the hoof, Thompson appears to have every skill required to be an NFL running back. He has near-prototype size at 5’11” 226 lbs. He runs a very respectable 4.57 in the 40 at that size. He is very strong, nimble, a very natural pass catcher, and showed probably the best agility and elusiveness of the backs I watched from the Broncos UDFA this year.
The reason why I think Thompson can make the Broncos is mainly versatility. At Duke, he was the special teams captain. He played on all four units, and did everything from the gunner to the kick returner. He even played linebacker when Duke suffered a rash of injuries at the position.
His head coach, David Cutcliffe (P.Manning’s old coach), raved about how great of a teammate he is. When you watch the highlights, you see a natural receiver out of the backfield, an aggressive special teams player, and a back with great balance and elusiveness between the tackles.
So why was he undrafted?
Well, the volume of carries he received at Duke was laughable based on the abilities he displays in the highlights, but there’s always more to the story. He saw an increase in yards per carry every year he was at Duke, and caught more than 20 passes in two consecutive seasons.
Athletically, he has the makeup of an NFL-caliber running back. We saw a guy make the Broncos last year in CJ Anderson who had to give up a lot of carries in college as well, and it wouldn’t be the first time a running back slipped through the cracks to have a nice career in Denver.
With that third or fourth RB spot, the Broncos are going to want a guy who can provide additional value and the fact that Thompson was a special teams captain at Duke speaks volumes, as does the ability he has to pass protect and be an effective third down player in all regards.
Don’t think I’m trying to be overly positive here, either. The other experts around the web can’t find much flaw in his game either, other than the fact that he wasn’t able to bust through at a single position.
This is the type of guy who could develop into a better pro than he was a college player, as could all three of the UDFAs the Broncos signed at the position.
This is one of the most impressive players I’ve watched from the Broncos’ UDFA class in terms of his ability to do literally everything pretty well, though he doesn’t necessarily stand out as ‘elite’ in any one category. I really like his upside on special teams and I think that could set him apart as a rookie.
When you think about the fact that Thompson probably had a nice recommendation from coach Cutcliffe at Duke, coupled with the fact that he may have been part of the workouts with Broncos players while they were down there, this could be a very intriguing story to follow.