Every year, every NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos and John Elway come away with some gem that ends up exceeding expectations or creating a legacy all their own. Guys like Chris Harris Jr. and C.J. Anderson who make the Pro Bowl as undrafted free agents are certainly outliers, but the Broncos have plenty of guys that come in with a chip on their shoulder, compete for playing time, and earn it. That’s exactly what they’ll be looking for from cornerback Tevrin Brandon, a 2014 undrafted free agent out of Monmouth who began his collegiate career at Connecticut.
Starting off as a special teamer with NFL players like Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Dwayne Gratz ahead of him on the depth chart, Brandon learned the art of special teams and honed his skills as a nickel defensive back before transferring to Monmouth to finish his college playing days.
At his pro day, Brandon ran a 4.34 in the 40-yard dash and impressed scouts with his all-around game despite being a bit shorter at 5-9 and 180 pounds. Certainly more physical and fearless than his size would indicate, Brandon finished his senior season with 51 tackles, two blocked kicks, 15 passes broken up, and three interceptions.
More from Predominantly Orange
- Broncos chances of landing Sean Payton dwindling, but not gone
- Denver Broncos dream coaching staff for DeMeco Ryans
- Denver Broncos: “Sleeper” David Shaw checks every box
- The Broncos’ coaching search likely has not gone to plan
- Special Chiefs Suck Offer: Bet $5, Win $150 if Joe Burrow Passes for ONE YARD vs KC
Brandon caught the eye of the Denver Broncos, among other NFL teams, and tried to sign with them as an undrafted free agent coming out but was unable to get a deal done, and ended up signing with the rival Kansas City Chiefs. After competing in camp with the Chiefs, Brandon ended up in the FXFL, as have many recent players the Broncos acquired on future/reserve contracts. In the FXFL, it was much of the same for Brandon, who showed his all-around skills as a corner and special teams player, once more drawing the Broncos’ interest and this time getting a deal done.
He took some time to talk to Predominantly Orange about his football journey and what he has in store for this season.
We mentioned earlier that Tevrin was originally going to sign with the Broncos in 2014 as a UDFA, so what exactly happened and how did he end up in Denver almost a year later?
“After the draft I was supposed to sign with them as an undrafted free agent but something fell through last minute, then I bounced around a lot, and in December I got a call to come in and have a workout for them. There were about eight DBs there when I was there, and I did pretty well. I had gotten a call on Wednesday night and they said they were going to sign me and fly me in the next day and I went and it was a done deal.”
From UConn to Monmouth to being an undrafted player, to playing four games in the FXFL as a developmental league and a way for NFL teams to get tape, it’s a serious grind. You have to really persevere and get through a lot in a year to go through those kinds of physical and mental ups and downs, but Brandon hasn’t wavered in the faith he has in his game.
“It was a tough road, I mean, things didn’t work out as I had expected them to right away but I never gave up. Any opportunity I have to better myself in the game and get more of an opportunity and my name out there I did it. The experience in the FXFL was pretty good, we were there for about five weeks with four games and got film against good talent and great guys…Just to work and get better with those guys to compete everyday with those guys — it was a good experience and it helped me push myself to get where I am right now.”
The Broncos have some really good cornerbacks, namely Chris Harris Jr., Aqib Talib (both Pro Bowlers), first round pick Bradley Roby, and Kayvon Webster along with Omar Bolden and Tony Carter. The Broncos now have some new blood in there competing for jobs. Your versatility as a defender is what will get you noticed by the coaching staff, and Brandon said the Broncos envision him starting out in the same role that made Chris Harris Jr. a household name — in the slot.
“Out of school when I talked to them, everybody likes how I play inside, at the inside slot position…I’m a faster, quicker guy and I think they like my speed and my athletic ability. When I went there for the workout I was making good catches, didn’t drop the ball — whenever you go for a workout they want to see that, they want DBs who can make a catch who make plays and are athletic…I might be one of the smaller guys but I’m pretty feisty and my game has really revolved around that — speed, ball skills, and attacking…not being afraid to use what I have.”
So what is it about the nickel spot that’s so much different than playing outside? You obviously have to be quick, physical, a good tackler, able to blitz, able to cover smaller receivers, and you are going to get one-on-one situations in the middle of the field dealing with rub routes, pick plays, among other crazy things NFL teams are scheming these days.
Brandon realizes the challenge of playing inside at the nickel spot, but embraces it and dives a bit into the specifics of how the role is different from playing outside corner.
“At the nickel spot it’s a lot more speed to cover…You have to be quick and quick to react. I’ve always liked it because I like to compete and that’s where you’re going to get a lot of competition going against the smaller and quicker guys because they will beat you off the line and you’ll be cooked.”
Another prerequisite for any young player is that you play or learn to play special teams. One thing that I noticed on film of Tevrin Brandon was the fact that he plays extremely hard on special teams, no matter what position it is — gunner, returner, blocking, attacking the punter — he’s going to give it 110 percent.
He says that playing special teams is something that he works extremely hard at because it’s the foundation of who he is as a football player.
“I take a tremendous amount of pride in special teams. When I was a freshman and sophomore at college my niche was special teams at the time. It was the only place I got on the field (at UCONN, behind future NFL Draft picks Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Dwayne Gratz), and it was really important to me to take advantage of all those opportunities.
As I got older and kept evolving my game and became a starter, I also wanted to stick to what I knew and that was special teams. I was really good at it whether it was a gunner or running down kickoffs, returning kicks or blocking on kickoffs, or punt returns — I take great pride in that stuff and if you’re a player who can excel at special teams you have a good opportunity to make a squad rather than someone who may not have played special teams, taken as much pride in special teams as I have.
I’ve seen that in many players around the league that I’m close to and they say that special teams is the key.”
As the Broncos transition to a new coaching staff, Brandon has the opportunity to practice not only with a ton of great players and fellow cornerbacks, but he’s got the opportunity to transition along with this new coaching staff and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
I asked him about his role in the Phillips defense, and what he expects as far as the tempo and intensity.
“Yeah it’s definitely going to be a lot more physical I believe. Wade Phillips is a great coach who I have followed a long time growing up, may family being Cowboys fans and what not, I got to pay attention to him a lot. I believe it’s going to be a lot more physical and I look forward to it.”
And what does a player like Brandon have to do to make the squad?
“I have to do what I’ve been doing — just put my head down and work and show that I can be an asset to the team as a defensive player and as a special teams player. It takes hard work, determination, and grinding it out to get it done.”