Denver Broncos: Three running backs vying for one roster spot

The Denver Broncos have a pretty straightforward competition at running back, but there could be three guys competing for one spot on the team.

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DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 22: Running back Royce Freeman #28 of the Denver Broncos stands in the end zone after scoring a touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the second quarter at Empower Field at Mile High on December 22, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Lions 27-17. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

The Denver Broncos seem to have a pretty straightforward group of running backs heading into the 2020 season.

The team obviously returns 2018 undrafted superstar Phillip Lindsay, who has run for 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons in the NFL.

They also went out and signed free agent Melvin Gordon, who spent the first five years of his NFL career in San Diego/Los Angeles with the Chargers.

Although not everyone loves the idea of the Broncos having a free agent running back on the team, the addition of Gordon certainly made the roster better and helps legitimize the Broncos' skill positions, giving them two Pro Bowl running backs.

The move to sign Gordon pushed last year's RB2 (or 1B, depending on how you look at it) Royce Freeman to third on the depth chart for the 2020 season. Despite the fact that things might be a little awkward initially, Freeman certainly hasn't earned the clout to demand a trade and is a valuable RB3 for the Broncos at a position where players are oft-injured. He's got two years left on his rookie deal, and there's still a chance he could show his value and more of what we saw from him early in 2018 when he was the clear RB1 on the roster.

Freeman's offseason demotion raises the question of whether the Broncos will choose to keep four running backs on the roster. Last year, Andy Janovich -- a true fullback -- occupied a roster spot at the position. This year, that's not the case, so the Broncos will have the option to either designate Andrew Beck as a fullback and call him RB4 or keep him as a tight end and choose someone else to be RB4.

There are only a couple of options on the roster right now. Who could help the Broncos out as an RB4 this season?

That player is going to have to prove themselves to be an ace on special teams as well as an asset to the offense. There's no guarantee this position will even exist for the Broncos in 2020, but with the extra roster spot available, if a player at RB proves themselves on special teams, you never know what can happen.

Let's take a look at the candidates either to force the Broncos to move Royce Freeman or to possibly carry four running backs into the 2020 season.

Khalfani Muhammad

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DENVER, CO - AUGUST 29: Khalfani Muhammad #33 of the Denver Broncos rushes against the Arizona Cardinals in the first quarter during a preseason National Football League game at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on August 29, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

The Broncos kept Khalfani Muhammad on the practice squad throughout the entire 2019 season, and he returned to the team on a reserve/futures contract for another crack at it in 2020.

Muhammad was acquired by the Tennessee Titans as a seventh-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft out of California before he was ultimately brought to Denver late in 2018 as a practice squad back.

This will be his third season overall working with Denver, and the reason he's been kept around this long is simple -- Muhammad might be the fastest running back the Broncos have. He and Phillip Lindsay would at least have some close races.

That speed and acceleration stood out in last year's preseason play.

The issue with Muhammad is whether or not he can consistently provide that kind of juice in the running game, and whether or not he can play on special teams.

At this point, that remains to be seen. Muhammad is a small back at 5-foot-7, 174 pounds, but he's got such special speed that the team might try to find roles for him.

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Jeremy Cox

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SANTA CLARA, CA - AUGUST 29: Jeremy Cox #36 of the Los Angeles Chargers looks on during pregame warm ups prior to the start of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on August 29, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Jeremy Cox got a look with the Chargers last offseason after completing his college career at Old Dominion, and wound up signing a reserve/futures contract with the Broncos following the 2019 season.

The Chargers tried him out as a fullback, but I don't think that's what he will be in Denver. He has the athletic skills to be a running back in the NFL, and he might be somewhat of a sleeper for the Broncos.

Cox has an ideal build for the position at 6-feet, 223 pounds. He is built like a washing machine but he's incredibly athletic for his compact size.

This dude ran a 4.42 in the 40-yard dash at the Old Dominion pro day and also posted a 39-inch vertical jump, 25 bench press reps, and a 6.90 in the three-cone drill.

All of the athletic traits are there, but Cox might invite a little too much contact for the NFL level. He was so successful in college just bouncing off of would-be tacklers, but he didn't necessarily always use his tremendous athletic traits to be elusive in the open field.

He will have to prove in Denver that he can do a combination of both -- plus play special teams -- to crack the final roster.

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LeVante Bellamy

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KALAMAZOO, MI - AUGUST 31: LeVante Bellamy #2 of the Western Michigan Broncos runs for a 64-yard touchdown against the Syracuse Orange in the third quarter of a game at Waldo Stadium on August 31, 2018 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The Broncos made LeVante Bellamy one of their priorities in the 2020 undrafted free agent crop, giving him a $25,000 signing bonus and guaranteeing $35,000 of his 2020 salary.

Even if Bellamy doesn't make the final roster, he's a very strong practice squad candidate with $60,000 in his pocket.

Bellamy, like a number of backs on the Broncos' roster, is a bit small for his position at 5-foot-9, 192 pounds. On tape, Bellamy looks like he's a 4.3-something-speed guy and he showed out athletically with a 39.5-inch vertical jump and a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash with 16 bench press reps at 225 pounds.

When you combine those traits with this kind of play on tape...

Western Michigan has timed him at 4.32 in the past:

Bellamy ran for over 1,200 yards in each of the last two seasons for Western Michigan and had an NCAA-leading 23 rushing touchdowns in 2019.

This guy's speed and burst are outstanding, and his touchdown production from this past season is a really good sign of what he can be for you.

He's a threat to score at any level of the field, and if history is any indication, the Broncos like his odds of cracking the 53-man roster. He has experience returning kicks in the past and could give the Broncos a dangerous threat in that phase of the game initially.

Next: Predicting the top 6 CBs on the Broncos in 2020

Bellamy represents the latest 'new thing' for the Broncos at running back but he certainly has an intriguing combination of production and an elite trait (his speed).