Denver Broncos surprise rookie making case for a roster spot

The Denver Broncos have a sleeper rookie vying for a 53-man roster spot

Denver Broncos
Denver Broncos / Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Unio / USA

Denver Broncos fans may want to get to know the name Nate Adkins ahead of the team's first preseason game on Friday in Arizona. Adkins is a relatively unknown undrafted rookie free agent out of South Carolina who has been making a pretty substantial impression at training camp.

I first caught wind of Adkins making an impression at OTAs when Mile High Sports Denver Broncos beat reporter Cody Roark, also the host of the Locked On Broncos podcast, noted that Adkins might be an undrafted player to watch during training camp. It was difficult to think much of it at the time because the Broncos had obviously brought in free agent Chris Manhertz as well as veteran Adam Trautman via trade. Albert Okwuegbunam seemingly had a good final week of OTAs and the Broncos already have a traditional fullback on the roster in Michael Burton.

Adkins might be a practice squad guy at best, right?

Well, not so fast...

Although you can't always read too much into the initial depth chart released by the team, I think the placement of Adkins on this one is particularly intriguing.

It's a little difficult to see without clicking or zooming in, but Nate Adkins is listed as the fourth tight end behind Adam Trautman, Greg Dulcich, and Chris Manhertz. He's ahead of Albert Okwuegbunam on the initial depth chart, which could speak to the strong training camp he's having.

Adkins made an impact at South Carolina beyond the box score. Although it may not have generated a ton of headlines, the Denver Broncos lost a similar "Swiss Army Knife" kind of player this offseason when they let Andrew Beck leave in free agency. Adkins played some in-line at South Carolina, but he also lined up as an H-Back and played on special teams.

It sounds like the Denver Broncos are exploring the possibilities with him at the NFL level as well, and he should be someone to watch for as the team takes on Arizona on Friday night.

Adkins' college position coach heaped praise on him a couple of weeks ago:

"Nate Adkins, there aren’t many of him in this world,” Wright said. “The toughest, a great young man, unselfish, team first and would do any type of job you needed to do on the football field. You name it, he did it. Played special teams, and I’m so excited to watch him with the Broncos. I think he’s going to be a steal in the NFL."

Jody Wright (via 247 sports)

It will be fun to see how Sean Payton moves Adkins around the offensive formation, but it will also be even more important (arguably) to see the impact Adkins makes on special teams. If he's going to be making the final roster as a fourth tight end, playing special teams will be non-negotiable.


He may not make a bunch of catches in the preseason but Adkins is going to be a player to watch as far as where he's aligning in the formation, how much of a look the Broncos are trying to get at him, and how consistent he can be as a blocker and special teams player.

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