Denver Broncos undrafted steal an early favorite to make the team

Sep 11, 2021; East Lansing, Michigan, USA; Youngstown State Penguins running back Jaleel McLaughlin
Sep 11, 2021; East Lansing, Michigan, USA; Youngstown State Penguins running back Jaleel McLaughlin / Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos obviously have a very impressive history of finding gems through undrafted free agency, whether we're talking about franchise legends like Rod Smith and Chris Harris Jr., or guys who may have just been passing through for a handful of years like Phillip Lindsay and Shaquil Barrett. One way or another, no matter what way you slice it, the Broncos have one of the most impressive histories of finding and developing guys who were written off by the rest of the NFL.

Last year, we saw Jalen Virgil come in and make the roster as an undrafted free agent, and a number of other UDFAs from the Broncos' 2022 class ended up contributing throughout the season as injuries mounted up. History would tell us that the Broncos will almost certainly have at least one undrafted player from their crop of 2023 pickups make the roster, but who?

I think there's an early favorite among the reported additions so far, and I think this guy could quickly become a fan favorite.

Denver Broncos UDFA Jaleel McLaughlin an early favorite to make the team?

The Denver Broncos added running back Jaleel McLaughlin out of Youngstown State, a report that came directly from the school.

While at Youngstown State, McLaughlin averaged a whopping 122 rushing yards per game. He averaged 148 yards from scrimmage per game over the course of his entire collegiate career, racking up over 8,000 total yards and 79 total touchdowns. He was named a first-team All-American in 2022, and even though he's coming up from the FCS level, McLaughlin did some damage against FBS schools as well.

Here's what Lance Zierlein of had to say about him in the pre-draft process:

"Slashing runner who relies on his burst, wiggle and speed to stack up yardage and touchdowns. McLaughlin looks to run to daylight, but he has a hard time trusting the play development if he doesnโ€™t see a clear point of entry. He has a plus burst and the speed to get past the second level or make a dash for it wide. He wonโ€™t be able to handle pass protection on third downs but does have talent as a receiver out of the backfield. McLaughlin can compete for a role as a change-of-pace option for teams looking to add a dual-threat back."

-ย Lance Zierlein,

We can read about him all we want, but what about looking at some of the best this guy has to offer? What does seven yards per carry and over 15 yards per reception last season look like?

Now, so much of that highlight reel is McLaughlin running to daylight, finding a crease, and hitting paydirt. But you don't become the NCAA's all-time leading rusher just by hitting daylight every single play. Highlights can be misleading a lot of times. McLaughlin posted his own video, a 17 minute cutup on YouTube just of him showing his value as a third-down player (pass catching, pass protecting).

McLaughlin is a smaller back at 5-foot-8, 192 pounds, but he's obviously got a ton of experience at the FCS level, a ton of production, and he brings a lot to the table as a runner and receiver.

If I'm looking at this Denver Broncos UDFA class right now and trying to call my shot from a mile away, I'm going to say this is the guy who ends up becoming a steal.

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