Duke Ihenacho: Undrafted Safety Could Be a Hit for the Denver Broncos

Sigmund BloomNFL Draft Lead WriterMay 2, 2012

STANFORD, CA - SEPTEMBER 03:  Zach Ertz #86 of the Stanford Cardinal is tackled by Duke Ihenacho #2 and Vince Buhagiar #36 of the San Jose State Spartans at Stanford Stadium on September 3, 2011 in Stanford, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos got the last bit of great football from Brian Dawkins, but it is back to the drawing board at strong safety again now that Dawkins has retired. While the Broncos didn't draft his potential replacement this year, they might have found him among their undrafted free agents.

In general, safety has been a sore spot for the Broncos in recent drafts. Very little has come of the two second-round picks (Darcel McBath and Rahim Moore) and two fourth-round picks (David Bruton and Quinton Carter) that the team has spent on the position in the last three years. While it is a bit early to count Carter and Moore as busts, the Broncos have hedged their bets by signing free-agent veteran defensive back Mike Adams (formerly of Cleveland). 

Since they don't want to give up on Carter or Moore yet (Carter could even start this year), the Broncos didn't take a safety this year, but they did sign a promising prospect after the draft—San Jose State's Duke Ihenacho.

Ihenacho plays like a linebacker, and that's because he used to be one. A very good one, in fact—good enough to be all-WAC at the position in 2008. Ihenacho is a ballhawk—even as an linebacker, he had five interceptions in 2008, returning two for touchdowns.

He is also a hitter, as you can observe when he takes on Utah State Robert Turbin (a 220-pound back who was drafted in the fourth round by the Seahawks this year):

Ihenacho is very fast going downhill and shoots gaps with ease. He diagnoses run plays well and is willing to give up his body to set the edge when necessary. Ihenacho takes on blocks like a linebacker and can defeat them. He hits with a thud and adds physicality to his unit. Don't be surprised if he sticks and eventually gets a look as an in-the-box strong safety for the Broncos.