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8 Greatest Undrafted Denver Broncos in Franchise History

Jennifer EakinsContributor IDecember 23, 2016

8 Greatest Undrafted Denver Broncos in Franchise History

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    With camp officially underway, it's time for the guys that got overlooked on draft day to stand out, impress and hope to make the squad.

    Some of these guys use going undrafted as fuel to propel them to highly successful NFL careers. The Denver Broncos have proven successful at finding these hidden gems throughout franchise history.

    Here's a look at eight diamonds in the rough that proved talent scouts wrong and have flourished in the NFL.

8. Chris Harris, CB

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    Although it is a bit early to see how Chris Harris' impact on the Bronco's franchise will be, he is certainly off to a stellar start.

    Coming from the University of Kansas, Harris signed with the Broncos as a free agent in July, 2011.

    In his rookie season, he was responsible for 65 tackles, 56 of them solo. He was named to the Bronco All-Rookie team and received the Denver Broncos Breakout Player of the Year award.

7. Rich Karlis, K

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    Rich Karlis came to the Broncos training camp in 1982 and kicked well enough to earn a starting spot. He is the last guy to consistently kick barefoot full time in the NFL.

    Karlis is perhaps most widely remembered for his role in "The Drive", kicking the game winner in overtime for the Broncos against the Cleveland Browns in the 1986 AFC Championship game to reach Super Bowl XXI.

    Karlis made 172 field goals and 283 extra points for a total of 799 points in his career. He also still holds the record for the most field goal attempts in a Super Bowl with six.

6. Steve Watson, WR

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    Steve Watson played his entire career in Denver after signing as an undrafted free agent from Temple University in 1979.

    He played for nine seasons finishing with 353 passes for 6,112 yards and 36 touchdowns. Watson was voted into the Pro Bowl in 1981.

    He was very popular with Broncos fans and certainly exceeded any expectations coming into the league undrafted.

5. Gene Mingo, K/HB/PR

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    Unlike most guys on this list, Gene Mingo didn't even play college football. He was a high school star who went on to play for the United States Navy.

    When the AFL formed in 1959, the Denver Broncos signed him as a jack of all trades kind of player. He had the ability to catch, return kicks and most of all be a solid place kicker.

    His kicking ability earned him a spot in the history books at the first African American place kicker to play professional football. Mingo played for the Broncos from 1960-1966 and earned several other accomplishments that will be tough to match.

    He scored by means of extra point, field goal, rushing touchdown, receiving touchdown, punt return and even via passing touchdown. No Bronco has put points on the board that many ways since and probably never will in this modern NFL era.

Greg Kragen, NT

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    After playing college football at Utah State, Greg Kragen went undrafted in the 1984 NFL draft. He tried out for the Broncos that season but failed to make the final roster. Kragen was invited back to camp the next season and earned a spot on the squad.

    Greg Kragen earned the reputation as a solid technical player, the best at his position. During his 13-year NFL career, nine with the Broncos, he recorded 28.5 sacks and one interception in 200 games.

    Kragen is arguably the best undrafted defensive player to wear a Bronco's jersey.

3. Willlie Brown, CB

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    Upon leaving Grambling University in 1963, Willie Brown was not drafted by any professional team. He was signed by the Houston Oilers that year, but let go during training camp.

    Their loss proved to be the Broncos gain as Brown became the starter midway through his rookie season. He went on to have a stellar second season winning All-AFL honors as well as earning a spot in the AFL All-Star Game.

    Willie Brown played a total of four seasons for the Broncos before being traded to the Oakland Raiders in 1967, where he remained for the rest of his professional football career.  He was inducted to the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1984 during his first year of eligibility.

2. Dwayne Carswell, TE

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    Nicknamed "House", Dwayne Carswell was a fixture in Denver for over a decade. He came to the Broncos undrafted in 1994 from Liberty University and remained on the roster until 2006.

    Carswell spent the beginning of his time in Denver on special teams and in a reserve tight end role. In 2000 with the departure of Shannon Sharpe, Carswell started all 16 regular season games. He proved to be a solid blocking tight end with good hands.  

    On October 27, 2005, he suffered internal injuries from a car accident involving five vehicles and received the Ed Block Courage award for his recovery upon returning to the team.

    Carswell won two Super Bowl rings with the Broncos. Not too shabby for a guy that was still on the board when the draft was over.

1. Rod Smith, WR

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    It's not exactly a shocker to see Rod Smith at the top of this list. He is one of the best and most popular players in Denver Bronco's history.

    Smith came to the Broncos undrafted from Missouri Southern State in 1994. He went on to a stellar career at wideout for Denver that spanned 14 years. During this time, he became the only undrafted free agent to exceed 10,000 receiving yards.

    Rod Smith was recently elected to the Bronco's Ring of Fame and will be officially inducted during a halftime ceremony on Sept. 23, 2012. Throughout his highly successful career, he was a class act and a true competitor.

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