Denver Broncos' Undrafted Free Agents: Tracking the Latest Signings
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Undrafted players make rosters every year in the NFL, and the Broncos have had their fair share of finds. Wesley Woodyard and Chris Harris Jr. were both big parts of the defense last season and went undrafted, proving that solid players can be found after the draft.
The Broncos actually announced all 15 of their signings, and the coaches will probably get a look at these players during mini-camp before any major changes are made to the roster.
Let's take a closer look at who the Broncos decided was worth an extended look...
DB Aaron Hester
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Aaron Hester is a big cornerback from UCLA and the cousin of Chicago Bears return man Devin Hester.
Aaron Hester was also teammates with Richard Sherman in high school and has had a chance to work with both him and Darrelle Revis according to the Chicago Sun Times. Maybe Hester didn't test that well at the combine because Revis told him not to focus on the basics drills.
The 6'2", 198-pound cornerback ran a 4.62-second 40-yard dash and wasn't a top performer in any of the combine drills. The Broncos have done a lot to try to bring in secondary depth this offseason after being a little thin at the position last year with Tony Carter and Tracy Porter the main guys there for depth.
The Broncos also have to start thinking about the future without Champ Bailey, and developing a young cornerback is a lot cheaper than spending an early pick on one or trying to sign one in free agency. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is also playing on a one-year deal, so the Broncos will be able to make space for a guy like Hester if he's impressive during camp.
TE Lucas Reed
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Lucas Reed was a highly-productive tight end at New Mexico with 77 receptions for 949 yards and six touchdowns. He was a two-time All-American.
Matt Miller compared Reed to tight end Jake Ballard, who had 38 catches for 604 yards and four touchdowns last year with the New York Giants and is now with the New England Patriots.
Reed is the brother of Brooks Reed, a good linebacker for the Houston Texans, so there is NFL potential here beyond the obvious. It will be tough for Reed to crack the roster at tight end, but the signing of Wes Welker could make Jacob Tamme expendable.
RB C.J. Anderson
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C.J. Anderson was a productive running back for Cal and had 126 carries for 790 yards (6.3 yards per carry) and four touchdowns last year. Anderson didn't test very well at the combine with a 40-yard dash time of 4.60 seconds, but he was a top performer in the short shuttle with a time of 4.12 seconds.
The Broncos drafted Montee Ball and are clearly adding depth to totally remake the position in 2013. Don't be surprised if Anderson sneaks onto the depth chart as the third running back, but it looks like he'll have an uphill climb to make the roster and will need to contribute on special teams.
Anderson's odds of making the roster increase if he's a willing and capable pass blocker for Peyton Manning, as that may still be an area of need. Anderson is 5'8" and 224 pounds and built similarly to Ray Rice, so he will not have a problem running with a low center of gravity and picking up tough yards between the tackles.
LB Doug Rippy
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Doug Rippy played at Colorado, so the Broncos are probably more familiar with him than most. At 6'1" and 240 pounds, he has the size of an NFL defender, but he may be a bit undersized to play on the inside.
Rippy's college career was plagued by knee injuries, but if he's healthy, he could compete for a roster spot at a position of need. The Broncos are still in need of a inside linebacker and didn't find their solution in the draft this year. Could that solution be another undrafted free agent along the lines of the undersized Wesley Woodyard? Rippy could be that guy.
The Broncos wouldn't bring Rippy just as a charity case, so he's got a fighting chance if he develops quickly and shows off. The odds that Rippy becomes a contributor are not nearly as long as you would think they should be, especially considering the nature of the inside linebacker position.
QB Ryan Katz
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Katz said he played in pro-style offenses in an interview with nfldraftzone.com, but is just now getting healthy. Katz has been working out at TEST Football Academy with Jeff Garcia.
At this point Katz is a camp arm. Most teams like to have four quarterbacks going into camp and Katz will likely be No. 4 on the depth chart, but he could make the team if he beats out seventh-round draft pick Zac Dysert.
LB Lerentee McCray
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It's never a bad idea to take a chance on a player with an injury history as an undrafted free agent. Worst case scenario is he gets hurt in training camp and you find another guy. Injuries happen and it doesn't always mean a player is prone to getting hurt.
Lerentee McCray was a four-star high school recruit with good size and athleticism at 6'2" and 250 pounds with 33.4-inch arms and 10-inch hands.
McCray is the type of player that can do some of the same things as Von Miller in the terms of his versatility rushing the passer.
Highlights from NFL.com's scouting report of McCray:
One particular game of note for McCray this season came against Texas A&M and Luke Joeckel, where McCray's powerful hands and strength gave Joeckel noticeable issues....
...when healthy, (he) flashes enough strength, length and athleticism to be a mid-round pick capable of contributing as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 system.
Nick Kostora put together a great breakdown on McCray and it's not hard to imagine him becoming making the roster considering his potential.
P Ryan Doerr
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What do you need to know about punter Ryan Doerr. Well, he averaged 41.0 yards per punt at Kansas State with 204 career punts in his four-year career.
Doerr is a camp leg and doesn't have near the range as Britton Colquitt. To put it in perspective, Colquitt has a 46.2 yard career average in the NFL.
It's worth noting that Colquitt had just a 42.6-yard average in college and is playing on a one-year contract.
LB Uona Kaveinga
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Unoa Kaveinga transferred from USC to BYU and was the starting middle linebacker for all 13 games last season. Kaveinga lacks ideal size at 5'11" and 233 pounds, but the NFL is trending to smaller, quicker linebackers.
Unfortunately, Kaveinga isn't one of those cover specialists and NFL.com's scouting report has this to say about Kaveinga:
Downhill defender who can struggle to change directions quickly. Hustles to the ball, but won’t have a huge range due to average initial acceleration.
His average size and speed might keep him from being an elite prospect, but his production and toughness should allow him to make a roster as an inside hammer in a 3-4 system.
It looks more and more like the Broncos are going to transition to more three-man fronts in 2013 and every 3-4 needs a hammer to blow up gaps. Kaevinga could find himself on the roster because the Broncos are thin at the position and he would fill a key role. Kaveinga will also have to be great on special teams.
DE Gary Mason Jr.
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The Baylor defensive tackle Gary Mason Jr. will likely be a 3-4 end for the Broncos. At 6'4" and 271 pounds, Mason isn't a rush end had just two sacks and six tackles for a loss for the Bears last season.
Mason does have adequate straight-line speed and ran a 4.83-second 40-yard dash at his pro day according to nfldraftscout.com. Mason's speed suggests that he has above-average athleticism that suggests he could grow into a solid player.
S Ross Rasner
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The one area the Broncos didn't address via the draft was safety. After the Rahim Moore fiasco in the playoffs and with veteran Mike Adams playing at the other safety spot, the Broncos could really use quality depth.
Moore and Adams were a solid pairing last season, but there were warning signs and the stress on the defense could shift without a great pass rush. The Broncos have taken steps to correct those problems, but not address the safety position.
Ross Rasner would be one of many safeties the Broncos will bring to camp, which is an indication that the team would like to improve in that area.
Here is the skinny on Rasner from Dane Brugler of nfldraftscout.com:
Although he looks lost in man coverage and when left alone in space, Rasner has strong hands to secure tackles and could make a living coming downhill on special teams.
It doesn't look like Rasner is going to make a lot of noise in camp, but he'll at least push others and probably thrive on special teams.
WR Kemonte' Bateman
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Kemonte' Bateman is a thinly-built receiver out of New Mexico state. Bateman is 6'0" and 183 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash 4.52 seconds according to NFLDraftScout.com.
The Broncos are loaded at wide receiver, so it's unlikely Bateman makes in major waves. He also returned kicks and he'll probably get that opportunity as a backup option for the Broncos.
Bateman was a four-star high school recruit, signed with Arizona State but didn't qualify and bounced between the junior college level and New Mexico State over his career.
There's some upside here because Bateman didn't have a chance to develop in one place in college.
WR Quincy McDuffie
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Everyone is looking for the next Wes Welker and Quincy McDuffie fits the mold. McDuffie if 5'9" and 176 pounds with great speed, but he's more known for his return ability.
McDuffie's timed speed was in the low 4.4-second range at his pro day according to nfldraftscout.com. McDuffie's speed and size make him an ideal return man and slot receiver. The Broncos have brought in several similarly-sized players over the past few years and have six players on the roster that are 5'9" or shorter.
Considering the Broncos have brought in several returners as undrafted free agents, the team might be a little more concerned about Trindon Holliday's ball security issues than previously believed. If not, McDuffie's shot at a roster spot is slim.
WR Lamaar Thomas
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The Broncos are stocking up on speed at the receiver position and added Lamaar Thomas, who earned the nickname flash. Thomas ran track at New Mexico State and was used as a running back, receiver and quarterback that ran an electronically-timed 4.38-second 40-yard dash at OSU before he transferred according to his college profile.
He's a little bigger than the other burners the Broncos signed at 5'11", but he's probably also one of the fastest and earned the nickname "Flash" because of his speed.
The Broncos must have a role envisioned for these speedsters otherwise it seems odd to be signing so many of them when they don't have a very good chance of making the roster.
OL Manase Foketi
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Manase Foketi is 6'5", weighs 318 pounds, has 34.5-inch arms and 10.6-inch hands, which is great size for a tackle or guard prospect. Foketi played at West Texas A&M last season, a Division II powerhouse after Kansas State denied his transfer request.
According to Kansas.com, after graduating from college Foketi requested a transfer from Kansas State so he could finish his college career closer to home and because he didn't get along with the offensive line coach.
The dispute stems from Foketi being granted a medical redshirt and gaining an extra year of eligibility. Kansas State wanted him to return to play his Senior year even though he had already earned his degree.
As it turns out, Foketi didn't finish his college career close to home in Fontana, Calif. and the dispute butting heads with his line coach is a red flag. Foketi's measurables and pure athleticism make him an intriguing prospect to watch in camp.
DE John Youboty
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John Youboty (pronounced you-boat-ee) was a defensive linemen for Temple after transferring from Marshall in 2011. He's 6'4" and 252 pounds and should be able to play linebacker in a 3-4 or defensive end in a 4-3.
Youboty had 42 tackles, 6.0 tackles for a loss and five sacks last season for Temple according to NFLDraftScout.com. He ran a 40-yard dash between 4.72 and 4.92 seconds and put up 25 reps on the bench press.
Youboty's assessed his own strengths and weaknesses in an interview with NFLDraftZone.com:
My strengths would be my understanding of the game, my football I.Q. I have a knack for techniques and game-situations. Things I need to work on would be all aspects of the position. Getting bigger, stronger, faster, and smarter.
If Youboty can make up for his physical limitations with his football intelligence, than he could have a future at the next level. If Youboty can't, he's just another guy that fits Jack Del Rio's defense.