10 Dark-Horse Candidates Who Could Make Denver Broncos' Final 53-Man Roster
The Denver Broncos open training camp in less than three weeks. Players like Peyton Manning and Von Miller will just be looking to sharpen their game heading into the season, but for some other guys, training camp and preseason will be crucial.
Fans of the Denver Broncos will be able to witness some very competitive battles within camp this year, specifically at the wide receiver and linebacker positions.
While many of the starting positions could be locked up, several players could make the team as a backup or as a member of special teams. The Broncos have a talented crop of players with which to assemble this year's team.
The best teams always have good depth at the key positions, so every player on the 53-man roster is important. Sometimes those players are superstars, while other times they come in the form of an undrafted free agent.
Here, we will take a look at some under-the-radar players who will have a chance to make this year's final roster.
Ross Rasner, Safety
Ross Rasner is a gritty player who spent four years at the University of Arkansas. He was a versatile defender who lined up at both linebacker and safety in college.
As a senior, Rasner moved back to safety after playing linebacker the prior year, and he led the Razorbacks with 92 tackles. He isn't the most flashy player, but he has good football instincts as well as a knack for making a play. He is similar to what the Broncos had in Jim Leonhard.
For the Broncos, he will likely be asked to play the safety position, and that is a spot where some consider the team to be weak. Rasner will have to beat out several players to make the team.
Quinton Carter, Rahim Moore and David Bruton will all make the team at safety. That means Rasner will have to beat out a veteran like Quentin Jammer or Mike Adams to earn a roster spot.
That may be a tall task, but the area where Rasner can help himself most is on special teams. He played on the special teams unit in college and was solid in that role. If he is able to excel on that unit in camp and preseason games, he could make it tough for the coaching staff to get rid of him.
C.J. Anderson, Running Back
The Broncos have what could be a very young, talented backfield with guys like Ronnie Hillman, Knowshon Moreno and second-round draft choice Montee Ball on the team. Still, there are spots available.
With the release of veteran running back Willis McGahee in June, the door was opened for a guy like C.J. Anderson. Anderson was an undrafted rookie out of California, but he is a very intriguing prospect.
Anderson is a runner with good vision. He runs well between the tackles and can be very tough to tackle, grinding out each run. If he can show that he can catch the ball out of the backfield at a high level, he could very well make the team.
Anderson's main competition will be veteran running backs Lance Ball, Jacob Hester and Jeremiah Johnson. He will likely have to leapfrog two of them on the depth chart to make the final roster.
Kemonte' Bateman, Wide Receiver
Kemonte' Bateman was part of the Broncos' undrafted-free-agent class, but he could turn some heads in camp with his ability to play wide receiver.
The wide receiver position may be the most exciting to watch in camp this year, as there will be some great competition between some very talented players.
Bateman played his college ball at New Mexico State after transferring from a junior college. As a senior in 2012, he grabbed 50 passes for over 700 yards.
Bateman uses a combination of quickness and aggressiveness. He is very good at fighting off defensive backs for the ball, especially if he has to go up to make the play.
The Broncos have one of the most talented receiver corps in the entire league, but Bateman could be the unheralded player to round it out. After all, an undrafted rookie has made the team every year since 2003.
Zac Dysert, Quarterback
Hopefully, the Broncos win a Super Bowl while they have Peyton Manning, but it's common knowledge that his career will be over sooner rather than later. With that being said, the Broncos also have to look to the future.
While all indications point to Brock Osweiler being the player the Broncos turn to when No. 18 calls it a career, it won't hurt to have a capable backup behind him. That is where Zac Dysert comes in.
The Broncos used their seventh-round draft choice to bring Dysert in, which they may have done because they were surprised he was still on the board. It remains to be seen if Dysert can transfer his game to the NFL, but the Broncos will have something if he can.
In college, he threw for over 12,000 passing yards to go with 73 touchdowns. He did that while having a 131.8 career QB rating. He is also very mobile in the pocket and can make plays happen when things break down. That is what will separate him from a lot of guys.
The Broncos only kept two quarterbacks on the roster last year, but if they place Dysert on the practice squad, they risk another team scooping him up. If they keep him, they may have something they could send to another team in a later trade, if nothing else.
Romney Fuga, Defensive Tackle
The Broncos made shoring up the defensive tackle position one of their top priorities this offseason. After signing Kevin Vickerson to a contract extension, they brought in Terrance Knighton as a free agent from Jacksonville.
They may have been satisfied with that, but when Sylvester Williams was still on the board when they chose at No. 28 in the first round of this year's draft, they didn't pass him up.
Romney Fuga is another undrafted free agent with a huge upside. He is a very strong player with a high school background in wrestling. On the football field, he is a space-eating defender who often took on two offensive linemen at once at BYU.
Fuga will battle Sealver Siliga and Mitch Unrein at the defensive tackle position and could easily beat both of them out due to his ability to defend the run.
Vinston Painter, Offensive Lineman
The Broncos have a solid starting offensive line, but it gets shaky after that. That was compounded by the news that J.D. Walton will miss an extended period of time with his ankle injury from last season still not being fully healed.
This forced the Broncos to bring back Dan Koppen, who played well for the team in Walton's absence last season. Aside from that, Walton, Chris Clark and starting guard Zane Beadles will all be unrestricted free agents next year.
Vinston Painter is an athletic lineman who can play both guard or tackle. He is solid in both run blocking and pass protection. He may not do much with the Broncos this season, but they could develop him into a starter for the future.
Lerentee McCray, Linebacker
On many teams, Lerentee McCray may not get the chance to show what he can do. But in Denver, where another linebacker to complement Von Miller and Wesley Woodyard could complete the defense, he should.
The biggest knock on McCray lies with his durability, which is the main reason he was undrafted coming out of Florida. McCray is an athletic linebacker who can rush the passer and has the quickness to defend from sideline to sideline.
What may make the difference between whether or not McCray makes the team will be his ability to defend the pass. This was an area of weakness last season, but McCray was a solid pass defender at Florida when healthy.
Manase Foketi, Offensive Lineman
Like Vinston Painter, Manase Foketi could be what the Broncos are looking for to bolster their offensive line.
Foketi is especially strong in the running game as he can physically overpower defensive linemen. He is an agile player for his size who displays good balance.
The Broncos were forced to turn to Manny Ramirez multiple times last season with Chris Kuper injured more often than not. Foketi could easily dispatch Ramirez and be a solid backup at the guard position.
If the Broncos decide to part ways with Kuper, it could be because they are confident with what they have in both Lou Vasquez and Foketi.
Jeremy Beal, Defensive End
Broncos fans haven't seen much out of Jeremy Beal, a defensive end the team drafted in the seventh round in 2011 out of Oklahoma.
Beal was lost for the season after injuring his knee in the team's final preseason game against Arizona last year. His chances to make an impact in the NFL may be running out.
But after Elvis Dumervil left to become a member of the Baltimore Ravens, it left the Broncos needing some help at the defensive end position.
After a solid rookie season, Derek Wolfe will start at one of the end positions while former first-round selection Robert Ayers will likely get the first chance to be on the opposite side. Still, the team will need some depth behind those guys.
Malik Jackson and Beal should be in direct competition for a backup role, and that could go either way. Beal might be able to lend a little more help than Jackson as a run defender, and that could be the difference in their battle.
Gerell Robinson, Wide Receiver
Here is the player to watch in camp and preseason. Gerell Robinson came close to making the final roster a year ago following a stellar senior season at Arizona State, but he was part of the team's final roster cuts.
With that experience under his belt, Robinson should be able to stand out in camp as the team looks for some players to add depth at wide receiver behind the big three of Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker.
Robinson is a big target at 6'4" and has the ability to beat defenders down the field with his speed. He is most dangerous, however, after the catch, as he can be very tough to bring down.
Robinson will have to fend off some hungry rookies such as Kemonte' Bateman, Quincy McDuffie and Lamaar Thomas along with veterans Andre Caldwell and Greg Orton to make the team, but his playmaking ability should shine through and put him on the final roster.