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Successful teams invariably benefit from surprise contributions from unexpected sources.
Denver has a few options in this category, with the first being third-year tight end Julius Thomas.
The former Portland State basketball star was a standout player at the Shrine Game in 2011. At the Scouting Combine that year, he told me he could probably jump over a car and dunk a basketball.
The guy is incredibly athletic and uses his basketball skill set to box out smaller defenders. He can high point and rebound passes in the red zone and has been a standout player in training camp this year.
We haven't heard much from Thomas during his pro career because of an ankle injury that robbed him of his first two seasons. He's healthy now and could be the starting tight end for the Broncos when they open the regular season against the Ravens.
Another option for biggest surprise is second-year strong safety Duke Ihenacho. He was an undrafted free agent last year, but some evaluators felt the Broncos could have a big hit on their hands when they added him.
Ihenacho was a converted linebacker in college and plays with a "seek and destroy" mentality. He has a nose for the football and is always looking to make a big hit.
During training camp this year, Ihenacho has made several big hits and likes to tell the opposition all about it. In fact, Ihenacho has gotten in a few shouting matches (with running backs Ronnie Hillman and Knowshon Moreno) because of his overaggressive style.
Ihenacho was an unknown player heading into camp and has turned into a media darling over the course of three weeks. He's likely to start for the Broncos opposite Rahim Moore.
The final candidate for biggest surprise is second-year defensive end Malik Jackson. In the fifth round of the 2012 NFL draft, the Broncos added Jackson to the roster. Coming out of the University of Tennessee, Jackson was known for his strong hands, quick initial burst and position versatility. The Broncos are looking for pass-rushing help, and Jackson could be a surprise player who could post five or more sacks in 2013.
I give the nod to Thomas here, because the team is going to be known for their high powered offense. Thomas creates mismatches every time he's on the field and could be the biggest surprise this season.
WINNER: Julius Thomas