2014 NFL Draft: Late-Round Prospects Who Could Help the Denver Broncos
What do Terrell Davis, Shannon Sharpe and Karl Mecklenburg have in common?
All three of these Broncos were picked late in the NFL draft. Mecklenburg was picked in the fourth round, Davis was picked in the sixth round and Sharpe was selected in the seventh. All three ended up contributing greatly to the Broncos.
Can the Broncos unearth another late-round gem this season?
Brelan Chancellor, WR, North Texas
Emmanuel Sanders could return punts for the Broncos, but the Broncos would like to avoid the injury risk. If they don't let Sanders bring back kicks, they would likely need someone else from the draft.
So, they could draft a wide receiver for depth and returning punts. Brelan Chancellor could be that guy.
Chancellor returned punts for North Texas, bringing a kickoff back for a touchdown against SEC powerhouse Georgia. He averaged 16.1 yards per punt return and 26.5 yards per kickoff return last year, which would help the Broncos greatly.
His receiving skills also could help. He caught 53 catches for 792 yards and four touchdowns last season, and he had some great games. He averaged a solid 14.9 yards per catch and could be a deep threat.
According to NFLDraftScout.com, he ran a 4.51 40-yard dash. His speed could be used in a number of ways, especially with Peyton Manning's ability to put his receivers in a position to contribute after the catch.
He is worth a flier as a seventh-round selection. His versatility would make him a valuable weapon as the backup and return specialist the Broncos need.
Yawin Smallwood, LB, Connecticut
If the Broncos miss out on a linebacker early in the draft, they have fallback options.
One of those options is Yawin Smallwood. Smallwood is a linebacker who does well in coverage, which the Broncos need. His athleticism is average, but that's more than compensated for by his leadership and coverage capabilities.
Denver currently lacks a definitive starting middle linebacker. It has Nate Irving, who is versatile and plays all linebacker positions, but he's more of a run defender. He could be a two-down thumper, but he is below average in coverage.
Smallwood could platoon with Irving and play in the 4-2-5 nickel package. Denver needs a second coverage linebacker to complement Danny Trevathan. Von Miller rushes, so there aren't many other options on the roster.
The free-agent market is filled with older linebackers who can't run well and struggle in coverage, such as Pat Angerer, so the Broncos will need to find an improvement in the draft.
In the fourth round, they could find their answer in Smallwood.
Jeff Janis, WR, Saginaw Valley State
As Jerry Rice, Donald Driver and many others have demonstrated, small-school wide receivers can find success in the NFL.
Jeff Janis hopes that this trend will continue this year. The Saginaw Valley State product put great numbers up at the NFL combine and his regular-season stats were also impressive. He's not likely to surpass other top receiver prospects, but he should at least get selected.
If the Broncos are smart, they will take a look at him. Predominantly Orange indicates that the team has expressed an interest in Janis. He caught 106 passes for 1,635 yards in just 11 games, which is phenomenal at any level.
He could get downfield and make plays with Manning at quarterback. His 4.42 40-yard dash ranked 13th among all prospects, which is, again, fabulous. Also, he displayed his incredible strength by finishing tied for third among all receivers with 20 bench press reps.
Janis could be available in the fifth or sixth round, and if he is, he's worth a flier. He could at least provide depth, and with his physical capabilities, he could do much more.
Tyler Gaffney, RB, Stanford
The Broncos are likely to snatch a running back late in the draft. If they want one who can do more than just provide depth, Tyler Gaffney would be a nice option.
Gaffney's playing style resembles that of a power back, but he has surprising speed. He ran a spectacular 4.49 40-yard dash, which trumped speedster De'Anthony Thomas' time. Despite his impressive combine performance and stellar production, he's not expected to be picked high.
CBSSports.com projects him as a sixth-rounder. In other words, he should be there late in the draft for Denver.
The Broncos would be fools to pass up a power back who averaged 5.2 yards per carry and scored a touchdown in all but one game last season. He could complement Montee Ball, who scored just four touchdowns last season, perfectly.
Also, his power running could benefit the Broncos. Ball and C.J. Anderson are power runners, but Ball also likes to look for the big play. For example, as Bleacher Report's Cecil Lammey noted, Ball looked for the big play on a critical short-yardage play against the Baltimore Ravens.
This trait isn't desirable for short-yardage runners, and it could limit Ball. It could also lead to the selection of a power runner.
Gaffney could bring a whole new element to the table. In the fifth, sixth or seventh round, he would be a fabulous value pick.
Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming
Yes, the Denver Broncos could pick another quarterback.
General manager John Elway loves picking backup passers in the draft. He picked Brock Osweiler in 2012 and Zac Dysert in 2013, and considering the Broncos have met with or worked out quarterbacks Stephen Morris and Smith, the trend should continue.
Smith played for Wyoming and hasn't received the hype Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater have garnered, but he is a very talented late-round prospect. He threw for 29 touchdowns and 3,375 yards while running for 573 more yards.
If Smith is available in the sixth or seventh round, expect Denver to take a flier on him. The team's incredible talent means that there aren't many roster slots for late-round picks, so grabbing the best player available wouldn't be a bad idea.
And there's a good chance the talented Smith could be the best player available.
Smith didn't play with much surrounding talent with his 5-7 Wyoming Cowboys, making his stats even more impressive. Look for Denver to keep an eye on him if he falls.
Combine information courtesy of NFL.com.