Denver Broncos: Which Undrafted Free Agents Have a Shot at Making the Team?
What do Chris Harris, Wesley Woodyard and Rod Smith have in common?
All three of these phenomenal players came to the Denver Broncos via undrafted free agency and have contributed lots to the team. Smith helped Denver win two Super Bowls, Woodyard stabilized the linebacker position during his six-year stint in Denver and Harris has emerged as a shutdown corner.
The Broncos are hoping to unearth another gem this year. But who could that be?
Zac Dysert warranted a seventh-round pick last year, but the Broncos could move on in another direction if Bryn Renner impresses them enough.
Renner tossed 28 touchdown passes in 2012, and while his 2013 season was cut short due to a season-ending shoulder injury, he still showed immense potential. He threw for more than 300 yards in his last four games of 2012.
Cecil Lammey of Bleacher Report expects Renner to make the roster, giving him a 65 percent chance of being one of the team's final 53 players. If he outperforms Dysert, he definitely should make the roster.
Renner was more efficient and less turnover prone in college, as Dysert threw double-digit interceptions each year and never threw more than 25 touchdowns despite playing in the weak MAC.
Dysert has developed and did do a solid job in the preseason last year, throwing for 163 yards on 20 passes in the final preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals. However, if the Broncos don't think he can complete more passes and protect the ball better, he could end up without a roster spot.
And if Dysert doesn't make the team, the Broncos likely will keep a third quarterback (as, according to Mile High Report, they have done every year during the John Elway era). That quarterback would have to be Renner.
The Broncos have put lots of work into upgrading at cornerback, and it's paid off.
Denver's triumvirate of Harris, Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby should strike fear into the hearts of quarterbacks, but if one of these players goes down, it could severely hurt the Broncos.
Kayvon Webster was lit up at times in his rookie season, and as Pro Football Focus (subscription required) notes, Tony Carter has been less than stellar.
If the Broncos part ways with Carter or safety Omar Bolden, it could leave an opening at defensive back. The talented Louis Young could fill that hole.
According to CBS Sports, Young ran the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds. He intercepted four passes and defended 12 in his college career, which, while unspectacular, isn't bad by any means. The Broncos could use someone with his ball skills.
Assuming Young cleans up his act off the field (he was suspended for Georgia Tech's first game in 2012 for selling tickets to the game) and in the tackling department, he could actually pan out in the NFL. Considering the Broncos need depth at cornerback, he could at least be stashed on the practice squad.
But if he shows the talent he has displayed and addresses some of his tackling issues, he could end up forcing the Broncos to make a difficult decision at the end of camp.
Brennan Clay, Juwan Thompson and Kapri Bibbs
The competition for the fourth running back job will be a heated one, and everyone on the roster will have a chance to make the cut.
That includes undrafted free agents Juwan Thompson, Kapri Bibbs and Brennan Clay. All three put up solid numbers in college and all three should compete in Denver.
Bibbs scored 31 touchdowns in 2013, Thompson averaged 5.4 yards per carry and Clay averaged 5.5 yards per carry. Bibbs had the most impressive stats in college, but Clay stood out in areas that don't always come up on the stat sheet.
His blocking skills could intrigue the Broncos, as protecting Peyton Manning is of the utmost importance. Also, he caught 16 balls in 2013 and has special teams experience.
Thompson has thrived in some of the same areas, but his power-running style might not be what the Broncos are looking for. His play is similar to that of C.J. Anderson, who also checks in around 225 pounds.
Bibbs, on the other hand, doesn't blow anyone away with his size or his speed. His knack for the end zone caught the attention of scouts, however. If he produces in the NFL like he did in college, he could be a stud.
All three of these players (and Jerodis Williams) could legitimately make the team. Look for Clay's unique skill set to serve him well, but also watch for Bibbs' playmaking ability to force the Broncos brass to have a hard time on cut day.
Despite John Elway's incredible work during the offseason, he never officially settled on a punt returner.
Denver signed Emmanuel Sanders to complement Wes Welker and Andre Caldwell as options for returning kicks and punts, but Elway likely won't send his critical wide receivers out on the field in these situations.
If the Broncos decide to protect their prized receivers, they could throw Isaiah Burse out on returns.
The speedy Burse was highly sought after as an undrafted free agent, and according to The Denver Post, the Broncos had to pay him more than all of their other college free agents. His skills in the slot are encouraging, but his ability in the return game also makes him intriguing.
He averaged 12.5 yards per return and scored twice on just 21 attempts in 2013, displaying his explosiveness. Denver had an issue with fumbles from Trindon Holliday last year, but Burse is much better in that department. He didn't fumble a punt return last year.
If Denver carries six receivers, like many teams do, Burse would definitely be added. His athleticism and versatility are both intriguing, and he has the potential to play a big role in 2014 and in the future.
Burse received the most lucrative signing bonus out of any Broncos undrafted free agent. Shaquil Barrett was second.
Barrett, who could have easily been drafted, has the makings of a solid NFL player. He will face competition from 2013 college free agent Lerentee McCray, seventh-round pick Corey Nelson and veteran Steven Johnson, but he should be able to make the team.
Barrett's production definitely was encouraging. He accrued 12 sacks in 2014, including 1.5 against powerhouse Alabama and star tackle Cyrus Kouandjio. He totaled 80 tackles as well, showing production that the Broncos could benefit from.
He has a legitimate chance of beating out McCray or Nelson. Nelson suffered a pectoral injury and has serious injury concerns, and he received a worse draft grade than Barrett. As for McCray, he has also been plagued by injuries.
You could make a case that Barrett should have been picked in the seventh round over Nelson. He made plays against solid competition in college, and he could do the same thing in the NFL.
And if the Broncos are smart, it will lead to him making the roster.