Assessing Every Denver Broncos UDFA's Chances of Making Final Roster

Cecil Lammey@@cecillammeyContributor IMay 21, 2014

Assessing Every Denver Broncos UDFA's Chances of Making Final Roster

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    The Denver Broncos recently wrapped up their three-day rookie minicamp. Early-round draft picks like cornerback Bradley Roby (first) and wide receiver Cody Latimer (second) made their Broncos debuts at Dove Valley, Colorado. In the draft the Broncos were able to add quality talent with varying developmental upside.

    In addition to the players added in the draft, the Broncos’ undrafted free agents were at the team facility as well. This group of players is also quite talented, and there may be a player from this collection who becomes a star for the Broncos.

    Denver is still in a Super Bowl window and looking to put together the best roster possible. Talent can come from anywhere, and the Broncos have an eye for picking up undrafted players who can play in the NFL.

    In recent years, players like cornerback Chris Harris Jr. (2011), linebacker Steven Johnson (2012) and running back C.J. Anderson (2013) have made the team after being overlooked in the draft.

    This year’s group of undrafted free agents may hold another gem.

    Let’s assess every undrafted free agent the Broncos added this year to determine their chances of making the final roster.

Isaiah Burse, WR

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    The player who generated the most buzz at rookie minicamp was wide receiver Isaiah Burse. The language of the NFL is money, and the Broncos handed a larger signing bonus to him ($12,500) than to any other undrafted free agent this year. The team is anxious to see if the investment pays off.

    He is anxious to work alongside Wes Welker. After practice on Sunday, Burse could barely contain his excitement when talking about the veteran wideout.

    “I can’t wait. Obviously, going through this process, rookie camp, the vets are on a whole other level right now; they’ve got to stay focused and get ready for the season. So they don’t have too much time to sit down with a rookie and try to teach a rookie everything when they’ve got to focus on getting better as well.”

    Burse continued, “But every chance I get, I’m taking mental reps out there, and you’re getting all the reps, I’m asking what play this is, how would you run this route, or just stuff like that, and he sits there and takes the time and actually tells me, so that means a lot.”

    Burse is ultraquick and lightning-fast in the open field. He has the speed and moves to make defenders miss, and he is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. He could make the final roster on his return skills alone.

    However, he was a productive wide receiver in college who could also contribute on offense. This was an asset the Broncos didn’t have last year with Trindon Holliday as their return man.

    Burse is not the biggest wide receiver, and there is a concern about press coverage knocking him off his route at the line of scrimmage. The rookie feels like that’s something he can improve on with the Broncos.

    “You always can get better, but as far as that, I feel like I’m a pretty good route-runner. I feel like if I got pressed, I can get off the press, I feel I can get separation from a defender with ease, but obviously I’ve still got a long way to go. I’ve got a lot of work to do. But I feel like I’m a good route-runner overall.”

    Burse’s ability as a receiver and return man could help carve out a spot on the 53-man roster. The Broncos may carry less at another position so they can carry six wide receivers this season.


    Chances of making the roster: 85 percent

    Chances of making the practice squad: 100 percent if he doesn’t make the active roster

Bryn Renner, QB

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    JACK DEMPSEY/Associated Press

    The Broncos added a developmental quarterback with considerable upside when Bryn Renner chose to come to Denver. He has the intelligence, arm strength and moxie to push for a backup job with the Broncos.

    He likes to be aggressive with the football. He’ll stand tall in the pocket with the defense swirling around him as he waits for a vertical route to get open. Renner does not abandon the play too soon, and he’ll wait until the last possible moment to scramble.

    He’s not known as a dangerous runner, but he is athletic enough to move within the pocket in order to buy himself some time. He can “climb the ladder” to step up in the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield. This makes him more dangerous than a traditional pocket passer.

    Renner’s aggression can be a double-edged sword. He’ll make mistakes with the ball as he tries to force a big play. The good news is, when he makes a mistake there is no memory of it on the next play—he is cold-blooded.

    He’s a smart quarterback who likes to take chances. Renner doesn’t have a rocket arm, but his arm is strong enough to make every throw required in the NFL.

    He will compete with 2013 seventh-round pick Zac Dysert to be the team’s third-string quarterback behind Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler. Renner lacks the arm strength and athleticism of Dysert, but his accuracy and consistency could win him the job—or at least a spot on the practice squad.


    Chances of making the roster: 65 percent

    Chances of making the practice squad: 100 percent if he doesn’t make the active roster

Brennan Clay, RB

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    The Broncos added three running backs as undrafted free agents this year. Brennan Clay has arguably the highest upside of the trio. He’s a big play waiting to happen, and his skill set is unique to the backs who are in camp or on the roster.

    He has the speed to pull away at the second level of the defense. While he’s not the biggest back, measuring in at 200 pounds, he is determined between the tackles. He’s not known as a banger, but he runs with a good pad level and can bounce off would-be tacklers in the hole.

    His vision may be his most outstanding attribute. Clay will patiently wait for a hole to open, and he has the burst to find cutback lanes when they open up.

    At Broncos minicamp Clay was the most impressive running back, in my opinion. He ran through the drills swiftly, showing great balance and footwork. He was also outstanding as a receiver out of the backfield.

    The Broncos don’t have a lot of speed in the running back corps right now. They have third-year pro Ronnie Hillman, but this may be a make-or-break season for him. Fumbling and maturity issues have held him back as a pro.

    Clay could be everything that Hillman was supposed to be. He’ll need to prove ball security and pass protection before he makes the final roster. If Clay looks good in those two aspects, the rest will take care of itself.


    Chances of making the roster: 65 percent

    Chances of making the practice squad: 100 percent if he doesn’t make the active roster

Juwan Thompson, RB

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    JACK DEMPSEY/Associated Press

    While Juwan Thompson didn’t stand out as much as Clay, the fullback/running back ‘tweener has the best attribute for a rookie runner—he’s outstanding in pass protection.

    He is a big back who can grind down an opposing defense between the tackles. He has a strong lower body that helps him push for yards after contact. The power from his legs also helps him run through arm tackles.

    He runs with a proper pad level, and he can be counted on in short-yardage situations. He will stay low, initiate contact and try to push the pile near the goal line as well.

    Thompson’s skill set is similar to that of former Falcons running back Jason Snelling. In 2007 Snelling was a seventh-round pick by the Falcons. He was productive for seven years in Atlanta largely due to the fact that he could do everything well.

    This all-purpose ability could put Thompson on the depth chart as a fourth-string running back.


    Chances of making the roster: 50 percent

    Chances of making the practice squad: 90 percent

Kapri Bibbs, RB

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    JACK DEMPSEY/Associated Press

    We could see Kapri Bibbs make a strong push for the third- or fourth-string job with the Broncos. Fans in Colorado should be familiar with him from his standout 2013 season with Colorado State.

    He finished the year with a school-record 1,741 yards rushing and an NCAA-leading 31 rushing touchdowns. Eight of his 14 games last year saw him rush for less than 100 yards, and Bibbs did struggle against tougher competition (five carries, 12 yards against Alabama).

    He stands out on the football field because of his balance. Bibbs is tough to bring down because he stays low and bounces off contact. This aids him between the tackles where he can keep runs alive, but it really benefits him in the open field, when safeties charged with bringing him down get sloppy.

    He is not fast, but his first 10 yards are fast enough. He has a good initial burst, and this helps him get to the second level of the defense in a hurry. Once there, he will surprise unsuspecting defenders in the open field with a few moves to create his own space.

    Going undrafted could prove to be a great motivator for Bibbs.

    “It’s definitely a big chip on my shoulder. It makes you work harder. It definitely makes you work harder when you know a lot of people don’t see you or you didn’t get drafted, you’re a free agent.

    “Now you want to just go out and show everybody that it was a mistake. That whoever didn’t draft you, they want to go back and look at their boards like, ‘We’re not going to make this mistake again on the next guy.’ So that’s what I’m trying to prove, too.”

    He’ll need to prove himself as a receiver, as he only had eight receptions last year for the Rams. The most important determining factor may come down to his ability in pass protection. If he impresses in those two departments, Bibbs could make the team as a reserve runner behind Montee Ball.


    Chances of making the roster: 50 percent

    Chances of making the practice squad: 90 percent if he doesn’t make the active roster

Shaquil Barrett, OLB

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Broncos made a strong move when Shaquil Barrett was added after the draft. He’s a pass-rusher who can bring pressure off the edge with multiple moves. As a senior, he set a Mountain West record with 20.5 tackles for a loss while also compiling 12 sacks.

    He has the desire to be great, and his blue-collar work ethic should immediately endear him to defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. Barrett knows about the team’s history of finding undrafted talent, but his thoughts were elsewhere when he received the call from the Broncos.

    “I really wasn’t thinking about it. I just know that if I get the opportunity, it’s up to me to make it happen. If I want to make it happen, I have to come out here and do my best; learn on the field, off the field, give 100 percent effort.

    “If I do my best and I don’t make it, there was nothing else I could have done, but if I do my best and I make it then I was in control of it.”

    Barrett shows up on film in run defense too. He has a nose for the ball, and he will chase down the ball-carrier if the play goes away from him.

    Making the final roster is not a given, but one should never count out a dedicated and focused player like Barrett. If he's put on the practice squad, a few teams might be interested in stealing him away from the Broncos.


    Chances of making the roster: 55 percent

    Chances of making the practice squad: 100 percent if he doesn’t make the active roster

Kenny Anunike, DE

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    JACK DEMPSEY/Associated Press

    It would be great if Kenny Anunike could make the final roster. He has the skill set to be an effective player at the pro level.

    He has the length and strength to be an instant part-time threat as a pass-rusher. He can make up ground quickly after bending around the edge. His wingspan also helps him knock away the football from unsuspecting quarterbacks.

    His skill set is not in question, but the cramped depth chart could prevent him from making the final roster. Anunike’s spot could basically come down to how second-year pro Quanterus Smith looks in camp.

    Smith missed all of his rookie season due to the 2012 knee injury that cut his final season at Western Kentucky short. Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio recently reflected on his thoughts of Smith as a collegian.

    “On tape coming out, we liked his athleticism, his length, his ability to bend and his ability to rush the quarterback. So those are things we’re looking forward to seeing from him. I know he’s healthy. I see him moving around very well right now, so we’re looking forward to getting him some of that experience, some of the reps, and let him earn his way.”

    Smith has arguably more upside than Anunike, and the team could benefit from Smith having a breakout season. The Broncos have question marks at pass-rusher even though they added DeMarcus Ware in free agency earlier this offseason.

    It might be difficult to find an opening for Anunike on the final roster if the players above him look good in camp.


    Chances of making the roster: 40 percent

    Chances of making the practice squad: 90 percent

Bennie Fowler, WR

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    JACK DEMPSEY/Associated Press

    The Broncos get a nice size/speed combination in the skill set of Bennie Fowler. He can dominate at the point of attack because of his size (6’1”, 210 pounds), and this helps him win in the red zone as well.

    He makes a habit out of catching off-target throws. He has the body control to contort his body for passes near the sideline and the foot quickness to stay in bounds.

    His concentration has been an issue in college. He was constantly hauling in catches that were bobbled, tipped or contested upon arrival. However, too often he’d drop the easy passes as he thought about running after the catch before securing the ball.

    Fowler will have to clean up this part of his game if he wants to excel as a pro. With Isaiah Burse likely to make the team as the sixth receiver, Fowler’s best bet is to learn on the practice squad in Denver.


    Chances of making the roster: 25 percent

    Chances of making the practice squad: 90 percent

Greg Hardin, WR

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    RIC TAPIA/Associated Press

    Productive college players will always draw the attention of the NFL—regardless of the level of competition. Hardin was a standout player for FCS powerhouse North Dakota, and now he’s trying to make the transition to the pros.

    He averaged 17 yards per catch at North Dakota and finished his college career with 154 catches and 27 touchdowns. He was known as a reliable receiver who would make the big catch in crunch time.

    He can move well after the catch, and he has make-you-miss ability in the open field. This makes him dangerous on drag routes where there’s plenty of space in front of him. Hardin can also run “9” routes and will easily track the ball over his shoulder.

    In addition to contributing as a receiver, he has the quickness and agility to be a good return man as well. This ability will help him turn heads in training camp.

    Like Bennie Fowler, Hardin’s best shot of making the team comes on the practice squad and not the active roster.


    Chances of making the roster: 25 percent

    Chances of making the practice squad: 90 percent

Louis Young, CB

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    JACK DEMPSEY/Associated Press

    A team can never have too many corners, and that’s why Louis Young was added to the roster. He has a nose for the ball and fearlessness that could make him stand out from the pack.

    He’s best known for his ability as a run defender. Young has no problem playing close to the line of scrimmage where he can patrol the field, looking for the ball. Once he diagnoses where the play is going, he can arrive at the ball in a hurry and with natural violence.

    In order to make the team, he needs to do a better job in coverage.

    He’s not fast enough to cover downfield routes, and his aggression can be used against him. He will often get caught looking in the backfield, and that lets his man run free after a play fake.

    Once beaten, he lacks the recovery speed to get back in position. He’ll also get too grabby when the pass is coming in, which may lead to pass-interference penalties.

    The team has a need for better depth in the secondary. Young is impressive with his attitude, but his technique needs some work.


    Chances of making the roster: 20 percent

    Chances of making the practice squad: 50 percent

Jordan Sullen, CB

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    JACK DEMPSEY/Associated Press

    Just like with Louis Young, the Broncos are looking for additional cornerback talent with Jordan Sullen. A player who can line up at multiple positions only has a better chance of making the final roster.

    He can play as a sub-package cornerback. He has the field awareness to understand where plays are going quickly, and this puts him around the ball when the pass is coming in.

    He can also line up at free safety and roam the middle of the field. He is known as a sound tackler and is not afraid of initiating contact on larger ball-carriers.

    In addition to cornerback or free safety, Sullen could also line up at wide receiver if need be. He is an athletic football player who just needs some experience, coaching and guidance.

    His natural athleticism will make him stand out, but he has too much work to do to make the final roster. We’ll see if he can progress enough in camp to earn a spot on the practice squad.


    Chances of making the roster: 25 percent

    Chances of making the practice squad: 50 percent

Aslam Sterling, OT

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Broncos already have a tackle-heavy roster, but Aslam Sterling was an interesting addition after the draft. He’s versatile enough to play inside at guard, and that may be his best spot to work from in the pros.

    Denver knows how to find Kansas Jayhawks who can contribute as undrafted free agents. Both cornerback Chris Harris Jr. and linebacker Steven Johnson made the team after going undrafted out of Kansas. Sterling would be lucky to make the same transition.

    He’s a strong player who can control the point of attack. He anchors well, and he’s tough to move once his feet are set. Lack of quick feet will keep him from being an edge player as a pro. Sterling's best fit is inside, where his lack of lateral agility won’t hinder him as much.


    Chances of making the roster: Slim to none

    Chances of making the practice squad: 25 percent

Greg Latta, DE

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio loves blue-collar workers, and that’s what the team gets in Greg Latta. He has limited college experience after playing only one season with the Purdue Boilermakers.

    The former basketball star originally began his junior college career playing tight end. He transitioned to the defensive side because of his strength and tenacity on the edge. Latta is not afraid to get his hands dirty as a run defender.

    His lunch-pail attitude will impress the staff, but his raw skill set needs a lot of work before he makes the final roster.


    Chances of making the roster: Slim to none

    Chances of making the practice squad: 10 percent


    All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record/statistical information provided via email from the Denver Broncos.

    Cecil Lammey can be followed on Twitter @CecilLammey.