The 12 Greatest Denver Broncos Undrafted Free Agents of All Time

Vince SapienzaCorrespondent IIIAugust 18, 2011

The 12 Greatest Denver Broncos Undrafted Free Agents of All Time

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    The Denver Broncos have had some nice talent over their long and illustrious history, and a few have not even come in the draft. Many Broncos who are forever in Bronco lore came undrafted and were just given a shot that they ended up capitalizing on.

    It happens every year, a player or two goes undrafted, but they become the hottest thing in the NFL. Names like Tony Romo, James Harrison, Kurt Warner and even John Randle come to mind.

    The Broncos have their share, so let's see who they got.

12. OL Dave Studdard

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    Technically Dave Studdard was drafted by the Baltimore Colts, but he never played, and they basically just waived him. Denver picked him up a year later, and he became a staple on the left side at tackle for the Broncos. 

    He also was versatile, playing  on the right tackle spot and guard spot. Studdard was on the Texas line that saw Earl Campbell run for a Heisman Trophy. 

    Studdard makes this list based on a technicality, a late-round pick that was never really given a shot by the Colts. 

11. C Keith Kartz

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    Keith Kartz was an undrafted center for the Denver Broncos from 1987-1993. He attended Cal University and was a fixture on the Broncos offensive line, starting in Superbowl XIV.

    He played in 100 games, starting 88 of them, and he led the NFL in fumble recoveries in 1991 with four. 

10. K David Treadwell

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    Kicker David Treadwell was a 1989 All-Pro and Pro Bowler  for the Denver Broncos where he played from 1989-1992. He finished his career in 1994 with the New York Giants.

    Treadwell played his college ball at Clemson and finished with a field-goal percentage of 77.1 (135 for 175).

    Treadwell after his playing days was the local Denver sports anchor for a few years and has since ventured into land development. 

9. OLB Bob Swenson

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    Bob Swenson was an undrafted free agent out of Cal where he was very adamant about how NFL scouts would not pay attention to him because they were "100 years old."

    Swenson played eight years for the Broncos and was a part of the Orange Crush where he helped lead the Broncos to Superbowl XII. Swenson made the Pro Bowl in the 1981 season.

8. K Rich Karlis

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    Another kicker on our list, Rich Karlis came from the University of Cincinnati, and as you can see, kicked field goals with his bare feet. 

    Karlis has 799 points recorded, the record for most amount of field-goal attempts in a Super Bowl with six and is probably best known for kicking the winning field goal in overtime to beat the Browns and advance to the Super Bowl XXI.

    Karlis has the rookie record for consecutive field goals made with 13. Perfect form, I must say. 

7. WR Steve Watson

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    An undrafted receiver from Temple University, Steve Watson quickly became a fan favorite in Denver for his gritty play and knack for getting open. 

    Watson played nine seasons and recorded 353 passes for 6,112 yards and 36 touchdowns. He was voted into the 1981 Pro Bowl and was later inducted to the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame.

6. K/HB/PR Gene Mingo

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    Gene Mingo was the first African American football player for the Denver Broncos and was the first African American place kicker in the NFL/AFL. 

    Mingo recorded the first punt return for a touchdown in history in the Broncos first win over the Boston Patriots. Mingo also scored the first points at Bears Stadium (then home to the Broncos) with an 18-yard field goal. 

    Mingo was a true trail blazer of the game and in his time, was one of the best athletes to never attend college. 

5. WR Lionel Taylor

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    As we go way back to the AFL days, Lionel Taylor was what we would like to call the "bees knees." The undrafted wide receiver from New Mexico Highlands UNiversity began his career with the New York Giants of the NFL before his six-year move to Denver.

    Taylor was the first receiver to record 100 receptions in a season, in only 14 games and was a four-time AFL All-Star. He was also the Broncos MVP three times while averaging around 84 yards per game and recording four 1,000-yard seasons.

    Taylor was definitely old school and trail blazed the wide receiver position.

4. NT Greg Kragen

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    Said to be the best technique nose tackle to ever play the game, I feel it was obvious Greg Kragen make this illustrious and much coveted list.

    Kragen was undrafted from Utah State and began his career with Denver. He also played with the Kansas City Chiefs and Carolina Panthers.

    In 200 games, Kragen recorded 28 sacks and one interception. He was a menace on the defensive front where he was a major contributor of the last remnant of the Orange Crush.

    Kragen is one of the best undrafted defensive players to play the game. 

3. CB Willie Brown

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    The Hall of Famer, Willie Brown was undrafted and made his debut with the Denver Broncos, even though he earned his living and career with the Oakland Raiders

    The corner from Grambling State was All-AFL team in 1964, a five time AFL All star, and in 1984 was inducted into the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    A massive hitter and the all-time leading Raider in interceptions. 

2. TE Dwayne Carswell

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    Best known as "House," Dwayne Carswell was a pure beast. An undrafted pickup in 1994, Carswell played college at Liberty University and then took his game to Denver.

    Carswell played from 1994-2006 where he was not only a tight end, but as the years got to him he became an offensive guard/tackle as well. Carswell made the Pro Bowl in 2001 and was able to come back from a devasting car accident where he sustained internal injuries. 

    Upon his return he won the Ed Block Courage Award, and in 2007, he signed with the Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League but was later waived.

    More known for his blocking, Carswell was very intimidating when he finally got his hands on the rock, he finished with 192 receptions and 15 touchdowns. 

1. Rod Smith

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    One of the best Broncos to ever done the uniform, a fan favorite and one hell of a wide receiver. Rod Smith amassed 849 receptions (15th all-time), 11,389 receiving yards (the only undrafted player to eclipse the 10,000 receiving yards mark) and 68 touchdowns.

    Now I am not sure if that is Hall of Fame numbers, but he was the go to target for John Elway ever since he went undrafted in the 1994 season coming from Missouri Southern State. Rod Smith was one of the class acts of the leagues and one of the best competitors. 

    Smith played all 14 years for the Broncos and retired in 2008. A three-time Pro Bowler, two time All-Pro and a two-time Super Bowl champion, he was a joy to watch play on Sunday and an even better person to root for. He still manages to make his way to training camp practices and Broncos games.

    He is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.