After drafting just six players in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos bolstered their 90 man roster with the signing of 17 undrafted free agents this last week. In this edition of Hodgkinson’s Huddle, i’ll take a look at some of those I think could make it on to the week 1 roster.
In total, 254 college football players heard their name called at the 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville. With just one phone call, their lives are changed in an instant. What if the phone doesn’t ring? What happens then?
If a player clears the full seven round process, they become an undrafted free agent (UDFA). They then get to pick who they play for from any interested teams. For some, the interest will be high. There was allegedly so much interest in Hawaii’s John Ursua on the UDFA market that it forced Seattle to trade back in to the draft to secure him.
The dream doesn’t die with not getting the NFL Draft call…
The focus on getting drafted in to the NFL sometimes leaves a stigma attached to players who haven’t been drafted. For sure, it’s harder to make it in to the league as an UDFA than it is as a first round draft pick but it isn’t impossible.
Interestingly, on opening weekend of the 2018 NFL season, the 53 man rosters of the 32 NFL teams comprised 486 undrafted players.
At current, the Pro Football Hall of Fame (PFHOF) is home to 15 players who went undrafted. One of those, Willie Brown, will be known to Broncos fans. The cornerback was an UDFA for Denver before finding fame as a Raider. He was inducted in to the PFHOF in 1984.
Broncos fans will also be familiar with Rod Smith. The wide receiver is the only UDFA in the history of the NFL who eclipsed 10,000 receiving yards.
Last year, UDFA Philip Lindsay had an immediate impact. After an outstanding season, he was voted to the Pro Bowl as a rookie.
Not all of the 17 UDFA signings will have the success of Brown, Smith and Lindsay. So, which ones will?
Brett Rypien – QB – Boise State
Brett Rypien has probably the best chance to make the 53 man roster. When you consider that the team traded for Joe Flacco and drafted Drew Lock that sounds like a bold statement. However, most teams carry three quarterbacks and Rypien can easily win that spot.
I really like Rypien’s game and was amazed that he wasn’t drafted. He left Boise State with the Mountain West conference records for passing yards, completions and 300 yard passing games. Rypien fits the ideal size that Jon Elway likes in a quarterback. His skills mirror those of Flacco and Lock which makes him a perfect back up option. If anything was to happen to either of those, the Broncos offence would be in safe hands. The video below shows exactly what he’s capable of.
Joe Dineen – LB – Kansas
Whilst it’s likely that Vic Fangio builds a winning team around defence, the Broncos drafted four offensive pieces. This makes the likelihood of a defensive UDFA making the team significantly higher. With the release of Brandon Marshall earlier in the year, depth at linebacker will be important.
Dineen led the Big 12 conference in tackles this season, averaging 9 per game from linebacker. He was extremely effective against the run for Kansas. Dineen played multiple positions as a freshman and excelled on special teams which will help in his quest for a Broncos roster spot.
Trinity Benson – WR/RB/KR – ECU
Benson could be one of the safest bets to make the team of all 17 UDFAs. Versatility is the name of the game when you’re trying to make the NFL and he is a versatile as they come. It might be difficult for Fangio to put a position on him. Let’s call him an offensive weapon for arguments sake.
In 11 games for the ECU Tigers in 2018, Benson compiled 997 yards of offence. This comprised 324 rushing yards, 507 receiving yards and 166 kick return yards. He added 9 touchdowns to his resume, with 5 rushing and 4 receiving. In the video below you will see his speed, balance and catch ability.
Malik Reed – OLB – Nevada
Malik Reed joins fellow Mountain West alumni, Brett Rypien, in my list of UDFAs most likely to make the week 1 Denver Broncos roster. Reed was extremely productive in his college career. He tallied 11 career forced fumbles and 22 career sacks for the Nevada Wolfpack. In his senior season he was named first team All-Mountain West. It will be interesting to see how Reed goes up against Rypien in training camp.
Reed could be a perfect chess piece for Fangio’s defence. He lacks the size to play as a traditional defensive in a 4-3 but can be utitlised perfectly blitzing from OLB in a 3-4 formation. He’ll be learning from the best in Von Miller. In my opinion, Reed has a very good chance to make the team and contribute as a rotational player.
Alijah Holder – CB – Stanford
Despite adding Kareem Jackson and Bryce Callahan in free agency, it was expected that the Denver Broncos would add another cornerback in the draft. That never happened. In fact, Alijah Holder is the only cornerback added in the whole draft process. With the uncertainty over Chris Harris Jr, himself a former UDFA, there is a very strong chance that Holder makes the week 1 roster. The chance seems even stronger when you consider that he is the highest paid UDFA of the group. 247sports.com reports that Holder signed a $30,000 contract with the team.
In terms of interceptions, he hasn’t had a particularly productive college career. However, he has excelled in defending passes and forcing fumbles with a high number of each during his time at Stanford. Probably his best feature is his tackling ability and he led the team in tackling in several games this last year.
So, those are the players that I believe have the best chance of making the Denver Broncos week 1 roster. It’s a long journey from now until then and we’ll be there every step of the way here at ninetynineyards.com. If you like what you’ve seen, or don’t, feel free to find me at @ojhodgkinson on twitter.
Feature Image Credit: USA TODAY – Sports