On Friday, the Broncos agreed to terms with 11 college free agents, the first group of college free agents added by general manager George Paton. Since 2011, the Broncos have found a college free agent who has made the 53-man roster in every year except for 2016. That was under former GM John Elway. Now, it’s Paton’s turn to see if he can find similar talent.
Players like Chris Harris Jr, C.J. Anderson, Shaquil Barrett, Phillip Lindsay and others have found their way into the league – and onto stardom – from the priority free agents the Broncos were able to sign. The team is famous for finding quality talent from the ranks of the college free agents after the draft.
Who are the players this year, and are any of them going to make the 53-man roster in 2021? Let’s take a look.
Nolan Laufenberg| OL | Air Force
Before the draft, there were some who thought Nolan Laufenberg would be a sleeper pick. The Broncos are fortunate to get him as a priority free agent. A three-year starter at Air Force, Laufenberg is a mauler as a run-blocker and part of an offensive line who ranked no.5 (2019) and no.10 (2020) in sack rate. His technique needs refined (hello Mike Munchak!) but is a fine developmental prospect.
Chances to Make the 53-Man Roster: The Broncos offensive line is too crowded right now. However, I could see Laufenberg pushing for a starting job in a year or two. I think he lands on the practice squad.
Adam Prentice | FB | South Carolina
The Broncos want to have a physical rushing attack in 2021, so it makes sense they would add a fullback to the roster like Adam Prentice. He was a graduate transfer at South Carolina, but he started his college career as a walk on at Colorado State. Prentice is a fullback who can blast open holes for his running back, and he can be trusted as a relief-valve receiver.
Chances to Make the 53-Man Roster: The running back room is cluttered with talent. It’s going to be difficult for Prentice to make the final roster. Perhaps his special teams ability and versatility will get him a shot on the practice squad.
Warren Jackson | WR | Colorado State
The CSU Rams have turned into “WR-U” in recent years. Rashard Higgins, Olabisi Johnson, Preston Williams and Michael Gallup all came from Colorado State and are all in the league right now. Jackson is the next in line to make an impression in the NFL. He’s a huge target (6-feet, 6-inches) with a large wingspan and the ability to play “above the rim.” Jackson has good build-up speed but could use work on his routes.
Chances to Make the 53-Man Roster: Jackson is my favorite UDFA for the Broncos this year. The wide receivers’ room is jam-packed right now so it seems like Jackson is destined for the practice squad. If he plays up to his potential, there is some Tim Patrick to his game.
Branden Mack | WR | Temple
A former high school quarterback, Branden Mack transitioned to wide receiver and can make plays with his size/strength combination. He’s especially dangerous in the red zone because of his size (6-feet, 5-inches, 220 pounds). Mack is not a burner but wins at the catch point with strength and physicality.
Chances to Make the 53-Man Roster: As aforementioned, the wide receiver group is crowded right now, and Mack is unlikely to make the final roster. He knows that special teams is his best path to making the team, so we’ll see how he performs in that departement during the preseason.
Devontres Dukes | WR | South Florida
Some players just take time to get going, and that’s the case with USF wide receiver Devontres Dukes. He led the team in touchdown receptions (4) in 2020 and had the best season of his career with 24 catches for 297 yards. Dukes has big size but is not fast. He’s got plenty of special teams experience and is raw as a route runner.
Chances to Make the 53-Man Roster: The Broncos could have a whole other squad of wide receivers if all these guys made the practice squad. Dukes is the least impressive of the three undrafted receivers added and is a long shot to make it.
Andre Mintze | EDGE | Vanderbilt
The Broncos have found great pass rushers from the ranks of the undrafted in the past (Malik Reed, Shaq Barrett) and Andre Mintze has a chance to follow in their footsteps. Mintze is a hustle player who can set/hold the edge against the run, has the speed to run down screen passes and can use his burst to get after the passer. He’s limited as a rusher and needs to learn more moves and how to stack them (he just uses bend and burst mostly).
Chances to Make the 53-Man Roster: Mintze should have been drafted and the Broncos are lucky to get him as a priority free agent. He needs to continue to add strength to his frame, 10 pounds of muscle should do it, and learn more nuances of the position. Mintze may not make the final roster but he’s worth stashing on the practice squad to develop.
David Curry | LB | Georgia Tech
The Broncos need to find inside linebacker help, and that’s where David Curry could make his mark. He’s a strong player who is not afraid of any player coming through the hole. He sniffs out run fakes and is known as a smart player. Coverage ability is a work in progress, but Curry is known as a relentless worker.
Chances to Make the 53-Man Roster: The chances for Curry to make the final roster as a rookie are better than some think. Part of it is the lack of talent at inside linebacker, but part of it is his infectious ability to pick things up quickly. Practice squad is likely his destination.
Curtis Robinson| LB | Stanford
There is an “ILB” next to Curtis Robinson’s name, but he plays more like a safety. At 235 pounds, Robinson is explosive and can stay with tight ends in the open field. He’s smart but his lack of size doesn’t make him the greatest option as a run-stuffer. His best chance is on special teams.
Chances to Make the 53-Man Roster: The NFL is transitioning to more players like Robinson. He’s a safety/linebacker ‘tweener who will have to impress on special teams. Robinson is worth developing on the practice squad.
Drew Himmelman| OT | Illinois State
The Broncos got a developmental tackle in Drew Himmelman. He’s huge (6-feet, 9-inches) and has great feet for a big man. Because he’s tall, Himmelman will struggle to reach smaller EDGE players so leverage needs work. He also needs to add more muscle to his upper body.
Chances to Make the 53-Man Roster: It’s highly unlikely Himmelman makes the final roster. The raw tools are there for him to stick around on the practice squad and learn from Mike Munchak.
Mac McCain | CB | North Carolina A&T
The talent that Mac McCain brings to the field is all about speed and reaction quickness. He wowed scouts at
the inaugural HBCU combine earlier this year with his 4.4 speed. In addition to speed, McCain plays with a ton of heart. His technique needs work but will improve with pro coaching.
Chances to Make the 53-Man Roster: Never say never with a player like McCain. His speed makes him a standout player who could surprise.
Shaun Beyer | TE | Iowa
The Broncos know a thing or two about Iowa tight ends. Shaun Beyer followed up guys like T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant with the Hawkeyes, but his game is different from those two. Beyer is more of a “Y” tight end who can contribute as a blocker and a receiver. A converted wide receiver, Beyer is still learning the nuances of the position.
Chances to Make the 53-Man Roster: The team needs tight end depth, so Beyer has an advantage that other players don’t. His game is about being well rounded and that all-purpose skill set could earn him a practice squad spot.
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