I decided that I have had enough talk about the NFL owners vs the NFL unions. It's time to talk about stuff that is relevant to football..and no I am not talking about another mock draft. The other day I decided to play some Madden and I saw several people on our roster that I forgot about. This caused me to go back and analyze the Broncos roster. It turns out, there are several people on our roster that I forgot about who could end up surprising a lot of people. I decided posting about them would be better then talking about the labor battles or another mock draft. So without further ado, here is the "don't forget about me" list.
Veikune signed with the Broncos on November 17, 2009. He played his college football at the University of Hawaii. He was a 3 year player for the Warriors. His final year he had 71 tackles and 9 sacks from the defensive end position. At the combine, he posted solid numbers running a 4.75 40 yard dash, 33 inch vertical jump, 9 ft 2 broad jump, and 35 bench press reps. Even more impressive is that he ran a 1.59 10 yard split in his 40 yard dash. That is extremely explosive. In comparison, Doom ran a 1.65 10 yard split and Marcel Dareus ran a 1.66 at their respective pro days. So he has a very good burst. Here is CBS scouting report coming out of college
Positives: High-motor power defensive end. Hustles down the line and chases downfield. Sheds blocks using strong, violent hands when he's fresh. Uses his stout frame to split double-teams and move to the ball while engaged. Has the explosiveness to get the edge by dropping his shoulder or using an over-arm move. Stands up on some plays and is able to contain bootlegs or cover backs or receivers in the flat on zone blitzes.
Negatives: Not likely to out-quick NFL tackles to get an immediate pass rush off the edge. A bit shorter than scouts prefer, although he can get his hands up to deflect passes. Will get engulfed by larger tackles as he wears down. Has an inside spin move, but needs to be more consistent maintaining his balance to finish. Lacks elite athleticism.
Compares To: TEDY BRUSCHI, New England -- Coming out of Arizona, Bruschi was the same type of player that Veikune is in that he made up for a lack of blazing speed with a relentless motor. With his ability to explode into bigger offensive linemen and make plays vs. action in front of him, Veikune could be a "poor man's" Bruschi in a 3-4 alignment. What better place for him to hone his skills than learning from the master himself in New England?
He was drafted in the 2nd round by the Cleveland Browns who ran a 3-4 defense under Eric Mangini. Many projected Veikune to be a 3-4 OLB, but Cleveland used him as a 3-4 MLB where he predictably struggled. He failed to make much of an impact from the position and was cut shortly after training camp concluded. He was picked up by the Broncos and had 5 tackles in limited time. He played primarily on special teams.
Veikune was put in a position to fail when Cleveland put him as a MLB. Veikune would have been best used as a 3-4 OLB. Now, the Broncos are switching to the 4-3 and Veikune projects as a 4-3 DE. He is a big question mark going into the off season, but don't forget about him. He is a guy who has very nice speed for a 4-3 DE. He is 6 ft 3, 265 pounds and could be a big time sleeper.
04 25 09 David Veikune drafted by Cleveland Browns
Willis has not been mentioned much this off season, but he is a big time sleeper. He had a fantastic off season last year. In fact, he was 2nd in the entire NFL last pre season with 13 catches for 263 yards and 1 touchdown. He was a very reliable player who thrived once he got an opportunity. He played his college ball at UCLA, but played 21 games and made 24 catches for 248 yards and 3 touchdowns. He was picked up by Baltimore as an undrafted free agent, but was eventually cut. He was signed to Denver's practice squad and stayed there for all of 2009. In 2010, he was the star of the off season making a name for himself.
He was one of the players who many people were excited about. It's hard not to be excited about a 6 ft guy who can run a sub 4.3 40 yard dash. He could have had a nice year, but he broke his leg against the Jets and was put on injured reserve. It was easy to forget about Matt with all of the troubles that Denver had this year, but he is someone to look for this off season. If he can stay healthy, he has a lot of potential as a deep threat. He had a nice chemistry with Tebow last pre season. Willis catches the first two passes in this video.
Davis is another receiver who is under the radar in Dove Valley. He stands at 6 ft 3, 205 pounds. He runs a 4.4-4.5 40 yard dash. He played college football at Northern Illinois and finished his career at NIU ranked 5th in all time receptions (146). He also had 1,676 receiving yards and 2,063 all purpose yards. He had 8 receiving touchdowns. He was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the New York Jets but was cut and put on their practice squad until he was cut again in August 2010. He signed with the Broncos on August 5th, 2010 for a two year deal.
Davis caught 4 passes for 63 yards last pre season. He has all the tools to be a nice back up possession receiver maybe in the mold of a Jabar Gaffney. He is a guy worth keeping. He is one of 3 reasons why the Broncos will not draft a WR this year. Keep an eye on Davis this off season. He's got some talent.
NIU WR Britt Davis TD Catch vs. Iowa
It has been talked about quite a few times that John Fox likes to use a fullback in his rushing attack. Most people believe that the only fullback we have on our roster is Spencer Larsen. Wrong. Kyle Eckel is also a Denver Bronco. He was signed on June 4th and put on the Waived/Injured list on June 17th. He was placed on Injured Reserve on June 21st. Eckel is a veteran in the league. He is 29 years old and has had two stints with the Patriots to go with stints with the Dolphins, Eagles, and Saints.
Eckel played his college football at Navy. He rushed for 1,147 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior. Eckel had 13 100 yard rushing games during his time at Navy. He finished his career with 2,906 rushing yards, which ranks fourth all-time at Navy, and registered 25 career rushing touchdowns, the fourth most in school history. Eckel was widely recognized as the best fullback in the country when he finished his collegiate career at Navy. Eckel is a tough son of a gun. He played a full season of football with a tore ACL. He is a big, tough fullback who can also make an impact as a rusher. He will go into camp looking to unseat Spencer Larsen as the lead blocking fullback in John Fox's run scheme.
Force Equals Eckel
Jackson is another player who was drafted high by one team, released, and picked up by the Broncos. Jackson was drafted in the 3rd round by the Atlanta Falcons. He was a part of the Falcons for 2 years before being cut in the September of 2010. Jackson had brief stints with the Jaguars and the Patriots before finally ending up in Denver on December 20th. Jackson played his college ball at LSU. Jackson was a shut down corner at LSU. He finished his senior year with 42 tackles and 5 interceptions. Here is a scouting report for Jackson:
Positives: Has a well-built frame with good upper-body muscle development, defined chest, wide back, good shoulder width, tight abdomen, good bubble and defined calves and thighs … Lacks the timed speed to play cornerback at the next level, but compensates with an explosive closing burst on plays in front of him, making a potential move to free safety at the next level possible … Plays at a high intensity level and gives second effort when beaten on the play … Shows very good timing breaking up the pass, but does not seem to have the natural hands to make the interception (more deflections could have been pass thefts, as he lacks ideal hand size) … It is very rare to see him throttle down, as he likes to be involved in the action, even if he has to run long distances to get their … Classic "good guy" who has been an excellent mentor for the team's younger players … The LSU staff feels he could make a solid coaching candidate when his playing days are over … Gets a good jump on the ball, thanks to his initial reads … Alert to blocking schemes and knows how to slip under and avoid blocks to get backfield pressure … Has very good zone awareness, handling the switch-off smoothly, another reason to make him a free safety at the next level … Has a good feel and anticipation when reading routes, putting himself in good position to make the play … Smart player who might lack the feet to reroute, but uses his hands efficiently to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage … Has the ability to run step-for-step with tight ends and slot receivers, but will sometimes lose sight of the receiver in long patterns … Has a good feel when jumping routes and, while he has some stiffness in his hips in transition, he somehow manages to get his hands up to break up passes Solid contact seeker and wrap-up tackler who can generate pop on contact … Even when he cut tackles, he puts enough power behind it to be effective.
Negatives: Has poor timed speed for a cornerback and he might need to bulk up and shift to free safety at the next level … Has good ball skills, but appears to be stiff in his hips trying to break cleanly out of his backpedal (does show the explosive burst to close on the ball) … Better playing in the short-to-intermediate area, as his stiff hips could see the speedier receivers get behind him on deep routes (very good at using his hands to reroute and was successful in doing so 40 times on 82 passes targeted into his area as a senior) … Can press at the line of scrimmage, but if a receiver escapes, he doesn't have that blazing speed to recover … Does a good job making his initial read, but earlier in his career, he tended to eyeball the quarterback too long … Not fluid in his plant-and-drive and will sometimes take false steps in transition
At the NFL Combine, Jackson ran a 4.58 40 yard dash, had a 36 inch vertical leap, and a 10'05 inch broad jump. He played two full seasons for the Falcons and finished with 60 tackles, 1 sack and 1 interception returned for a touchdown in 2 years. Jackson is a guy who lacks the speed necessary to play the corner position in the NFL. He would be an interesting prospect to move to free safety. He has some talent and could compete with Nate Jones as a corner/free safety versatile player.
Chevis Jackson Highlight
Matthew Willis was the 1st reason, Britt Davis was the 2nd and Eron Riley is the 3rd reason why the Denver Broncos will not draft a WR this off season. They have three players with a lot of potential on their roster. Riley might have the most upside. Riley played his college football at Duke University. The 6 ft 3, 205 pound receiver made his mark for the Blue Devils. In his 4 year career, Riley caught 144 receptions for 2,413 yards and 22 touchdowns. Despite his insane numbers, he went to Baltimore as an undrafted free agent. He was cut from the Ravens in September of 2010.
Riley has been clocked as fast as 4.29 in the 40 yard dash. He is a big receiver with a ton of athleticism. He has a lot of upside if he can sit back and develop a little bit. He was a monster for Duke but went undrafted because he went to a school that gets zero football recognition. Riley has a very long, but very impressive highlight reel here. He could be a real find.
Highlight Reel for Eron Riley - Plan B Sports Management
As many people know, I am a USC fan. So it should come as no surprise that I was probably one of the few people who remembered Byers was on the Broncos. Byers was a very high touted player in college, but he suffered a lot of injuries. After several years of injuries, Byers was ranked the number 1 interior lineman in the pre season by Rivals.com in 2009. At the Combine, Byers weighed in at 6 ft 3, 301 pounds and put up 33 reps in the bench press.
Here is a quick scouting report on Byers:
Positives: Can be a very strong drive blocker, firing off the ball and exploding into defenders to clear a running lane. Also stands strong in pass protection despite a relative lack of bulk. Rarely rocked back or pushed into the backfield. Even when he stops his feet, can remain engaged with his long arms. Has the mobility and toughness to be effective in a zone-blocking scheme. Gets low in short-yardage situations to win leverage battles. Highly intelligent and plays with good hustle and a mean streak.
Negatives: Sets up quickly but can be more effective with his initial punch. Lunges and drops his head a bit to get to his man at times, and will allow tackles too far into his body instead of using his length. Has to focus on bending his knees to prevent being driven backward against bigger nose tackles in the NFL. Has a tendency to duck his head in an effort to sustain downfield.
Pete Carroll said this about Byers: "The attitude he brings, the work ethic he brings are perfect. He has very high expectations for himself. He won't settle for anything but the best. He's got all the ingredients to be a great player."
Byers has been hurt by injuries, but when he is healthy he has been fantastic. He was cut by the Seahawks after being signed as an undrafted free agent. He has great work ethic and could be effective in the Broncos new zone-blocking scheme. At the very least, Byers is a nice back up center, but he could turn out to be more. He's very talented if he can stay healthy.
There you go. Those are 7 players that we should all keep our eyes on this off season. Veikune is a guy that I am very interested in watching in the new 4-3 scheme. I can't wait to see Willis, Davis, and Riley compete in the pre season. Willis is a down field threat, Davis is a possession receiver, and Riley can be as good as he wants to be. Jackson is an interesting player who could make the change to give us some depth at the position. I'm rooting for him to beat out Nate Jones because he was just awful. Kyle Eckel is going to get a legit chance to beat out Larsen and Byers could give us some great depth in our interior o-line. Each of these players could make the roster and they are all players you should not forget about. Until next time, MHR.