Greetings Broncoholics. In two weeks, Free Agency will begin and the Broncos will begin to fill the holes that currently exist on this team. Among the biggest positions of need include: Cornerback, Defensive Tackle, Quarterback and Running Back, but the Broncos will be looking to fill depth in every positions. Expect them to be fairly active in trying to replace or resign the 16 players who are about to become free agents. However, before the Broncos get into resigning players, they will examine the entire roster from top to bottom. I took a look at the Broncos roster including free agents, players on injured reserve and players signed to future contracts. If you haven't looked at the Broncos roster recently, you may not know that the Broncos have quite a few young, talented players who are very intriguing. Let's take a look at some of the "sleeper" prospects that are on the Broncos roster.
RB Mario Fannin
Of all the players I am going to list, Fannin is probably one of the few who the fans know about. Undrafted in the 2011 draft, fans were very vocal in their desire for the Broncos to sign him as an UDFA. Fannin eventually did sign as an UDFA much to the excitement to fans. Boasting 230 pound frame and a 4.39 40, Fannin has the tools necessary to be an asset to the team. He showed some promise in the 2011 Training Camp before succumbing to a knee injury that landed him on IR. The Broncos have a need at RB.
Starting RB Willis McGahee made the Pro Bowl in 2011, but he is going to turn 31 in the upcoming season and struggled though some injuries last season. 2011 backup RB Lance Ball is a free agent. Jeremiah Johnson is a back who has some promise but hasn't gotten a shot to consistently show what he can do. Xavier Omon isn't a well known guy having bounced around from a few teams. The wildcard in the RB group is Knowshon Moreno. The former 1st rounder has been a bust and hasn't been able to be healthy. He recently got in trouble with the law and got a DUI. Moreno is a capable 3rd down back, but will probably never be a consistent starter.
The Broncos are expected to take a RB in the 2012 draft, but even so, there is a nice opportunity for Fannin to stick with this team and contribute. His main competition will be Knowshon Moreno, Jeremiah Johnson and whatever RB the Broncos may draft.
Mario Fannin Highlights
DT Ty Warren
Similar to Fannin, every Bronco fan knows about Ty Warren. The Broncos signed FA Ty Warren last year hoping he would be a force in the middle of an uneasy Defensive Line for the Broncos. Unfortunately, he tore his triceps in training camp and was lost for the season. At 31 years old and 0 games played in the last 2 seasons, the feeling I've seen among Bronco fans is that he is probably done. Don't be so sure. Warren may have sat out the past two years, but the injuries were very different. In 2010, he had a hip injury and a triceps injury in 2011. His injuries aren't the result of a recurring problem. He has just been unlucky. When healthy, Warren is a force up the middle and could give the Broncos a deadly pairing at DT if Bunkley is resigned. He just needs to stay healthy. Even if/when the Broncos draft a DT in the 2012 draft, don't sleep on Warren.
Ty Warren - NFL Defensive Lineman
WR Mark Dell
One of my personal favorites, Mark Dell is a name to remember heading into the off season. The Broncos had trouble passing the ball last year with Tim Tebow passing the ball. While Tim had a big part in the struggles of passing the ball, he was not solely to blame. Wide Receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker had their fair share of drops, bad routes, etc. Thomas emerged at the end of the year as a playmaker and could be something special if he can stay healthy. Decker struggled to catch the ball for a large stretch of last year. Eddie Royal and Matt Willis are free agents to be (Willis is a RFA) which means there is a potential opening for Wide Outs.
The 6 ft 2, 195 pound WR is a good route runner and has a good pair of hands. He had a good shot of making the team last year until he got hurt and was placed on IR. I'm a big fan or Dell. I've watched a good amount of film on him and he has the skills to be a nice #3 or #4 possession receiver. John Fox noticed him last year in training camp and said " I think he's been impressive. He's been a guy, even the first day of practice, I said, "Who is number 83?". He's a young guy who came in here, I think he has grasped the offense fairly quickly and he's been impressive today." Look out for #83 this summer. He's a hard worker and will be battling for a roster spot along with...
Goodwin was another UDFA from last year. He has a very different skill set from Mark Dell. The 5 ft 11, 188 pound receiver could fill Eddie Royal's spot as a fast slot receiver and returner. He ran a 4.38 40 yard dash at his pro day and has some upside as a returner. Goodwin performed good enough in training camp to get on the Broncos practice squad before getting signed up to the main roster later in the year. If Goodwin can show his timed 4.36 40 translates to the field, he has the inside track to join the team. The Broncos need speed on offense and Goodwin is the only one on the current roster who brings that to the table.
Getting To Know D'Andre Goodwin
Last off season, the Denver Broncos traded WR Jabar Gaffney and required DE Jeremy Jarmon in return. At the time, it was an okay deal seeing as the Broncos had an abundance of wealth at the WR position and Jarmon was a player with a high ceiling coming into a position of weakness. Fast forward to present day and the trade was an utter failure. Gaffney went on to have a very nice season for the Redskins while the Broncos cut Jarmon after Training Camp. This was a move that I highly disagreed with. When I watched the pre season, I thought Jarmon was a much better player then DE Derrick Harvey who was on the roster during the 2011 season. Jarmon showed explosion and a good motor totaling 5 tackles and a sack while Harvey had 2 tackles in the 2011 pre season. Nevertheless, the Broncos signed Jarmon to a future/reserve contract heading into the 2012 season and this time, Jarmon has a good shot at sticking around.
DE's Jason Hunter and Derrick Harvey are both free agents leaving Elvis Dumervil, Robert Ayers, Jeremy Jarmon and Jeremy Beal as the only DE's on the roster. The Broncos will likely sign a veteran to give extra depth, but Jarmon's versatility as a DE/DT should give him a good shot of being kept.
Jeremy Jarmon QB sack
OT/OG Tony Hills
After watching several Bronco offensive lineman succumb to injuries throughout the years, Bronco fans know how important it is to have a reliable backup. Enter Tony Hills. The former Pittsburgh Steeler was signed by the Broncos after he was released by the Steelers in the pre season. He was inactive most weeks, but don't be surprised if he has a larger role moving forward. Hills is a big man coming in at 6 ft 5, 304 pounds. He was a 4th round choice in the 2008 NFL Draft by the Steelers. Known as a good run blocker in college, Hills is a versatile swing tackle who could play RT and potentially guard. With Chris Clark being a RFA, Hills could have a larger role moving forward if he can stay healthy which was his biggest problem in college.
TE Cornelius Ingram
Ladies and Gentleman, this is the biggest sleeper of the upcoming training camp. On December 27th, the Broncos very quietly signed Ingram to their practice squad. It may not be such a secret come training camp. Trust me when I say this: the boy is oozing with potential. Ingram accepted a scholarship as a quarterback to the University of Florida. After 1 redshirt season, he switched over to tight end and took a year to learn the position. In his sophomore year, he made a big impact on the team catching 30 passes for 380 yards and 1 touchdown. He followed up his sophomore campaign with an even better junior campaign catching 34 passes for 508 yards and 7 touchdowns. He was 2nd team All-SEC and was a candidate for the John Mackey Award. He was a huge breakout candidate heading into his senior year but he suffered a knee injury and missed his senior year.
Coming into the NFL, Ingram was known for his athleticism and receiving skills, but needed work on his blocking (Typical for a player who had only played a position for 3 years). He was compared to players such as Dustin Keller and was drafted by the Eagles in the 5th round. Unfortunately, he hurt the same knee he that he injured prior to his senior year. He missed his rookie season. He spent his sophomore season on the practice squad before being cut.
The key for Ingram is to stay healthy. It has been a problem for him, especially in his knees which is a concern. However, if he can stay healthy, his ceiling is very high. He's a highly athletic, pass catching TE. Just like Julius Thomas, if he can work on his blocking, Ingram can become a force to be reckoned with.
DB Joshua Moore
The Broncos have a serious need at CB. While still performing at a Pro Bowl level, Champ Bailey is turning 34 and might make a shift to safety soon. Andre Goodman is on the tail end of his career. Syd'Quan Thompson and Cassius Vaughn are coming off season ending injuries. The lone bright spot for the Broncos at CB is Chris Harris, the undrafted free agent from Kansas. The Broncos have a whole lot of questions at that position heading into the off season. Of the cornerbacks I mentioned, it wouldn't surprise me if just Champ and Chris Harris remained on opening day. That means there is anywhere from 2-4 spots up for grabs at CB. The Broncos will likely sign a guy in free agency. They will probably draft one too, but keep your eye on Joshua Moore.
Moore was drafted in the 5th round by the Bears in 2010. He has the physical tools to succeed. He came out of Kansas State as a junior. He was known as one of the best tackling DB's in the 2010 draft. Standing at 5 ft 11, 188 pounds, he has decent speed (4.5 40 at the combine) and was solid in run support at Kansas State. Despite his age, he was a leader in the Wildcats secondary. He has fundamental issues such as his footwork and his technique. However, he was considered the Bears best cover corner heading into the 2011 Training Camp. Obviously something happened between the start of camp and the point where he was released so the Bears could sign Brandon Meriweather. Either way, he has plenty of talent. He will be one of the more intriguing players to watch in training camp.
That is it folks. There are a few other intriguing players on the roster such as WR Greg Orton, WR Tim Toone, DL Ben Garland, FB Austin Sylvester, and LB Cyril Obiozor. However, the ones I'm most intrigued by I've listed above. Last year the Broncos quietly signed a few players by the names of Manny Ramirez, Jeremiah Johnson and Mitch Unrein to future contracts and they all made the team this year. What does that mean? Nothing, really. The truth is that most of these players probably won't make the team, but given the right opportunity, there are a few here who could surprise. At the very least, they will be interesting to watch come training camp. Until next time, MHR.