GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 5: Running back Jeff Demps #28 of the Florida Gators rushes away from cornerback Andre Hal #23 of the Vanderbilt Commodores November 5, 2011 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. Demps scored in the second quarter. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
NFL.com reported on Tuesday that Olympic sprinter and silver medalist Jeff Demps is going to pursue a career in the NFL after participating in the 2012 Olympic games in London, England. Demps is a former Florida Gators running back and return specialist, and will automatically become one of the fastest players in the NFL whenever he signs on with another team.
Demps' speed is obviously intriguing, but he's no slouch on the football field like you might expect from some track athletes. At 5'7" 190 pounds, he is compact but has a good build for his height. Compare that to Broncos third round pick Ronnie Hillman, who checks in at around 5'8" 200 pounds. That's pretty rock solid at that height.
Now, nobody is going to mistake Demps or Hillman for that matter for a power running back, but certainly speed, quickness, agility, and playmaking skills are things they bring to the table. Specifically, Demps possesses a skill that the Broncos have a glaring weakness at on their roster as it currently stands, a weakness that was created the moment Eddie Royal left for San Diego: A return specialist.
That's right, the Broncos don't have anyone to return kicks or punts right now. Lance Ball (???) is the team's first team kick returner right now, and Eric Decker--expected to be one of the team's top two receivers--is the first team punt returner. This is not a good formula for success, in my opinion. While Decker has some skill as a punt returner, he's not who we want back there returning kicks. Nor is Lance Ball, for that matter. Ball may be a nice complementary back, but he is not a kick returner, and never really has been that I know of. In fact, in doing some quick research on Ball dating back to his college days, I can't find any info on him being a kick returner at all.
So, you can see why I'd be concerned about this area of our team, and the Broncos have to be as well after losing their expected return specialist--undrafted receiver Eric Page--for the entire season with an injury.
I have a scouting report on Demps from last year as I was preparing for the 2011 NFL Draft, expecting this to eventually happen. The Olympics and sprinting are only for a very short season. Demps could be very productive in the NFL, so I figured it was only a matter of time before he made his way there.
Jeff Demps is flat out one of the fastest men in sports right now, regardless of what level. Demps has Olympic track star speed, and translates that on to the field. Last year, he led the Gators with 551 rushing yards, and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Demps has 17 career rushing touchdowns, and has averaged 7.5, 7.0, and 6.0 yards per carry throughout his Gators career. He has had some injuries, which have prevented him from being a top tier runner in college football, but he definitely has game-breaking speed and could be a great change of pace back at the next level, and also has potential possibly as a slot wide receiver and return specialist.Demps is the fastest track athlete in college right now (9.85 second 100 meter dash) and could challenge for the fastest recorded 40 yard dash time in the history of the league at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine. Runs really low, which works to his advantage. He’s got a great build for a shorter back at 5’7″ and closing in on 200 pounds. He has elite quickness and while he can be engulfed by defenders at times, he is not easy to track down. Threat to score every time he touches the ball. Turns the corner with ease and can change direction on a dime. His speed is not overrated. He will make your mouth drop when you see some of his runs.
PROS: Speed is his greatest asset, quickness, elusive in the open field, hits the hole hard, turns the corner with ease, potential as a return specialist, despite height, has pretty good overall size, threat to score every time he touches the ball
CONS: Injury history, might not be an every-down back at the next level, doesn’t have great numbers in the passing game
The Broncos can always use playmakers on the roster, and taking a risk on Demps is something I feel like the front office absolutely needs to do. There will obviously be a lot of factors that go into this decision, and perhaps Demps will be in high demand. That being said, I would fully expect John Elway to be one of the calls Demps receives after his paperwork is filed to the NFL and he becomes a free agent. The Broncos are incredibly weak at the kick return spots, and it's not like they can't open up a roster spot at running back or receiver for him. He is the kind of player you want to get the ball in space, and he could make a significant impact for the Broncos right away, making plays on special teams.
I think this is a move the Broncos need to make. What do you think?