A day-by-day Broncos player breakdown is something we've been doing since our days at BroncoTalk nearly a decade ago. This year the tradition continues as we look at the Denver Broncos roster heading into the 2015 season in our 90-in-90 series.
Name: Nathan Palmer
Position: Wide Receiver
Height: 5'11 Weight: 198
Age: 26 Experience: 2
College: Northern Illinois
The Denver Broncos are fortunate enough to have one of the best duos in the NFL at the wide receiver position, headed by Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.
According to ProFootballFocus, the Broncos boast the third best receiver corps in the NFL. The two top spots are already decided, and it is a general consensus that second-year pro, Cody Latimer is poised to earn the role of third receiver on the team's depth chart. Blessed with uncanny physical skills and attributes, Latimer could have a breakout season in 2015 if he puts it the time and work to mentally get up to speed with the rigors of the NFL.
If that happens, defensive coordinators and defensive backs will endure nightmares in the week of preparation leading up to their game against the Broncos, but who will ascend as back-ups in the teams stable of receivers has yet to be determined. Conventional wisdom would indicate that Andre Caldwell is a lock for the fourth receiver position, given his experience with Manning, knowledge of the game and relatively low salary. Behind those four, there are six other young players in a fierce battle for either one or two other spots on the active roster at the position. One of those players is former Northern Illinois standout Nathan Palmer.
Palmer started out his NFL career as an undrafted free agent who signed with the San Francisco 49ers and earned a hefty $10,000 signing bonus. It was the highest amount of any undrafted player they acquired, and they spoke volumes about the explosive potential he offered. Although he didn't earn a spot on the active roster, Palmer remained on their practice squad for the 2012 season.
He never lived up to expectations in San Francisco and moved on to the Indianapolis Colts where he also struggled and was waived and paid an injury settlement after suffering a major knee injury during 2013. After a successful recovery, he spent training camp with the Dolphins and 2013, but failing to impress enough to merit a spot on the roster, Palmer was released.
With his career in jeopardy, Palmer received great news on Christmas Eve of 2013 when the Broncos signed him to its practice squad. Knowing that it was likely the last shot he would get at carving a role for himself in the NFL, Palmer worked hard and eventually was promoted to the Broncos 53-man roster at the end of the 2014 season. Today, we take a look at Palmer and analyze the odds he has at making the team in 2015.
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The good: Blazing speed that registered anywhere between 4.34 and 4.39 at his Northern Illinois Pro Day. Versatile player who saw action in 48 career games. In 20 starts, he accumulated 93 receptions for 1,575 yards (16.9 average) and 16 scores. Improved each year of his career and posted his best numbers as a senior and even added 200 yards rushing on 21 carries in his final season with the Huskies. He has a wealth of experience on punt and kick coverage units on special teams.
The bad: Palmer is a journeyman receiver who is on his fourth team since entering the NFL in 2012. The receiver has only been on an active roster for five games in two full seasons, whilst spending the other time on organizational practice squads. An undersized receiver, he doesn't have the strength or technique to be an effective cog run-blocking downfield and has only one catch for negative yardage in his pro career. He is a poor route runner whose best production came from vertical routes downfield, and he struggles in and out of his breaks, which negates his blazing speed and often struggles to separate from defenders because of it. Palmer is a typical case of a quality college player whose deficiencies inhibit his ability to become a quality professional player.
Quotable: "It’s been hard, everything I’ve been through, being bounced around, moving and all that. Physically, I feel great. My knee is great. One of my goals out of the preseason was to get my body better, eating healthy. I can’t wait." — Palmer in 2014 on his NFL journey thus far
Status: Though Palmer has been cited several times for big plays in training camp, he has remained buried on the depth chart behind fellow wide receivers such as Bennie Fowler and Jordan Norwood who are doing whatever it takes to make the squad. At this point in time, there are 10 receivers battling for five to six positions on the final roster, and he has not performed well enough to date to merit a role on the team. The odds are highly stacked against Palmer making the final 53-man roster or practice squad.