The Denver Broncos struck gold in 2014 when they unearthed Shaquil Barrett as an undrafted college free agent. After selecting a handful of highly-touted prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft, the franchise was fortunate enough to sign one of college football’s most productive pass rushers in 2017. That prospect was Jeff Holland.
Name: Jeff Holland
Position: Outside Linebacker
After spending his first two seasons at Auburn as back-up sporting limited production, Holland had a miraculous junior campaign filling the shoes of Carl Lawson, who was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. The Tigers defense didn’t miss a beat and Holland proved to be one one of the SEC’s most fearsome edge rushers throughout the year.
His eleven sacks, thirteen tackles for loss and four forced fumbles earned him first-team All-SEC honors, but oddly enough — it still wasn’t good enough to get him drafted. I thought Holland had a chance to go late on Day 2 of the NFL Draft due to his breakout junior campaign and had him ranked 93rd overall on my Top 100 list of draftable players. I can understand him falling to the third day of the draft, but to see one of the best pass rushers in arguably the NCAA’s toughest conference go undrafted was bizarre.
Jeff Holland was a menace in 2017 pic.twitter.com/q6zRJZQfFP— PFF College (@PFF_College) March 13, 2018
Holland’s draft misfortune could be a blessing for the Broncos if he continues to grow and develop as a player. At only 20 years of age, Holland’s best football is certainly ahead of him — and there is no telling how much he can benefit from the opportunity to learn from Von Miller and future Hall of Famer DeMarcus Ware as he begins his NFL journey. That has to be a dream situation for any young pass rusher looking to make a name for himself in the league. Without question, Holland will be playing with a chip on his shoulder throughout training camp to earn a role on this team and to show teams they made a mistake on passing him up in the draft.
Holland was a very productive pass rusher who made the most out of his starting role with the Tigers in 2017. His growth from his first year to third year at Auburn shows he definitely has room for growth and can become a much better and consistent player. On tape he showed a relentless motor, continuously playing through the whistle and displayed great hustle. His aggressive nature was evident even in run support, where he tackled opponents violently. Most importantly he showed a good burst off the snap at the line of scrimmage that helped him terrorize quarterbacks last season.
Most of the critiques surrounding Holland come from a physical standpoint. He is an undersized player for the position and didn’t appear to have any elite athletic traits. Additionally, Holland had poor NFL Combine and Pro Day performances — ranking in the middle to lower-half in almost ever measurable category. He often relies on speed rushes and rips in his pass rushing repertoire, and will have to develop more moves to add to his pass rushing bag of tricks to be successful in the pros.
“The biggest thing is making plays between the white lines. We record all of the positive that guys make, and right now he’s blowing people away. He had a big day at the end of last week in OTAs, but right now he’s leading the charge. We just need to see what he does in training camp and in the preseason.” — Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods on Holland
The Denver Broncos have three veterans on the roster with the aforementioned Miller and Barrett, as well as Shane Ray. With Ray scheduled to miss time due to a fourth wrist surgery, Holland has a great chance at earning a spot on the Broncos’ final 53 man roster. While Holland may not have the desired physical traits most look for in a top-flight edge rusher, it is hard to argue against the productivity he had in his last season at Auburn. When you factor in his past success with the ability to learn from Ware and Miller, Holland definitely has the opportunity to carve a role for himself in the NFL.