In case I never told you, I do a little of this and that for Sports Illustrated’s Andy Benoit when I’m not writing for MHR. One piece of my favorite pieces I’ve worked on this offseason was Andy’s All-UDFA team.
With rookie camps underway—to which teams can invite undrafted players—teams are on the lookout for the next Phillip Lindsay or Chris Harris. In honor, we compile a (fictional!) complete roster of the NFL’s biggest undrafted stars.
Undrafted players are a huge part of the roster building, of course, which is why I’ve been looking at them for GIF Horse. I didn’t fully comprehend how huge until I started working on this piece.
Found something... and it's surprising...— Thor Nystrom (@thorku) May 8, 2019
From SB Nation: "In 2017 there were 774 NFL players who appeared in at least 40-percent of offensive or defensive snaps. A total of 133 of these 774 players (17-percent) were UDFAs."https://t.co/qTKHLfxkx7 pic.twitter.com/R8DE57jY7z
Now, I knew the Broncos had done a pretty standout job with college free agents since 2011, but looking over Benoit’s list really made me stop and realize how great Elway’s been at finding contributors after the draft. It’s an underrated skill and one people overlook. Here’s a list of the players who got their opportunity under Elway and went on to make the All-UDFA team.
This one is obvious as the local star stayed home and made NFL History as the first undrafted rookie to make the Pro Bowl in his rookie season.
Before Lindsay there was C.J. The 5’8 225 lb bowling ball was a revelation in 2014 when he seemingly came out of nowhere to rumble for 1,166 total yards and 10 touchdowns over the second half of the season, earning his only Pro Bowl nod of his career to date. Anderson played 5 years for the Broncos and finished his time in Denver with 4,736 total yards, 27 total touchdowns, and one Super Bowl ring.
I’ll admit it still shocks me that Shaq signed for so little with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason. I’ve said as much before, but I suspect he was looking for an opportunity to shine on a playoff contender in order to cash in on a long term deal next year. After all, the Cincinatti Bengals had shown interest as well.
Prior to his departure, Shaq was a key component to the Broncos 2015 defense that had one of the best edge rooms in NFL history. He was a stout run defender and still finished his Broncos career with 14 sacks, 7 forced fumbles, and 35 QB hits.
If there’s one player on the 2018 Broncos who really flown under Broncos Country’s radar it’s Davis. The undrafted inside Linebacker has stepped into the void left by Danny Trevathan’s departure to Chicago after the 2015 season and done enough to make my initial Most Valuable Broncos list at #14. He’s not the most fleet of foot but has been a stud run stopper and better than advertised in coverage. I fully expect him to flourish in Vic Fangio’s defense.
One fun fact about Todd Davis: he actually got his very first chance in the league with the New Orleans Saints, who signed him to a 3-year $1.53 million contract. He only came to Denver once they started playing the waiver game with him; he was cut in early September and again in November of his rookie season. When he hit waivers the second time, Elway swooped in.
Before Todd and Shaq there was Woodyard. He was the undrafted stud who shined in Jack Del Rio’s 4-3 scheme back when Denver utilized a 4-3 scheme. Wesley was renowned for his coverage prowess and he finished his Broncos career with 402 total tackles, 6 forced fumbles, and 5 interceptions.
Chris Harris Jr.
If Strap Harris didn’t make Benoit’s All-UDFA team the entire exercise would be a sham. When it’s all said and done he should earn serious consideration for the Hall of Fame as the first truly elite nickel corner in the era of nickel personnel. If nothing else he’s a surefire lock for the Ring of Fame and one of the best cornerbacks in the league. Let’s hope Elway recognizes as much and current contract impasse the Broncos and he are in is resolved.