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Analyzing Broncos’ undrafted college free agents, 2011-2018

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How often do undrafted free agents become starters for the Denver Broncos?

Pittsburgh Steelers v Denver Broncos Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Over the last eight seasons, the Broncos have brought in 114 undrafted college free agents. Eleven of those guys have started at least one game for the Broncos. Three of them have made the Pro Bowl.

With the exception of 2016, every year Denver has found a player in the undrafted “pile” that eventually started at least one game for the team:

Chris Harris Jr. (2011, 17 UDCFAs)

Aaron Brewer and Duke Ihenacho (2012, 12 UDCFAs; we also had Mike Remmers who went on to become a starter at G/T for a couple of teams)

C.J. Anderson (2013, 15 UDCFAs)

Shaquil Barrett, Benny Fowler, Juwan Thompson (2014, 15 UDCFAs; Kapri Bibbs has never started an NFL game despite getting about 100 career touches so far)

Zaire Anderson, Jordan Taylor (2015, 8 UDCFAs)

22 UDCFAs in 2016, nobody played for the Broncos, but Aaron Neary started one game for the Rams in 2017 and Eddie Yarbrough started six games for the Bills that same year.

Elijah Wilkinson (2017, 17 UDCFAs)

Phillip Lindsay (2018, 8 UDCFAs)

It’s pretty common on the Broncos for at least one UDCFA to make the 53-man roster after training camp, and many end up on either Denver’s or another team’s practice squad.

Here is this list of the 2019 undrafted college free agents the Broncos signed.

Player # Pos HT WT Age College
George Aston 39 FB 6/1 240 23 Pittsburgh
Quinn Bailey 75 T 6/6 323 23 Arizona State
Trinity Benson 2 WR 6/1 180 22 East Central (OK)
Ryan Crozier 63 C 6/4 294 23 Connecticut
Joe Dineen 53 ILB 6/2 235 23 Kansas
Austin Fort 89 TE 6/4 244 24 Wyoming
Ahmed Gooden 94 OLB 6/2 245 23 Samford
Romell Guerrier 83 WR 5/10 171 23 Florida Tech
Alijah Holder 49 CB 6/2 188 23 Stanford
Devontae Jackson 48 RB 5/7 170 24 West Georgia
Nathan Jacobson 62 OL 6/5 280 22 UNLV
John Leglue 73 T 6/7 310 23 Tulane
Kelvin McKnight 16 WR 5/8 186 22 Samford
Malik Reed 59 OLB 6/2 235 22 Nevada
Brett Rypien 4 QB 6/2 202 23 Boise State
Deyon Sizer 78 DL 6/4 280 22 CSU-Pueblo
Josh Watson 54 ILB 6/2 240 23 Colorado State

Most of these players get an offseason write-up here during our roster review series. Polling the MHR staff on these, there are three favorites to make the 53-man roster, if one of them does indeed end up on the 53-man roster after training camp.

Brett Rypien - QB

While Rypien didn’t get the largest undrafted free agent signing bonus that we gave out this year, he did get a guaranteed contract of $146K ($10K of which was the signing bonus). Giving an undrafted college free agent a guaranteed contract is uncommon, and it shows how much the Broncos want/wanted Rypien despite not drafting him.

Rypien posted very good stats as a four-year starting QB at Boise State, but so did Kellen Moore, and he also went undrafted. In fact Boise State has not had a QB drafted since Jim McMillan was taken in the 14th round of the 1975 draft - which would have made him an undrafted free agent in the modern NFL. Moore has started two NFL games in his career, but no other BSU QB has ever thrown an NFL pass. The odds may be stacked against Rypien, but he has a great shot at landing the QB3 spot which may (or may not depending on how he plays in the preseason) land him a spot on the 53-man roster.

Alijah Holder - CB

Kareem Jackson may be playing more safety than CB. Bryce Callahan is a great slot corner, but at 5-foot-9 he does not have the height to compete with tall WRs on the outside. For that matter, Chris Harris (5-foot-10) does not have the height either. If we need a CB with height, Isaac Yiadom (6-foot-1) will probably get the first shot at the CB3 position given his relatively high draft slot, but De’Vante Bausby and Alijah Holder (both 6-foot-2) will both get the chance to show what they can do in the “tall CB” spot.

Bausby has the experience edge having played in Vic Fangio’s defense in Chicago, but Vic Fangio coached another “slow” tall CB from Stanford (Richard Sherman) and might like the similarities that he sees in the two cerebral CBs. The Broncos roster lists Holder as 6-2. Stanford listed him as 6-1.

Holder’s career at Stanford was hampered by injuries, but if he can stay healthy he could be the gem of this UDCFA class. Holder was given an $18K signing bonus which was the largest that we gave this year. I’d love it if he made the roster and then got the holder spot on the FG/XP unit just so we could hear the announcer say Holder is the holder.

Josh Watson, Joe Dineen - ILB

One of the thinnest groups on the roster is Denver’s ILB group. There are currently six players listed as ILBs on the roster with another three players listed as LB. That being said, only two players from the group or nine have any real starting experience, Todd Davis and Josey Jewell.

That leaves the door wide open for two (or three) of the other seven players to secure roster spots as backup ILBs. Both of the undrafted ILBs were prolific tacklers in college. Watson finished his career with 365 total tackles despite playing sparingly as a freshman. In his final three seasons at CSU he averaged 110 tackles per season. He finished his career with 25 TFL, 11 PBUs and 2 INTs.

Were he to make the 53-man roster, he would be following in the footsteps of another CSU LB, Shaquil Barrett (who signed a one-year, prove-it deal with Bucs for $4million). Watson got a $7,500 signing bonus.

Joe Dineen was even more of a tackling machine than Watson, leading the NCAA in solo tackles in 2018 with 109. His 142 total tackles in 2018 was good for seventh in the country. He twice lead the Big 12 in solo tackles (2018 and 2017). He finished his college career with 382 total tackles despite only really playing for three seasons. He also had 42 TFL, 8.5 sacks, 6 PBUS, and 1 INT during his career at Kansas. Dineen got a $10Ksigning bonus.

Poll

Which 2019 DEN UDCFA has the best shot to make the 53-man roster

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    Brett Rypien - QB
    (183 votes)
  • 11%
    Alijah Holder - CB
    (49 votes)
  • 3%
    Josh Watson - ILB
    (17 votes)
  • 24%
    Joe Dineen - ILB
    (107 votes)
  • 6%
    Austin Fort - TE
    (27 votes)
  • 0%
    Quinn Bailey - OT
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    George Aston - FB
    (6 votes)
  • 1%
    Trinity Benson - WR
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    Ryan Crozier - C
    (4 votes)
  • 8%
    Malik Reed - OLB
    (39 votes)
  • 0%
    one of the others not included in the poll (mention in comments with reason)
    (1 vote)
440 votes total Vote Now