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2019 Broncos roster review: Receiver Kelvin McKnight

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Will the small school receiver squeeze his way onto the roster?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 08 Samford at Florida State
Best hope for the Broncos is sneaking McKnight onto the Practice Squad for 2019.
Photo by Logan Stanford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It isn’t everyday that a 5-star prospect turns down offers from Maryland and Florida Atlantic to go to Samford. It’s also pretty rare for a 5’8” receiver to finish his college career as a school’s all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns.

Kelvin McKnight’s decision to play in the FCS worked out masterfully for him as he caught scouts’ eyes as a big fish in the smaller pond. He earned a starting job as a true freshman and hauled in 57 receptions for 616 yards and 2 touchdowns en route to the Southern Conference Freshman of the Year award.

McKnight didn’t merely feast upon over-matched defenders, either. His sophomore year he proved he could play with the big dogs when he put up a 13-115-1 line against Mississippi State. In 2017 he caught 7 passes for 58 yards and a touchdown against Georgia. He was just getting started.

McKnight caught 100 passes for 1,453 yards and nine touchdowns over the course of his final season with the Bulldogs. He had at least 100 receiving yards in 10 of Samford’s 11 games this season. What really put him on the radar, though was his game against Florida State: McKnight went off for 14 receptions, 215 yards, and 2 touchdowns.

McKnight shined brightest in Samford’s biggest games during his career.

Kelvin McKnight profile

Height: 5’8”

Weight: 185 lbs

Age: 22

Experience: Rookie

McKnight’s notably related to 2000 4th overall pick Peter Warrick and 2013 4th rounder Ace Sanders. Beyond his familial connections, he’s an ultra productive gamer who took the road less traveled. He was a 5-star cornerback prospect in highschool who chose offense. A guy who turned down the Big Ten for the FCS. He isn’t about to let longshot odds in the NFL stop him.

The good

  • Renowned for his route running.
  • Cat quick out of breaks.
  • Strong body awareness.
  • Can make sidelines catches.
  • Will make catches outside his frame.
  • Concentration to make catches in traffic.
  • Faster in pads than shorts.
  • Multiple gears.
  • Experienced punt returner.

Chances are if McKnight had been 2 inches taller or ran 2 tens of a second faster, he’d have heard his name called during the NFL Draft. Alas, he’s 5’8” and ran an official 4.6 coming out of Samford so he took the undrafted route to the league.

Once the pads are on, he’s likely to turn heads. You’ wouldn’t think he’s slow watching his collegiate game tape as he shows the kind of suddeness it takes to separate from DBs in the league. Combine that with his exceptional hand eye coordination and body control and he could force his way onto the Broncos’ roster.

The bad

  • Small.
  • Limited catch radius.
  • Straight line speed.
  • Contact balance.
  • Limited big time experience.

I’ll fully admit my first look at McKnight vs Trinity Benson had me favoring the latter if only because of the pure athletic testing. McKnight is shorter, smaller, and slower than Benson. While he proved over his career that he can succeed despite those issues, things will be far more difficult against NFL defenses.

McKnight will need to do a better job catching the ball without aid from his body. If he’s to contribute on offense Rich Scangarello will need to be creative with how he deploys the 5’8” waterbug as he’s far likelier to separate in the short to intermediate game than over the top. Even if he catches the ball underneath, he may not serve as a great YAC option unless he proves he can elude defenders with the ball in his hands.

Meet Kelvin McKnight, Samford’s record-breaking WR prospect

I really feel like there’s a lot of undersized receivers having success in the NFL right now. I feel like I bring a lot to the table. Just because I’m a smaller guy doesn’t mean I can’t go up and make a contested catch. I feel like I have a great catch radius. I win my one-on-one battles because I’m a great route runner. I don’t feel like you can cover me with just one guy. In the NFL, it’s all about winning your matchups. You have to get open when left one-on-one and that’s what I bring to the table.

Kelvin McKnight’s roster status with the Broncos

Much like Trinity Benson, McKnight’s roster status with the Broncos is not completely in his hands. With Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton, and Emannuel Sanders all but complete locks and Tim Patrick a near certainty, there’s a very tight battle for WR5. Juwann Winfree was just drafted in the 6th round while River Cracraft played for Denver in 2018.

As exciting as McKnight’s offensive game looked in 2018, his best chance to make the Broncos’ final roster is with his special teams play and contributing as a returner. Denver badly needs an infusion of talent there and wherever that player comes from has a good chance to stick.

Will it be McKnight?