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Broncos roster review: offensive lineman Nolan Laufenberg

Can the undrafted guard stand out in a crowded room?

NCAA Football: Air Force at Colorado State
Could Laufenberg surprise?
Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

Since Mike Munchak was hired as the Broncos’ offensive line coach, they’ve placed a huge emphasis on upgrading the interior offensive line. Since 2019, the John Elway and George Paton have used four draft picks on interior offensive lineman. Graham Glasgow signed as a free agent in 2020. With so many marquee names on the depth chart, it looks like an uphill battle for an undrafted free agent to make the roster.

Could a guard out of Air Force surprise?

Nolan Laufenberg’s profile

Height: 6’4”
Weight: 312 lbs
Age: 22 years old
Experience: Rookie

After going undrafted in the 2021 NFL Draft, Laufenberg received $25,000 in guarantees to sign with the Broncos. In the past, it was nigh impossible for a prospect out of a military academy to make it in the NFL due to the restrictions his military commitment creates. This has become easier in recent years as it is now possible for a prospect to receive permission to chase his NFL dream.

The Good

A three year starter, Laufenberg brings NFL size and good play strength with him into the league. An experienced blocker who had plenty of time to refine his run blocking in Air Forces’ triple option offense. He was routinely asked to pull for gap concepts during his collegiate career, which no doubt appealed to a Broncos’ team that used gap concepts more than all but four teams in 2020.

The Bad

The numbers game isn’t working in the rookies’ favor. There’s currently eight players fighting for what may amount to just four roster spots. Dalton Risner and Glasgow are locks. Lloyd Cushenberry and Quinn Meinerz were third round picks. To make the final roster, Laufenberg not only needs to outshine Netane Muti, Austin Schlottmann, and Patrick Morris, he also needs an extra spot devoted to an iOL.

Laufenberg’s arms measured at 32 1/4” and he profiles as a pure interior player who won’t offer much, if anything as a tackle. If he can’t prove that he could log snaps at center in a pinch he’s an undrafted rookie who can only compete for two spots, which could prove damning for his chances at the final roster in 2021.

The Falcons’ offensive approach means Laufenberg is a pretty callow pass protector who was rarely asked to block on obvious passing downs. It wouldn’t surprise me if he faces a steep learning curve in his first camp here, as the NFL game is both faster and more complex.

Nolan Laufenberg’s roster status with the Broncos

If an injury or two doesn’t wipe out the Broncos’ guard depth, it sure looks like Laufenberg’s fighting to make the practice squad. Teams usually devote eight to 10 roster spots for offensive lineman after cut downs and those players need to start or backup multiple spots. Right now we have little indication Laufenberg will do either, which hurts his chances.

The practice squad isn’t the end of the world for an undrafted rookie guard, however. Laufenberg’s ability to block on the move and hold up at the point of attack are promising building blocks. If he can stick in the room for a year while he acclimates to the NFL passing game, an opportunity could emerge down the road.