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Broncos Roster Review: OLB Pita Taumoepenu

Entering his fifth season, can this veteran linebacker find a home in Denver?

NFL: Denver Broncos Rookie Minicamp Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Taken by the San Francisco 49ers with the 202nd overall pick, Pita Taumoepenu was the sixth and final Utah Ute selected in the 2017 NFL Draft.

If that sounds a little familiar, it’s because Denver took the guy at the other end of that list with the 20th overall pick: left tackle Garett Bolles. Unfortunately for Taumoepenu, the gap in their draft slots is matched by the gap in their NFL exposure. Four years in, he’s played in only seven NFL games, with no starts, compared to Bolles’ 65 starts.

#67 Pita Taumoepenu, OLB
Age 27. 6’1”, 245 lbs.
College: Utah

Taumoepenu might’ve been destined to wear orange & blue at some point, even if only for a little while. He seems to just keep bumping into Denver. That 202nd overall pick the 49ers used to draft him? It came from the Denver Broncos, given in exchange for TE Vernon Davis.

And having only appeared in seven games, there’s only one NFL team Taumoepenu has played against twice: the Broncos.

He notched two tackles for the Falcons in their 34-27 win over Denver last year, his only appearance in an NFL game since December 2018.

His goal in 2021 is surely to have a much longer connection to the Broncos.

NFL: Denver Broncos at San Francisco 49ers Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The Good

Taumoepenu is a good athlete, registering the second fastest 40 yard dash (4.67) and 3 cone drill (6.91) among defensive linemen at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine. He’s got the high motor and twitch to serve as a pass rush specialist, and enough agility to quickly redirect toward the ball carrier or quarterback on the fly.

Pre-draft, scouts praised Taumoepenu’s urgency and his light feet. He also showed enough technique to occasionally set opponents up for a counter move. Overall, he very much fits the profile of an extra situational pass rusher with the potential to shine on special teams.

The Bad

Finding traction in the NFL has been a challenge for Taumoepenu. His stay in San Francisco was his longest to date, spending his entire rookie season on the 53-man roster before winding up on the 49ers’ practice squad the following year. Three years later, Denver is his fifth NFL team.

Denver Broncos v San Francisco 49ers

Many of the biggest challenges the former Ute struggles with on the field have to do with power. He lacks true NFL size for an edge rusher, as well as lacking the strength to overpower or shed blockers.

And while he can pull off occasional counter moves, his overall pass rush repertoire and technique aren’t good enough to compensate for his frame’s physical disadvantages.

Roster Status

The cut from 90 players down to a regular season roster is a hard day for many players at the back end of the roster. It’s pretty likely that Pita Taumoepenu is one of those guys who’ll have to deal with the reality of getting the call to bring his playbook to coach Fangio that day. The Broncos’ depth at outside linebacker isn’t great, but it’s not so bad that there’s much opportunity for a journeyman veteran who’s currently fourth string on the depth chart.

The average NFL career lasts 3.5 years, and while Taumoepenu has beaten that mark, he may find it difficult to stay in the league much longer.