Jalen Virgil, one of the fastest players in college football over the last few years, signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Denver Broncos, joining their 13-man undrafted free agent class.
Is the speedster in prime position to steal a spot on the final roster?
#17 Jalen Virgil
Weight: 210 lbs
Position: Wide Receiver
College: Appalachian State
How he fits with the Broncos in 2022
A former 4-time Feldman Freak, Jalen Virgil joins the Broncos at a time when they are desperate to add some more explosiveness and speed into their offense and special teams unit. The Broncos lost any sort of that when KJ Hamler was hurt in Week 3 of last season and struggled to generate explosive plays through the air afterward.
Virgil had 15 plays of more than 40 yards in his college career. He ran a 4.37 at his Pro Day and ended up tallying a 9.16 RAS. Virgil was a track star in high school and college, running a 10.29 100M while at App State. He’s set some pretty freaky numbers at App State, and his workout room numbers are bonkers for his size. A truly elite athlete.
It’s tough to say that Virgil will be a big factor offensively. He wasn’t able to carve out much of a full-time role at App State (though whether that’s a question of his talent or the coaching staff has been debated between myself and some other analysts), mainly being used as a motion decoy and occasional downfield target. He started just one game as a senior in their bowl game, where he went 3-75-1.
Where Virgil’s biggest shot at making the roster will be is as the team’s kick returner. Last year, that role was Diontae Spencer’s, and he didn’t offer much value or return there. With a new coaching staff and new special teams coach in town, the Broncos made investments into their special teams, and Virgil has the ability to be their primary kick returner this season.
A two-time All-Sun Belt returner, Virgil tied the school record with three kickoff return touchdowns (two of them were 100-yarders). He was one of just 12 returners in college football to have a yards per return of over 30, and he amassed over 1,000 kick return yards in his career.
Virgil will have a little bit of competition to earn that starting kick returner job, but not much. The team’s primary returner, Diontae Spencer, is no longer on the team. The only players on the team who have returned kicks in any fashion are KJ Hamler and Tyrie Cleveland, and the last time they did was two seasons ago. The team drafted Montrell Washington in the fifth round to serve as a returner, but his role is likely going to primarily involve punt returning. As such, the kick returner spot could be wide open.
However, some teams do use just one player as a kick and punt returner, and Montrell Washington has experience doing both in college. With the numbers game in the wide receiver room as well, there’s not much wiggle room for Virgil. He’ll have to shine in camp and prove he can provide an impact as an offensive player as well if he wants to stick onto the 53-man roster, as the team won’t keep him around if he’s just a kick returner.
Virgil doesn’t have a ton of production at the collegiate level, and his impact on an NFL offense is more projection than anything. However, Virgil has one thing that all teams crave and the Broncos are in need of - speed.
With all five of Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, KJ Hamler, and Montrell Washington seemingly locked in, Virgil will have to compete with Kendall Hinton, Seth Williams, Tyrie Cleveland, Travis Fulgham, and other UDFA WRs Kaden Davis and Brandon Johnson for the WR6 job.
Last year, the team kept just five wideouts, but the Packers kept six wide receivers two of the three years Nathaniel Hackett was there. It’ll be a tough battle, but Virgil might be another diamond in the rough for Paton to find.