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Undrafted Free Agents' Opportunity in Denver

Posted May 11, 2014

Independent analyst Andrew Mason looks at the Broncos' 15 undrafted free agents and points to which names stand out with a chance to make the squad.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Broncos' run of having at least one undrafted rookie on the 53-man roster -- a streak that reached nine years last summer with running back C.J. Anderson -- offers hope to the 15 players who agreed to terms with the team Saturday night after the draft. Repetitions might be scarce, but if you make the most of them, it can take you to the starting lineup of a conference champion, as Chris Harris Jr. has shown the last three years.

But perhaps none of this year's crop of college free agents has more possibility before him than wide receiver Isaiah Burse, a 5-foot-10, 188-pounder who could immediately help on punt and kickoff returns, where the Broncos have a clear vacancy after Trindon Holliday's free-agent departure. But Burse could also develop into a slot receiver.

"Obviously with Burse, he’s a good slot, very productive receiver, so he’s a dual return man -- especially punts," said Head Coach John Fox. "Obviously that helps his chances. We let them compete and see how that works out but it’s definitely a skill set that we were impressed with.“

It was the slot-receiver of that which excited him the most at the NFL Scouting Combine -- particularly the chance to work with Wes Welker, the league's best slot receiver of the last several years.

"I've thought about it," Burse said in February. "If the Broncos decided to call my phone and draft me, whatever the case may be, as soon as I get there, I'd be picking his brain instantly, from the moment I touched down."

"I would just want to become a human sponge and soak in all the knowledge he's got, about how he's been so successful -- and what I've got to do to be successful."

Burse will not be the only new Bronco to fly the flag of the Mountain West Conference; he is joined by Colorado State linebacker Shaq Barrett and running back Kapri Bibbs. Barrett is a strongside linebacker, which puts him into a crowded field with Von Miller and Lerentee McCray. Bibbs is a highly productive running back who is attempting to become the second undrafted Bronco in as many years to make the team; he and fellow Saturday pickup Brennan Clay will compete with Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson to back up Montee Ball.

"Two guys that we're excited to be able to keep in-state," said Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway.

Quarterback Bryn Renner's progress will also bear monitoring; some felt the North Carolina product could have slipped into the seventh round. Renner tore his labrum last year while the Tar Heels were struggling; that injury hurt his draft stock. But he is bright enough to have learned multiple offenses in college, and gracefully transitioned from a pro-style attack to a spread with no loss of form.

The first question for Renner -- and for all of the new Broncos -- is how many repetitions they will receive? That's why next weekend's rookie minicamp is so vital. Even though it's low-contact, no-pads work, it's the crucial first impression. There may not be another moment where they get so much work.

After that, it will be about maximizing opportunities. It can be done; the Broncos' roster currently includes 12 players whose NFL debuts came with the Broncos as undrafted free agents, including seven who played in Super Bowl XLVIII and four postseason first-teamers: punter Britton Colquitt, cornerback Chris Harris Jr., safety Duke Ihenacho and long snapper Aaron Brewer.

The door is open. The next four months will reveal which of these 15 can walk through it.

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