Denver's not Taylor-made

One former Tennessee football player appears to have his work cut out for him as he attempts to earn a roster spot in the NFL.

That would be wide receiver Lucas Taylor. After being bypassed in last weekend's NFL Draft, the 6-0, 185-pound Louisiana native signed a free-agent contract with the Denver Broncos.

Taylor started 23 of 46 games at UT, averaging 12.7 yards per catch for his career with six 100-yard receiving games. He had a breakout year as a junior in 2007, catching 73 passes for an even 1,000 yards. His best outing came against Mississippi State in '07, when he caught 11 passes for 186 yards. He slumped to just 26 catches for 332 yards as a senior in '08.

A versatile performer, Taylor averaged 21.0 yards on 26 career kickoff returns and 6.2 yards on 13 career punt returns. The former high school quarterback also threw two flanker passes for touchdowns – a 48-yarder vs. Florida in 2006 and a 56-yarder vs. Georgia in 2007.

Unfortunately for Taylor, the Broncos have an imposing cast of pass catchers he must compete against in order to secure a spot on their roster.

Topping the list is Brandon Marshall, who caught 104 passes last season, averaged 12.16 yards per catch and scored six touchdowns.

Almost as productive was Eddie Royal, who caught 91 balls, averaging 10.77 yards per catch, with five TDs.

Brandon Stokely added 49 catches, 10.78 yards per catch and three TDs.

Tony Scheffler caught 40 balls, averaged a whopping 16.13 yards per catch and also scored three TDs.

Daniel Graham recorded 32 receptions, a 12.16 yards-per-catch average and four touchdowns.

In addition to the five productive returnees, Denver recently made a four-year, $10-million investment in former Florida Gator Jabar Gaffney, who averaged 12.32 yards per catch on 38 receptions for the Patriots last fall before signing with the Broncos as a free agent in February.

Denver also has a contract with ex-Gator Chad Jackson, a second-round draft pick just two years ago who was cut by New England last preseason.

Also competing for playing time at wideout is Jayson Foster, a second-year pro from Georgia Southern who spent 2008 on Denver's practice squad.

As if this weren't competition enough for Taylor, the Broncos signed three other undrafted free agents – David Grimes of Notre Dame, Travis Shelton of Temple and Nate Swift of Nebraska.

Grimes caught 90 balls for an even 900 yards during his career with the Irish. Shelton started just four games as an Owl receiver last fall but led the NCAA with a 31.3-yard kickoff return average and averaged 25.8 yards per return for his career. Swift posted a school-record 166 career receptions for the Cornhuskers, averaging 14.9 yards per catch and 12.6 yards on 28 career punt returns.

Considering the quality and quantity of competition, Lucas Taylor may be hard pressed to win a spot on the Denver roster.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories