Scouting the Nine Broncos UDFAs

The 2015 NFL Draft is in the books and so is the undrafted free agent signing frenzy. The Denver Broncos signed nine of them. MHH Analyst Erick Trickel is here to scout each one and break them down.

Zaire Anderson, LB, Nebraska

Zaire Anderson doesn't have the prototypical size for a linebacker. He weighs only 220 pounds and has a height of 5-foot-11. He is a tackling machine, with a well-rounded skill-set. He can cover tight ends and running backs well, but on short to intermediate routes.

He has great instincts against the run, but if an offensive lineman gets their hands on him, he is out of the play. With blitzing, he is quick and agile, which makes him hard to engage, but if he is engaged, he won’t have an impact. One note about his game, he is quick and rangy, which potentially will help him when it comes time to start putting the roster together.

In a 4-3, he would play the “WILL” linebacker position. With a 3-4 front, his role and position is a little bit cloudier. He likely will end up competing with Corey Nelson and Josh Furman for the S/LB hybrid role and backup to T.J. Ward.

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If they keep him at linebacker, like Nelson, he would just get swallowed up and disappear for the length of the play. Unfortunately, I don’t see him making the 53-man roster, but he will be competing for a practice squad position.

Chuka Ndulue, DL, Oklahoma

In college, Ndulue played a 5-tech defensive end in a 3-4 front and did so well. He has good hands and hand technique to keep offensive linemen off of him and has a solid get off. Where his issues lay are with balance, pad level, and leverage.

He plays really high, almost standing stiff. This makes him easy to get under and knock off balance. He will have to be coached to keep his pad level low and get under offensive linemen. He has a "never give up" attitude and effort, so I won’t be surprised if he makes some noise in training camp and the preseason.

Having played as a 5-tech, that will be what he will be with the Broncos. However, he will need time before making any kind of impact. So, as long as he performs between now and September, look for him to not make the 53-man roster, but more likely the practice squad, with a serious shot next year.

In 2016 the Broncos will potentially take a big hit to the depth of their 3-4 defensive line with multiple guys set to hit free agency. Ndulue, if he grows, can provide options beyond 2015.

Josh Watson, DL, Clemson

At 6-foot-4, 290 pounds, Josh Watson has the size of protypical nose tackles in Wade Phillips' past. He also has the athleticism and burst off the snap to be successful in Phillips' single-gap system. In a lot of ways, he is very raw.

He needs to work on his feet and hands, as well as gain a better understanding of leverage and balance. He also needs to put work in to disengage more consistently. He has a high ceiling for a undrafted player, but has a lot of work to do before reaching it.

Denver is deep on their defensive line, which hurts Watson’s chances of making the roster. If they look at him as a 5-tech defensive end, he would have to beat out one of the veterans like Vance Walker or Antonio Smith.

If they keep him as a nose tackle, he is behind Sylvester Williams, Marvin Austin and draft pick Darius Kilgo. He may be looking at a chance to get on the practice squad, with a better shot next year—much like the situation with Ndulue.

Kalon Davis, OL, Clemson

Power. That is what Davis' game is built around. He is the type of offensive linemen you put in a one-on-one situation, lock the phone booth and let him out-power his opponent. When asked to move, Davis does a lot, without actually doing anything.

Having started games at both left guard and right tackle, Davis is versatile. Besides that, it is hard to see what the Broncos see in him. He is a power scheme offensive guard, potentially a right tackle, but his fit in a zone blocking scheme is non-existent. He doesn’t have the athleticism, foot quickness, footwork, technique or concept understanding to work in the scheme.

With Davis' poor fit in the scheme, it is hard to see him as anything more than just a camp body—someone to take reps on the third string offensive line unit, before getting waived in the cut-down to 75-man roster. If Denver still utilized a power scheme, Davis would have a shot, albeit a long shot, to make the roster. Since they don’t, it's hard to see him even making the practice squad.

Dillon Day, OL, Mississippi State

Day has some traits of a zone blocking offensive linemen, except desired athleticism. However, plenty of offensive linemen have been successful in a zone blocking scheme without desired athleticism.

Day still needs a lot of work before he is worth even a backup spot. There is a character concern, as he got suspended for stomping on an opponent during a game. Day has the attitude you want in an offensive linemen—tough and mean. He also has a high football IQ, which will help him grow as a player.

If Dillon Day grows quickly, he could compete for a backup position on the 53-man roster. However, he will likely be looking at a practice squad spot, while the coaching staff works with him and grows with him as a player.

Kyle Roberts, OL, Nevada

Of the three offensive linemen brought up so far, Roberts is the best scheme fit—by far. He has everything you want for a zone blocking offensive linemen. He has good size at 6-foot-6 and 310 pounds. His biggest deficiency is he has to shore up his technique and footwork. He isn’t raw, by any means, but he has a lot of work to do before competing for a starting spot.

Roberts has a chance to make the 53-man roster as a backup guard or tackle. However, he has an uphill battle where he has to unseat a combination of veterans and young guys, two of whom were selections in the last two drafts. The odds are, Roberts ends up competing for a practice squad position as a project offensive lineman, before getting a shot as a backup in a couple years or so.

Connor Rains, OL, Wyoming

Rains has good size for a tackle, but will likely get pushed into offensive guard. While he is not the best fit for the scheme, he is not the worst either. He has a lot of upside to work within the scheme, but it's going to take a long time.

If he is able to show he is working to reach that upside and making progress, he could end up fighting for a practice squad spot. If not, he will be cut loose to move on elsewhere.

Matt Miller, WR, Boise State

At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Matt Miller has a big body. However, he doesn’t have the athletic traits of an NFL receiver, despite having the body. His 2014 season was cut short, due to an injury, after making only 28 catches. In 2013, he had 88 catches for over 1,100 yards.

While he isn’t an athlete, he is a football player. The actual football side of his game is really good. He would be best put in the slot where his lack of athleticism isn’t a major handicap and he can use his size to his team’s advantage.

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Miller has an uphill battle to even be considered to make the roster. He is stuck behind the obvious receivers in Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Cody Latimer. After them it is really up for grabs between Isaiah Burse, who is also a returner option, Andre Caldwell, Bennie Fowler, Jordan Norwood, Nathan Palmer, Kyle Williams and fellow undrafted free agent Jordan Taylor.

The Broncos will carry five or six receivers, so those last two or three spots are up for grabs. Miller has a shot, but it is a long one. He will have to impress just to get practice squad consideration.

Jordan Taylor, WR, Rice

Jordan Taylor is tall, long but also thin. He is slightly more athletic than Matt Miller, but is another better football player than an athlete. Like Miller, Taylor would be best in the slot where his size could be an advantage. On the outside, he would often be at a disadvantage, especially when facing the more athletic corners in the NFL.

Being a WR, Taylor faces a big uphill battle, just like Miller. They are the low guys on the totem pole. They're both long shots to make the 53-man roster and have to really impress just to get considered for the practice squad.

Conclusion

The Denver Broncos have a long track record of finding a gem or two in undrafted free agency. However, after scouting all of these players, none of them give me a great feeling that they will make it this year.

Some will stick around, but on the practice squad. But the opportunity is there and it will be a long time before the 53-man roster is finalized. I hope they all make the best of it, but alas, that is but a dream.

Erick Trickel in an Analyst for MileHighHuddle. You can find him on Twitter @Alaskan_Bronco. And be sure to like MileHighHuddle on Facebook.

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