Measurables: 5-foot-10, 187 pounds.
2014 stats: 29 punt returns, 211 yards (7.3 YPR).
As one of Derek Carr’s primary targets at Fresno State, Isaiah Burse had a productive collegiate career. He amassed 209 receptions, 2,503 yards and 14 touchdowns, including a prolific senior season that saw him eclipse the 1,000-yard mark.
He also set FBS records with 75 kickoff returns for 1,606 yards in 2012. Although most draftniks had him projected as a fifth or sixth round pick, he ended up slipping through the entire 2014 NFL Draft and was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Denver Broncos.
The Broncos needed a kick and punt returner, after they chose to part ways with the electrifying, but ultimately risky Trindon Holliday. They saw in Burse a guy who could possibly fill that role and do it on the cheap.
However, by the time the Broncos got to training camp, it was Jordan Norwood who was “wowing” the coaches in the return game, dashing Burse’s hopes of making the final roster. But when Norwood went down with a torn ACL, it all but cemented Burse as the fifth wide receiver on the opening-week roster.
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Burse would go on to appear in 12 regular season games for the Broncos, before he was eventually waived. He was largely ineffectual as a punt returner, fielding 29 punts for a paltry average of 7.2 YPR. 24 of them were fair catches. In that time, he only saw 18 snaps on offense.
Looking ahead, it’s hard to see a spot for Burse. He’s a good athlete, but there’s nothing about him that turns one’s head. He might have a future as a slot receiver, but I don’t think it will be in Denver, where the depth chart is stacked with talent.
Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Cody Latimer represent the Broncos top-three receivers. The team is likely to carry five receivers in 2015, which means two spots are open for competition. Provided he has fully recovered, Norwood will take one of them.
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The other will come down to eighth-year veteran Andre Caldwell and Bennie Fowler. There’s always the possibility that Rice University’s UDFA Jordan Taylor might make a splash, but if Gary Kubiak and Rick Dennison decide to go with youth, Fowler has the inside slant, because of his skill-set and chemistry with Brock Osweiler.
Unfortunately for Isaiah Burse, I don’t see him sticking around in Denver this year, even on the practice squad. The Broncos had nine draft picks this year and many of them won’t make the team. Each and every spot on the practice squad will be carefully filled by John Elway. Burse’s NFL journey is far from over, but he’ll likely have to continue it with another team.