Measurables: 6-foot-3, 270 pounds.
2014 stats: N/A *first year
Joe Don Duncan is one of those small-school players who has suffered from the “level of competition” doctrine employed by NFL scouts and front offices. While at Division II Dixie State, located in St. George, UT., Duncan didn’t face-off against the best collegiate competition in the nation.
But when evaluating a prospect through the “level of competition” prism, one must ascertain whether said player was dominant or not. You also have to break down key elements of his ability and really flesh out the scouting report. Such a player must be evaluated more as an individual, rather than comparatively measuring him against level of competition, if you hope to form an accurate picture.
In 2013, Duncan’s senior season in college, he was prolific, catching 71 passes for 1,045 yards and 13 touchdowns. He broke his own school records, despite missing the previous season, due to knee surgery related to a micro-fracture injury suffered earlier in his career.
He was invited to the 2014 Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine Game, but had to forego them for health reasons. He spent 2014 out of football, but kept in shape and the Denver Broncos signed him to a futures contract this past March.
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Duncan’s skill-set centers around catching the ball. He has earned high marks for his soft hands and his ability to attack the ball at the high-point and get up-field. However, his route tree is under-developed, as he only ran a handful of routes regularly in college.
At 270 pounds, you would expect Duncan to be a solid blocker, at the very least, if not a dominant one. But in this area he is lacking and really needs to hone his technique and functional strength. Working within the Broncos system, he’ll be coached up early and often on blocking technique.
As for how he fits with the 2015 Broncos, he’s been used often as a fullback thus far. He’s more comfortable and experienced as a tight end, but the Broncos have an embarrassment of riches at the position, including Owen Daniels, Virgil Green and James Casey.
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The Broncos will utilize a fullback regularly—both as a lead blocker and as a receiver out of the backfield. Thus far, Casey—a long-time Kubiak veteran—has the inside track as the team’s starting fullback. Casey signed a one-year deal this past spring, which could mean the Broncos envision Duncan’s role with the team as a developmental one—for now.
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With a strong showing in training camp, Duncan could earn a spot on the Broncos final roster. Jeff Heuerman's ACL injury helps Duncan's odds and the team will want to be well-stocked at tight end. Duncan will have to be ready and willing to contribute on special teams.
Earning a spot on the final roster is by no means a sure thing for Duncan. But he has the receiving talent and the size to grow into an effective blocker. The foundation is there, but Duncan will need a strong camp performance to seal the deal.