Measurables: 6-foot-1, 217 pounds.
2014 stats: N/A *practice squad.
Bennie Fowler, a former high school track and basketball champion, had a rough collegiate career at Michigan State—not so much because of a lack of talent, or failure to produce—but primarily due to the virulent bite of the injury bug.
As a senior, he started 8-of-13 games, hauling in 36 catches for 622 yards and six touchdowns. By the time the NFL Scouting Combine arrived, Fowler was feeling his strength. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.52 seconds and threw up a 126-inch broad jump, which was the best performance at the Combine.
The bottom line is that Fowler displayed great athleticism and explosion in Indianapolis. Combined with how he produced when he was actually on the field in college, he hoped it would be enough to get drafted. Most draftniks had him pegged as going in rounds 5-7.
But he didn’t hear his name called. He joined the ranks of the ubiquitous undrafted rookies, but was fortunate enough to get signed by the Denver Broncos. Fowler came into 2014’s OTAs and camp, fighting to get reps from the bottom of the depth chart.
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With a top-heavy group, led by Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Wes Welker, it was an uphill battle for Fowler. Factor in the Broncos rookie second round pick, Cody Latimer, and it became daunting.
Ultimately, Fowler didn’t make the final roster, but he did play well in preseason action and developed a strong rapport with Brock Osweiler. The Broncos kept a seat warm for him, signing him to the practice squad after they waived him.
Looking ahead, Fowler’s prospects at making the team in 2015 are significantly better. Welker is gone and there’s a new coaching staff in place with a history of rostering big, athletic playmakers, like Fowler. Andre Caldwell inexplicably managed to stick around throughout the John Fox administration, but all bets are off for him under Gary Kubiak.
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Thomas, Sanders and Latimer project as the Broncos top-three receivers, and if Kubiak’s history can offer any insight, the team will likely keep five pass-catchers. That means there are two spots up for grabs. Jordan Norwood, who had one of the spots locked up this time last year before tearing his ACL, is close to 100% and figures to garner one of those spots.
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The other spot is rife for the taking. Fowler will do battle with 2015 UDFA Jordan Taylor, Solomon Patton, Nathan Palmer, Isaiah Burse, David Porter and Kyle Williams. Burse made the final roster last season, due to his abilities as a punt returner, but after several weeks of ineffectual play in the very department the Broncos rostered him for, he was waived.
Fowler’s chemistry with Osweiler will help him, as well. Kubiak and company share John Elway’s vision of Osweiler eventually becoming the Broncos franchise quarterback, which could happen as soon as 2016. The former Sun Devil gunslinger will want his security blankets around when that time comes.
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