Measurables: 6-foot-5, 255 pounds.
2014 stats: nine starts, six receptions, 74 yards (12.3 YPC), one touchdown.
At the University of Nevada, Virgil Green appeared in 50 games, with 37 career starts. Catching balls from Colin Kaepernick, Green earned first-team All-Western Athletic Conference honors. Heading into the 2011 NFL Draft, Green was considered to be an undersized, athletic pass-catching tight end, with great ball skills.
He was 6-foot-3, 249 pounds when he appeared at the Combine. Many scouts and draftniks, including NFL.com, saw him as too much of a tweener and lacking physical growth potential, which is ironic, since he’s gained six pounds in the NFL and has grown two inches.
At the Combine, Green was the top-performer in five-of-the-seven tight end drills. He ran a 4.64 40-yard dash and threw up 23 reps on the bench press (225 pounds). It was a phenomenal performance, but despite this, he almost fell through the entire draft, until John Elway and the Denver Broncos selected him with the 204th overall pick in the seventh round.
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As a member of Elway’s maiden draft class, Green made the final 53-man roster as a rookie and never looked back. Selected in the same class as Julius Thomas, Green struggled to outshine him in the eyes of the coaches.
However, Thomas missed almost all of his first two seasons with the Broncos, which led to more opportunities for playing time for Green. Throughout his career in Denver, Green has been used primarily as a blocker, which shows you how hard he has worked to hone that aspect of his craft. He was not a good blocker heading into the NFL.
But in his four seasons in the NFL, Green has developed into one of the NFL’s most abusive run blocking tight ends. He has improved each year as a blocker and finished 2014 as Pro Football Focus’ No. 4 run blocking tight end, with a +4.4 grade and a +5.7 cumulative grade, which ranked him as the No. 11 tight end in the league.
Not too shabby for a guy who played 403 snaps. When Green’s rookie contract expired following the 2014 season, he entered the open waters of unrestricted free agency. There was a legit market for his services.
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The Broncos had jettisoned John Fox in favor of Gary Kubiak and his zone blocking scheme, which features the tight end position. The ZBS demands proficiency from it's tight ends, not only as a receiver, but as a blocker. In such a scheme, a player of Green’s magnitude isn’t just valuable—it’s essential. Green recently talked about his blocking mindset with ESPN Denver’s Jeff Legwold.
”I love to block, I take pride in moving somebody against their will in those situations, but I take pride in receiving and I think I can do it.".
And so Elway competed with the other interested teams, including Fox’s Chicago Bears, but Green wanted to stay in Denver. He returned to the Broncos on a three-year deal worth $8.4M. Thomas, who also entered unrestricted free agency, signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Broncos signed Owen Daniels, a player with extensive experience in Kubiak’s ZBS, to work along side Green as the team’s one-two tight end punch. At this stage, it’s unclear who will receive more playing time, but with Kubiak’s reliance on two-TE sets, both players will figure into the mix regularly.
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We here at Mile High Huddle have been pounding the table for Virgil Green for quite some time. He was criminally underused by the Fox regime, but that is going to be remedied by Kubiak. He is a more than capable receiver, who can make plays over the middle and down the seam.
Coupled with his ability as a blocker, it will be very difficult for Kubiak and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison to take Green off the field. Broncos fans can expect to see a lot more out of “the Hulk” in 2015.
WATCH: Projecting Virgil Green's 2015 Stats