Five undrafted Broncos to watch in OTAs

During the draft last month, Broncos coach Sean Payton pointed to a piece of franchise history when discussing the fact that Denver had limited draft capital and only a pair of sixth-round picks for the final day of the proceedings.

“We haven’t even talked about the minute the draft ends and that 2.5-hour period where you don’t know you’re going to be doing it, but you find the last starting running back for this team that played in the Super Bowl in free agency,” Payton said.

That, of course, was a nod to C.J. Anderson and the prospect of finding quality players after the draft ends.

Then, during rookie minicamp, Payton reiterated a point he’d made about player acquisition earlier in the offseason.

“How they got here, at this point, is of no importance to us,” he said. Payton proceeded to recount drafting running back Antonio Pittman in the fourth round in 2007 in New Orleans, then signing Pierre Thomas as an undrafted free agent.

“Clearly in the middle of training camp, (Thomas) was performing better,” Payton said. “We cut the fourth-round pick and kept Pierre. Two years later, he’s in the NFC Championship Game returning the kick in overtime to the 42-yard line, then converting a fourth-and-one and becoming a real important part of our team.

“You have to just go by what you see.”

Denver didn’t draft a running back in 2023, but it did sign college free agent Jaleel McLaughlin and also XFL tryout Jacques Patrick.

McLaughlin’s no guarantee to become the next Pierre Thomas, of course. All the same, he starts Phase Three of the offseason as one of the more intriguing undrafted players on the Broncos’ roster.

In two years at Division II Notre Dame College and three at FCS Youngstown State, he rushed for an NCAA-record 8,166 yards and 79 touchdowns. In 28 games over three seasons at YSU, he racked up 3,424 rushing yards, 500 receiving yards (140 total offensive yards per game) and 32 touchdowns.

He turned some heads in Broncos rookie minicamp, too.

“Just learning from Coach Payton, he’s been unbelievable,” McLaughlin told The Post in the midst of the minicamp. “It’s been outstanding. I have a page and a half of notes already and not football-related, just life-related. Things he’s taught me already in the past two days, so that’s been awesome.”

What happens in Denver’s running back room will depend largely on whether Javonte Williams returns to action as quickly as Payton thinks he might.

After Williams, Payton believes Samaje Perine can be a starting-level player.

“I was taught a long time ago to stack them up at that position,” Payton said. “It’s a tough position in our league.”

Denver also added former New Orleans back Tony Jones Jr. in free agency and has a young, unproven returning trio in Tyler Badie, Tyreik McAllister and Damarea Crockett also on the roster.

McAllister and Crockett both suffered injuries during training camp last summer. Badie, a 2022 sixth-round pick by Baltimore, was signed off the Ravens’ practice squad and scored a 24-yard touchdown against the Chargers in Week 18 on his first NFL touch.

That’s a relatively crowded room, but no so daunting as to suggest McLaughlin or Patrick have no chance of making the 53-man roster at the end of camp. Teams can also carry up to 16 on their practice squad once the season begins.

Here are four other interesting college free agents:

Offensive lineman Alex Palczewski, Illinois: Started 65 games for the Illini over the course of his career. The Broncos just brought back Cam Fleming as a potential third tackle, which makes Palczewski’s road more difficult. But after Fleming and likely starters Garett Bolles and Mike McGlinchey, the competition for roster spots includes Quinn Bailey, Isaiah Prince, Christian DiLauro and fellow CFA Demontrey Jacobs.

Offensive lineman Henry Byrd, Princeton: The numbers up front apply to Byrd, too, who started 30 games in college at tackle but is listed by the Broncos as a guard. That versatility will help his pursuit of a spot. Payton has always been known for putting an emphasis on building his offensive lines and Denver spent big in free agency on that pursuit. If Byrd fits what the staff is looking for, he’ll have a shot.

Edge Thomas Incoom, Central Michigan: The Broncos didn’t draft a true outside linebacker or defensive lineman, but they did land Incoom after the draft ended. Multiple outlets had him graded as a draftable player and as high as a potential mid-round pick. The combination of traits – he ran 4.66 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the combine – and production (18.5 TFLs, 11.5 sacks in 2022) make him an interesting addition in a potential area of need for Denver.

Cornerback Art Green, Houston: Green visited Denver before the draft and then ended up with the Broncos after it. He jumped out at minicamp because he’s big (6-1, 200 pounds) and can really run (reported 4.36 in the 40 at his pro day). Denver drafted a corner (Riley Moss) and a safety (JL Skinner) and had second-year corners Faion Hicks and Ja’Quan McMillian also at the minicamp. Special teams ability will be a factor in who makes the roster and practice squad.

Want more Broncos news? Sign up for the Broncos Insider to get all our NFL analysis.

Source: Read Full Article