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2009 Preview: Analyzing The Receivers & Tight Ends

July 23, 2009

Yesterday we reviewed the Defensive Line and now we are jumping all the way over to the other side of the ball to our group of receivers. This includes both Wide Receivers and Tight Ends. It will work the same as it did with the Defensive Line. We will run through every single player and then give you a quick little overview as well as my cuts. 

DAVID GRIMES:

David Grimes is an undrafted free agent from Notre Dame who has so far stayed under the radar throughout offseason workouts. After having a reasonably successful senior season at Notre Dame with Jimmy Clausen he put up the stats to get noticed by the Broncos with 90 receptions for 900 yards and 7 touchdowns. He also served as a very good kick returner. 

davidgrimesprofileGrimes is very small for a Wide Receiver but makes up for it with excellent speed and quickness. He very well stands for McDaniels and his dedication to special teams. You could say that he is very much like Eddie Royal in his speed and quickness but also ability for being able to run routes well which was how Eddie Royal drew attention to himself.

It would be a long shot for Grimes to make the roster. He is pretty talented but he doesn’t have the size or the range of skills to be a very productive member of the 53 man roster. I would be surprised if the Broncos even choose to put him on the practice squad. There is a steep learning curve for raw Wide Receivers like him and while the practice squad would be a good fit for him, I don’t think we really value him enough to put him there. Grade: 4.9

JABAR GAFFNEY: 

Jabar Gaffney was the first player to be signed by Josh McDaniels during free agency, and he has really broken out this off-season to the point where he is plan b. if the Broncos decide to trade away Brandon Marshall. Gaffney spent his entire career in New England and Houston where he never was able to surpass the 700 yard mark but after following McDaniels to Denver hopes to go well above that.

jabargaffneyprofileGaffney showed good all around ability in New England to both break free of defenses using his speed but also running crisp routes and rarely dropping passes. He isn’t a big playmaker and will only be decent for his entire career but can contribute and really confuse opposing defenses when called upon. 

There is no doubt in my mind that Gaffney will be given a roster spot. He is a great Plan B if the Marshall situation does not work out and a good player to have in general. Remember, McD runs 4 Wide Receiver sets so we will see B-Marsh, Royal, Stokley and Gaffney out all at once in some situations. If Defensive Backs aren’t afraid of that, then they are fearless. Grade: 7.3

MATTHEW WILLIS:

Matthew Willis spent a year fluctuating in and out of the Baltimore Ravens roster before finally joining up with Mike Shanahan in Denver and joining the practice squad. Willis is pretty much unknown by most Broncos fans as he never got to play in a game for us. That said, the UCLA graduate actually has a legitimate chance of making the roster.

matthewwillisHe shows a good amount of speed for someone his size and he also has pretty good hands for a practice squad player. Willis won’t light up the field at all but he does serve as a good fit for McDaniels’ Spread Offense as he can stretch down the field well. Still, he has very limited upside and does not play well in game situations. 

It would be very surprising if Willis made anything more than the practice squad, but he does have a chance. He has supposedly done okay during OTA’s and with Brandon Marshall up in the air on whether he will be here or not, that leaves another spot open on the 53 man roster. Don’t be shocked if you see yourself going “huh?” if you see his name on the 53 man roster. Grade: 5.2

CHAD JACKSON:

Chad Jackson was brought in by Mike Shanahan after rumors flew last offseason that we were going to sign him early as a free agent. We waited, and brought him in during the middle of the 2008 season. Jackson, is a former New England Patriot and has a pretty good knowledge of McDaniels’ spread offense. That is why he seems like a near lock to make the team. 

chadjacksonprofileJackson brings elusiveness and agility as well as the ability to stretch the field and beat Cornerbacks down field. He catches in traffic and has pretty good hands. He also is fast enough that he can contribute as a kick returner in special teams. Jackson doesn’t run routes well though and that turns off a lot of coaches. Also injury is a concern.

Nonetheless, it still seems almost certain that he will make the roster will all of his New England history. He will have to fight though with the likes of Brandon Lloyd and C.J Jones another player who used to play for the Patriots. Also expect Josh McDaniels’ love for special teams to keep him around also. He should be a fun player to watch during training camp. Grade: 6.8

LUCAS TAYLOR:

Lucas Taylor is an undrafted free agent from the University of Tennessee who the Broncos picked up this off-season. While there, he played 46 career games (23 starts) at Tennessee, totaling 113 receptions for 1,433 yards (12.7 avg.) with six touchdowns. Taylor doesn’t have a good shot of making the roster, but let’s take a second look at him:

lucastaylorprofileTaylor has sticky hands and has shown an unmatched ability to make one handed catches. He has good football knowledge and is able to work with screen passes as well as going deep. He only has average speed though and he runs poor routes. He’s very versatile and you can do a lot of things with him but his upside is very limited.

I’d be interested to see how Taylor does during training camp because he showed a lot of ability at the University of Tennessee. He will have to fight harder than a lot of people for a roster spot but he does have the kind of talent that could keep him in the mix for a long time. I could even see him getting a practice squad spot if he does well. Grade: 5.4

KENNY MCKINLEY:

Kenny McKinley was drafted in the 5th round of the 2009 draft this year giving him a very good chance of making the roster. McKinley who spent his college career at the University of South Carolina drew the attention of coach Josh McDaniels who traded up to get the Gamecock. In his college career he started all but 6 games and had decent statistics the entire time.

kennymckinleyprofileMcKinley might be the definition of a “jack of all trades, but master of none.” He has good speed, hands, agility and runs routes well but he does none exceptionally. Nothing really stands out about his play but he does not play physically and that is very worrisome because it can really destroy a good play.

McDaniels clearly likes McKinley. He is a good player but he is not great. McKinley will make the roster, I have no doubt in my mind about that. New head coaches never cut players they have just drafted. I also think that because of all of the different things that McKinley can do he will get a high spot on the depth chart. He will be someone that might make an impact this pre-season. Grade: 6.5

EDDIE ROYAL:

Eddie Royal was drafted by Mike Shanahan last year and immediately made an impact in the Broncos offense. He was only 20 yards shy of a 1,000 yard season as the number two receiver and had over 90 catches in only his first year pro. Royal has become a favorite of all Denver Bronco fans and through all of the turmoil has become the face of the franchise. 

eddieroyalprofileRoyal has speed like no one else on the team and has become Denvers’ Devin Hester. He is solid on special teams, runs the best routes on the team and almost never drops passes. Royal is a team leader and a great influence in the locker room. I can’t think of anything bad to say about him. He is maybe this offenses best all around player.

Royal the star he is, is a lock for the roster. There is no way on earth that he will not make the 53 man. The question is, with all of the Brandon Marshall problems, will McDaniels alienate him further and maybe start Royal? I wouldn’t. While it would certainly put pressure on Marshall it would also give us almost no chance of him playing for us beyond 2009. Even if Royal plays better, I still wouldn’t start him as the number 1. Grade: 8.7

BRANDON LLOYD: 

Brandon Lloyd played last year with new Broncos Quarterback Kyle Orton in Chicago. After being a journeyman with teams like the Redskins, the 49ers and the Bears he is hoping to team back up with Orton in Denver and being able to finally make an impact. Lloyd has only once broken the 700 yard mark but now is just looking for a chance to be on a roster with the Broncos.

brandonlloydprofileLloyd has decent hands and has the uncanny ability to make great midair catches that many players can not do even though those great plays have caused injury concern after injury concern. He also has shown potential to make big plays and has matured a lot over the past 2 years. The question is if he can put it all together in Denver.

Lloyd will be battling for a roster spot this year with the likes of Chad Jackson and possibly C.J Jones. If he does make the roster, chances are that he won’t have a very high spot, if not the lowest. Lloyd is not eligible for the practice squad and McDaniels probably wouldn’t put him on the squad if he was. The one thing he has going for him is the fact that he will make Orton feel a lot more comfortable and work him in more smoothly. Grade: 6.1

BRANDON STOKLEY:

Brandon Stokley has been with the Broncos now for two years, entering his third season. While he has played long runs for the Colts and the Ravens, he hasn’t been nearly as consistent as he has in Denver proving himself to be just what Peyton Manning says: the great slot receiver ever. While McDaniels isn’t too crazy about him, it does look like he will have the slot receiver spot yet again in 2009.

brandonstokleyprofile

Stokley has good hands and runs routes better than most slot receivers which serves as a major bonus. He understands coverage schemes very well and he isn’t afraid at all to fight for the ball. He does have serious injury concerns though and hasn’t played a full season since 2004 in Indianapolis. But to be fair, he does play most of the games in a season.

Stokley has been assured a spot on the 53 man roster and will probably excel in the new scheme as he has done in almost every other one in the past. I expect good things from him and he will be a very reliable target for Kyle Orton this year as we try to work him into the system with ease. As always we tip our hats to the always consistent Brandon Stokley. Grade: 7.3

NATE SWIFT:

Nate Swift is an undrafted free agent from the University of Nebraska. While at Nebraska Swift played 51 career games (29 starts) at Nebraska, totaling a school-record 166 receptions for 2,476 yards (14.9 avg.) with 22 touchdowns. While record setting at Nebraska, he still went undrafted and now he is battling for a roster spot on the Denver Broncos.

nateswiftprofileWhen you first watch Swift play, a couple of things will immediately stand out to you. First, he has excellent hands. He never drops passes. Also, he runs very good routes. That said, he is not fast at all and will not break free of Cornerbacks at the pro level. He has little to no upside and is a bad fit for the spread offense because he can not stretch the field.

Personally, I am surprised that McDaniels decided to put him on the team assuming that he is such a terrible fit for the spread. It would absolutely shock me, if McDaniels decided to give him even a practice squad spot. A position on the 53 man roster would be near impossible. I wish Swift the best of luck but it is very unlikely he will go much further. Grade: 4.4

BRANDON MARSHALL:

Brandon Marshall is considered by some to be the best player on the Broncos, as he has racked up two 1,000 yard seasons in a row before the age of 25. Marshall though, has shown immaturity and is right now not on good terms with the new regime. Therefore, people are questioning whether a trade is imminent. I personally don’t think it is. But it might happen.

brandonmarshallprofileMarshall may be the best possession receiver in the league right now. He has good “football speed” and is a big target. Talent wise he is just as good if not better than Eddie Royal but he also has serious off the field problems. He is near impossible to bring down and he is a very exciting player. He is also great in space.

There is no doubt that if we do not trade away Brandon Marshall, we will give him a roster spot. John Clayton is reporting we won’t be trading him because we didn’t get an offer better than a 4th rounder. That is why I think he will have a spot on the Broncos roster this season. I think if he stays out of trouble we will pay him and everything will blow over. I’m excited. Grade: 8.7

C.J JONES:

C.J Jones is a wide receiver who has spent time on the active roster with Cleveland (2003) and New England (2008) as well as parts of two seasons on the practice squad with the Browns. He has never played in a regular season game and he is a long shot to even make the roster after he was picked up on waivers. The problem is he is not eligible for the practice squad and not good enough for the active roster. 

cjjonesprofileJones, who has yet to be assigned a number seems to be one of McDaniels projects. There is not really much to say about him. He has the ability to stretch the field and play well in the spread offense but not much more. His hands are inconsistent and we haven’t ever seen him play in a real game. 

I would be pleasantly surprised if he made the roster but do worry it would be more the ignorance of Josh McDaniels that would but him on versus the intelligence of Josh McDaniels. He isn’t a great player and will probably not make the roster but his understanding of the playbook is something good to have during training camp to help teach other players. Grade: 5.0

DANIEL GRAHAM:

Daniel Graham is a former New England Patriot who joined the Broncos two years ago as a blocking Tight End. Built for the spread offense, him returning with his former Coordinator Josh McDaniels may be the best thing that ever happened to his career. Now he has a good shot of being one of the offenses stars and with an almost guaranteed roster spot, the sky is the limit in ’09.

danielgrahamprofileGraham is an excellent run blocker and a big target for a QB. He is a good fit in the spread offense and understands the playbook very well. Graham also brings leadership to the locker room and is very experienced. Graham has been known to drop passes every once in a while but he is still a solid Tight End.

There’s not a chance that Graham won’t score a roster spot but there will be a lot of question over whether he will start or not. I think that it has not been highly publicized but there is a position battle there. Tony Scheffler and Richard Quinn, if they perform well could take the starting Tight End position. Still, he looks like the favorite right now as he has had the starting position for two years. Grade: 7.5

RICHARD QUINN:

Richard Quinn is a second round pick from North Carolina who has been called the best blocking Tight End in college football many times. While he doesn’t have a very long resume from college, in the two years that he played no one proved to be as consistent and talented as him at blocking. Josh McDaniels who seems to be very fond of him also said he has great hands too.

richardquinnprofileWhen you watch Quinn on tape you can’t deny how strong and powerful he is. Of course, these are important traits for a blocking Tight End and he knows how to use them. He also is a hard worker and while his timed speed is not very good and we haven’t seen much of his hands in college, Quinn seems to be the apple of McD’s eye.

Quinn in my opinion has secured a starting position. Anyone drafted this highly does. A lot of people will be routing against Quinn as he was a very unpopular pick. I have always liked Quinn and think that he was a justified pick. He will probably start in two years and will be very consistent here in Denver. I can’t wait to watch him play. Grade: 6.5

MARQUEZ BRANSON:

Marquez Branson is an undrafted free agent from the University of Central Arkansas who totaled 37 catches for 499 yards (13.5 avg.) with seven touchdowns in 11 games as a junior in 2007 at Central Arkansas, earning all-conference accolades in his best season there. While it does not look like he has much of a chance to make the roster he could be an interesting practice squad prospect:

Picture 2Marquez, (besides having a cool name) has big and soft hands. He is a nice target to have and while he is undersized to be playing in the NFL he doesn’t let it get in the way of how tough he is and how willing he is to fight for the ball over the middle. His blocking isn’t great but he does bring something different to a similar group of Tight Ends.

It would really surprise me if he got a roster spot assuming that we have 4 other, much better and much more experienced Tight Ends. It honestly surprised me that he wasn’t drafted because he isn’t all that bad of a player. He would be a really great addition to the practice squad but does McDaniels like him enough to put him there? We will find out. Grade: 5.2

TONY SCHEFFLER:

Tony Scheffler was drafted back in 2006 in the second round after then-Quarterback Jay Cutler. He has been a reliable target for the past few years and a good influence in the locker room. When McDaniels came, there was a bit of a messy relationship for a while because rumors surfaced that McD tried to trade him with Cutler but they are said to have had their relationship mended.

tonyschefflerprofileScheffler has great hands and is considered a receiving Tight End, something that does not fit well into Coach Josh McDaniels system. He runs good routes for a Tight End and has very good upside. His biggest problem is the injuries which seem to be constant and plentiful. 

If I had to choose a potential surprise cut from this group, it would have to be Scheffler. He does not fit in well with the system and if he does not perform well, there is a chance that McDaniels might decide to just axe him. I am not predicting this will happen but it could. I like Tony and wish that we could find a better way to fit him into the system, but that is easier said than done. Grade: 6.8

JEB PUTZIER:

Jeb Putzier has had an on again, off again relationship with the Broncos and some might have thought that McDaniels taking over the reigns of the franchise might spell the end for him. Not so fast. Putzier was resigned by Josh McDaniels this offseason surprising me. That’s not a punch to Putzier because I honestly think he is very good. He just doesn’t seem like McD’s type of player.

jebputzierprofilePutzier is not a good blocker which will definitely hold him back from making the roster this year. He also has decent hands but over the last 8 years, they have started to fade and he doesn’t seem as fast as he used to. Still, he is just as tough and has the same good attitude that made him so great years back.

I like Jeb. A lot of Broncos fans do. Sadly, he seems to be camp fodder and while he was resigned I think that was more McDaniels trying to warm up to the fans. He is a good player but it would be relatively surprising if he made the 53 man roster. He is not eligible for practice squad either and isn’t the kind of player you would put in there anyway. Grade: 6.1

OVERVIEW:

Both the Tight End and Wide Receiver positions are filled with depth and talent this year. The two may even be our strongest positions on the team. It will be really hard to make cuts from them and the undrafted players we brought in here seem to be favorites for the practice squad. This was tough for me to decide but here would be my cuts, with regret:

David Grimes

Matthew Willis

Lucas Taylor (Practice Squad)

Nate Swift

C.J Jones

Marquez Branson (Keep an eye on him, for later in the season)

Jeb Putzier

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One Comment
  1. July 24, 2009 8:01 AM

    doesn’t matter how many decent receivers they have unless they got a good quarterback to throw to them and Denver does not have that

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