Broncos’ rookie roster longshots to watch during training camp, preseason games

With the Broncos currently at a 90-man roster, plenty of football futures are at stake ahead of the three cut-down dates later this month.

So what’s the key to standing out among the crowd to coach Vic Fangio and his staff, especially for rookies drafted in the later rounds or signed as undrafted free agents?

Flash and pizzazz is nice, but consistency is much better.

“Obviously, the big plays catch everybody’s eyes,” Fangio said. “But it’s the consistency (that counts more). Can a guy be reliable to go out there and play and uphold his job throughout the game and not just make a flash play every now and then?

“A great example is defensive players. There are about 65 plays in a game. If a guy has two sacks, instantly everybody thinks he had a great game. Well, he played about 63 other plays — how’d he do in those?”

The Broncos already waived one undrafted free agent, former Colorado State receiver Warren Jackson. More players will be sent packing when the next week’s first cutdown rolls around. The roster will be trimmed to 85 on Aug. 17, 80 on Aug. 24 and then 53 on Aug. 31, and the ability to play special teams will factor heavily into the chances for bubble candidates.

Here are rookies to keep an eye on during the preseason as the Broncos open up at Minnesota on Saturday.

WR Seth Williams

Williams, the team’s sixth-round pick out of Auburn, is looking up at a long wideout depth chart.

Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick and KJ Hamler are all locks to make the 53-man roster. Tyrie Cleveland (back) and returner Diontae Spencer (knee) are currently out with injuries. The Broncos carried seven receivers on their initial roster last September.

That leaves two or three spots for the rest of the 13 receivers currently on the roster.

But Williams isn’t focused on the amount of skill around him, and said Broncos fans can expect him to be a “speedy receiver who can go in there and block and mix it up on special teams.”

“I look around and I see the talent all around me, but I’m a type of guy who focuses on myself,” Williams said. “I’m trying to get better day-by-day, and if you’re watching other people and keeping track of other people, that’s when you lose track of your game.”

ILB Curtis Robinson

Robinson signed with the Broncos as an undrafted free agent after a productive career at Stanford, where he was two-time All-Pac-12 honorable mention and team captain in 2020.

His final season at Stanford featured a team-leading 44 tackles and three tackles for loss in six games. That followed a strong 2019 during which Robinson rebounded from a back injury that limited him to two games the year prior and had him wondering if he would ever play again.

Robinson said he brings speed and intelligence to the inside linebacker room as he competes alongside Josh Watson, Peter Kalambayi and Barrington Wade (signed during training camp) on the depth chart.

Last year, the Broncos carried five inside linebackers on the initial 53-man, meaning those four players are competing for two spots after locks Alexander Johnson, Josey Jewell and Justin Strnad.

“I’ve got good vets ahead of me, so I’m doing my best to soak up everything I can and continue to progress as an inside linebacker,” Robinson said. “Camp has helped out a lot with the playbook… I’m starting to feel a lot more confident in the basic stuff and all the little details of our schemes and techniques.”

WR Branden Mack

Mack signed as an undrafted free agent following an outstanding career at Temple, where he finished tied for fifth on the Owls’ all-time receiving touchdowns list with 15.

The 6-foot-5 vertical threat knows his best chance to make the team is through special teams, and he’s embracing his opportunity to learn under the likes of Sutton and Jeudy.

Mack also has plenty of added motivation in his fight for a spot on the roster or practice squad. His father, Daryl, passed away in spring 2017 when Mack was a redshirt freshman. Even before breaking out on the college scene, he had lost his “biggest role model.”

“We were always talking about me being in the NFL, and just having a chance at it,” Mack said. “I carry that weight on my shoulders, but I know he’s watching me from above. I want to continue to make him proud… When he passed away that was a big burden on my whole family, and everybody went downhill. But I noticed that I can’t go downhill. I’ve got to stay up, be encouraging, be positive for my mom and for my family.”

OLB Andre Mintze

A four-year letterman at Vanderbilt who registered 75 tackles and 17 tackles for loss over 43 career games, Mintze signed with the Broncos as an undrafted free agent.

Mintze is one of six outside linebackers on the roster, and is competing alongside Derek Tuszka and Pita Taumoepenu for the fourth and maybe fifth spots on the roster (Von Miller, Bradley Chubb and Malik Reed being locks).

“My goal is to show I’m a physical, smart player and to make an impact — whether that’s on field goal block, punt, punt return, even on defense,” Mintze said. “I want to show I have volume and that I can perform at this level.”

More rookie longshots

CB Kary Vincent (seventh-round pick out of LSU, opted out of the 2020 season)… FB Adam Prentice (only true fullback on roster, undrafted free agent out of South Carolina)… DB Mac McCain III (undrafted free agent out of North Carolina A&T)… G Nolan Laufenberg (Castle View and Air Force product, undrafted free agent)… T Drew Himmelman (the tallest player on the roster at 6-foot-10, undrafted free agent out of Illinois State)… WR DeVontres Dukes (undrafted free agent out of South Florida)… TE Shaun Beyer (undrafted free agent out of Iowa)… S Jamar Johnson (fifth-round pick out of Indiana, but on the reserve/COVID list all of training camp).

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