Every single year, the Denver Broncos find some kind of gem in the pool of undrafted free agents. Back in 2008, they unearthed linebacker Wesley Woodyard, a linebacker from Kentucky that looked ‘too small’ to translate at his position to the NFL.
Woodyard became a team captain and was one of the most productive linebackers in the NFL last season, racking up 117 tackles, 5.5 sacks, three interceptions, and six passes broken up.
In 2009, the team signed cornerback Tony Carter out of Florida State, and after bouncing around the league a bit, he wound up back with Denver last season and starting opposite Champ Bailey in place of the injured Tracy Porter. Carter played a huge role in Denver’s playoff run, and has been a standout player in training camp this year.
In 2011, the Broncos signed an unknown corner out of Kansas named Chris Harris, who hadn’t been evaluated by Mike Mayock, Mel Kiper Jr., or Todd McShay whatsoever. Despite going under the radar, Harris has emerged as the best slot cornerback in the NFL today, and is going toe-to-toe with Wes Welker at Broncos training camp. His emergence has helped the Broncos earn a reputation as having one of the best secondaries in the NFL.
The yields on the class of 2012 are still pretty raw, but the Broncos did find their long snapper of the future (and present) in San Diego State’s Aaron Brewer, and may have unearthed a starter at safety in San Jose State’s Duke Ihenacho.
At training camp in 2013, they may have found another undrafted gem in receiver/return specialist Quincy McDuffie, who is behind Wes Welker as the slot receiver on the Broncos’ initial depth chart.
While McDuffie wasn’t nearly the prolific receiver that Welker was in his days at Texas Tech, he was every bit as productive a return man. The Broncos have an All-Pro caliber return specialist in Trindon Holliday, who was picked up off of waivers from the Texans last year (nice going, Houston), but McDuffie is going to push for a roster spot this pre-season, and his ability to work the slot could earn him the #6 WR spot on Denver’s final depth chart.
As a member of the UCF football team, McDuffie set school records for returns (90), kick return yards (2,501), and touchdowns (6). Six touchdowns might not seem like a lot when you consider how many TDs are scored over the course of a season and college career, but six kick return touchdowns are incredibly hard to get. Heck, it’s hard to get even one return touchdown, at any level of football.
That fact alone didn’t get McDuffie drafted, but it got him noticed by the Broncos who liked the quickness of the Sports Illustrated All-American.
In addition to receiving All-American honors, McDuffie was a first-team All C-USA selection and the C-USA special teams player of the year. He wasn’t overly involved in the offensive gameplan as far as total touches go, but he made the most of his opportunities. McDuffie had nine total touchdowns in 2012, three receiving, three rushing, and three returns. He can obviously be used in a variety of ways.
His versatility will help earn him at worst a practice squad spot–one would hope–and his performance in the pre-season could dictate whether he is able to follow in the footsteps of another slot receiver on the Broncos’ roster who made it in the NFL because of his ability to return punts and make an impact on special teams. One who has developed into the best slot receiver in the NFL today.