The Denver Broncos have been good at finding late round sleepers with John Elway at the helm. In 2011, it was Julius Thomas and Virgil Green. 2012 brought the team Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan. Quanterus Smith and Vinston Painter may be two late gems uncovered in 2013 who will have prominent roles on the team. The Broncos seem to be excited about the potential of both players.
Here is a look at four potential sleepers by round who fit the Broncos style and could become key contributors in the next year or two.
Jeff Janis, WR, Saginaw Valley
I have the Broncos selecting Janis in mock draft 3.0. He has been interviewed by the Broncos’ staff and has been linked to the team. They seem to have solid interest in him.
He fits because he is similar to Eric Decker. He has size and athleticism. If they don’t get him by round four he will likely be gone as teams will take a chance on a receiver with his size and speed. Several other teams have shown interest in him.
Janis will learn for a year and contribute a few catches, but 2015 will be his breakout year. Wes Welker will likely be gone and the Broncos will move Emmanuel Sanders to the slot. Janis will need to step up as the #2 receiver opposite Demaryius Thomas.
Strengths – He is 6-foot-3 and weighs 219 pounds. He ran a 4.42 forty at the combine and erased any doubts about his speed and athleticism. He was a top performer in the three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle. He also showed off his strength in the bench press.
Janis was very productive in college. For his career he caught 246 passes for 4,305 yards and 46 touchdowns. He capped it by catching 83 passes for 1,572 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior. Janis exhibits a great work ethic and a love for the game. He accelerates into his routes quickly and can get separation. He has potential to be a beast in the red zone. He has solid footwork in and out of his breaks. Janis is tough to bring down and will hold onto the ball when hit hard. He is a tough try-hard player.
Weaknesses – Janis played against lower level competition. He seems to fight the ball at times when catching it causing “double catches” which will allow NFL defenders to knock the ball down. He has small hands, but in his defense he was not credited with a fumble in 2013. Could stand to improve some of his routes.
Walt Aikens, CB, Liberty
I have mocked Aikens to the Broncos. He fits the style the Broncos want in a cornerback. He is physical and attacks the run. It was a surprise when they drafted Kayvon Webster in the third round last year, but they liked his size and physicality. Don’t be surprised if they target Aikens earlier also.
Strengths – Aikens has good size at 6-foot-1 and 203 pounds. He plays physical and doesn’t shy away from attacking the run (he played safety for one year). Adequate speed for the position evidenced by his 4.49 forty at his pro day. He has long arms and an athletic build. Can play both press and off-man schemes. He gets a good jam on receivers at the line and played well at the Senior Bowl.
Weaknesses – He is from a small school and faced lower level competition. Aikens has some issues off the field. He is not a ball-hawk. He will sometimes grab receivers downfield leading to flags at the pro level.
Deandre Coleman, DT, California
I also mocked Coleman to the Broncos. He is very similar to Kevin Vickerson with room on his frame to add more bulk making him the type of player Jack Del Rio likes on the defensive line. Since Vickerson is going to be a free agent after 2014, Coleman can contribute in the rotation, learn for a year and potentially take Vickerson’s spot in 2015.
Strengths – Coleman has good size for the position at 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds. He is strong in both his legs and upper body. He plays the run well, takes up space and keeps blockers off his body with a good arm extension. He has significant experience by playing 37 games in the Pac 12 and had break out performances in Cal’s final game and the Senior Bowl. He has the ability to play different schemes.
Weaknesses – He does not rush the passer well and has only a bull rush move to get to the quarterback. He needs technique work and can stand up at the snap especially as he tires. Coleman has questions concerning his desire and will need a motivational coach.
Lorenzo Taliaferro, RB, Coastal Carolina
The Broncos need depth at running back and Taliaferro fits their style of running back. He is powerful and good enough vision to play in a zone scheme. He has shown the ability to pass protect. He would be a good end of the game runner and could spell Montee Ball.
Strengths – He has great size for the position at 6-foot-0 and 230 pounds. His speed is adequate as he ran a 4.58 forty at the Combine. He had great production at Coastal Carolina by rushing for 1,742, adding 153 yards receiving and tallying 29 total touchdowns. He runs with power and low pad level. Taliaferro fights for every yard and rarely loses yardage. He keeps his legs churning and usually falls forward when tackled. He easily breaks arm tackles. He is patient waiting for his blocks and is decisive with no dancing in the backfield. He wasn’t asked to block in pass protection much as he split out wide in passing situations frequently, but when he did block he was adequate in pass protection. At the Senior Bowl he showed very good pass protection skills. He is a reliable receiver.
Weaknesses – He played lower level competition and he did not perform well against South Carolina gaining only 21 yards rushing. He is not a creative runner and usually gets what is blocked for him. He doesn’t have any wiggle and Taliaferro doesn’t typically make defenders miss with moves. He takes time to get to full speed.
Janis and Aikens have future starting potential for the Broncos in 2015. Coleman and Taliaferro would be great depth players and could contribute as starters when called upon. All four would be great late round pickups.