ENGLEWOOD, Colo. –For nine consecutive years, at least one undrafted rookie has made the Broncos' 53-man roster coming out of the preseason. Making it 10 might be difficult, not because the quality of this year's undrafted crop has declined, but because the Broncos' gradual rebuild of the depth of the roster has left slots at a greater premium than at any point since 2005.
But at minimum, you'll see some of the undrafted Broncos stick beyond the preseason on the practice squad. And as Chris Harris demonstrated in 2011, you will get snaps, even when you're at the bottom of the depth chart: it's simply what you do with them.
While all will get chances, some of the Broncos' pickups already jump off the page:
RB C.J. Anderson, California: When someone averages 5.7 yards per carry in the Pac-12 the last two years – including 6.3 on 126 carries as a senior -- you have to wonder why he was undrafted. In Anderson's case, it's because his size isn't ideal; he's short (5-foot-8) and fairly squat (224 pounds). But there's an NFL future for him if he can learn to burrow for two-yard gains in short-yardage situations. He could also have a future at fullback if he can improve his blocking and add some weight, and he has enough skills with the football to be a weapon. Because the Broncos usually like to keep a running back on the practice squad in case of an emergency, Anderson has a legitimate shot.
QB Ryan Katz, San Diego State:Don't dismiss his chances of sticking around beyond the preseason, even though snaps will be at a premium as the Broncos work to get Brock Osweiler as many repetitions as possible so he can be ready to assume the reins in the future. Remember, the Broncos were prepared to keep a fourth quarterback with one of their practice-squad slots last year, but 2011 pickup Adam Weber opted to sign with the Buccaneers. "You can never have enough good, young quarterbacks," Elway said Saturday, and if Katz shows enough promise, the Broncos will have a spot for him, even if it's on the practice squad. Katz's presence also ensures that seventh-round pick Zac Dysert's roster spot is not guaranteed; the two rookies will push each other. Whoever is on the 53-man roster will have earned his slot.
LB Douglas Rippy, Colorado:Rippy is athletic and aggressive enough to have been drafted, but slipped out of the seven rounds because of concerns about knee injuries. He had surgery after a knee sprain in 2009 and torn ligaments in 2011, and missed time with a sprained lateral collateral ligament last year. Rippy is versatile, having started at middle and strongside linebacker, and is an outstanding special-teamer, having once blocked two punts in the same game, at Toledo in 2009. If healthy, he could be a steal.
Rippy will have competition from BYU's Uona Kaveinga and Florida's Lerentee McCray, both of whom also signed just after the draft. As with last year, linebacker is the slot that could yield an undrafted player who sticks.
WR/KR Quincy McDuffie, Central Florida:When someone scores a touchdown once every 15 returns for his career – and once every 5.7 returns as a senior – you have to take notice. You'd like to see more production on offense, as well as work on punt returns (he never had the opportunity for that at UCF), but he's fast (his 40 time has been as low as 4.35 seconds) and will get a look, even with Trindon Holliday coming back. McDuffie will have company on returns at rookie camp; New Mexico's Lamaar Thomas could also get a look there.
OL Manase Foketi, West Texas A&M:Foketi started at Kansas State in 2010 and 2011 before tearing an Achilles tendon, then wound up at West Texas A&M after K-State didn't allow him to transfer, even though he'd already graduated. He played well last year in Division II, but only now is coming back to where he was before tearing the Achilles. Although he was a college tackle, his size (318 pounds on a 6-foot-5 frame), footwork and build lend themselves more to guard, and he'll have a better chance to stick there, anyway, since sixth-rounder Vinston Painter has the inside track on a long-term backup slot at tackle. Foketi could push 2012 fourth-rounder Philip Blake and returning backups C.J. Davis and Manny Ramirez for a spot.