(247 SPORTS) – Following the 2018 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos signed Auburn edge rusher Jeff Holland. Holland didn’t hear his name called on draft day, but he could end up as a true diamond in the rough.
GM John Elway has a knack for finding those guys post-draft. Guys like Chris Harris, Jr., C.J. Anderson and Shaquil Barrett were all college free agents the Broncos signed following the draft. Two of those guys have gone on to earn Pro Bowl nods, and all three contributed to Denver’s third World Championship.
Holland has the talent and the opportunity to follow suit. Last year at Auburn he tallied 9.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for a loss. That’s not easy to do in the uber-competitive and ultra-talented SEC.
The 6-foot-2, 249-pound edge rusher didn’t have the ideal size and body type that NFL scouts look for and there were questions about his passion for football that led to him falling completely out of the draft.
Holland ran a 4.79 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. For comparison, No. 5 overall pick Bradley Chubb ran a 4.65.
But it’s not the measurables that drew the Broncos to Holland, but rather his ability to make an impact on the field. He was a disruptive force for the Tigers defense and one that opposing teams had to game-plan for.
Holland landed in the right place at the right time. When Shane Ray was lost for the next three months due to reaggravating his wrist, Holland’s prospects of making the 53-man roster skyrocketed.
Holland has already defied the odds, and is working to maximize his opportunity in Denver. He’s already made a strong impression on the coaching staff.
“We record all of the positive that guys make, and right now he’s blowing people away,” Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods said last week. “He had a big day at the end of last week in OTAs, but right now he’s leading the charge. We just need to see what he does in training camp and in the preseason.”
If a coordinator is saying publicly that an undrafted rookie is “blowing people away”, we should all sit up and take notice. I’ve been told my more than one guy I trust that Holland has been making the second and third-team offensive tackles look silly at OTAs.
But as Coach Woods alluded to, 53-man rosters aren’t forged in May and June. Holland will have to parlay his strong start into training camp and preseason production.
“You never know,” Woods said. “The biggest thing is making plays between the white lines.”
While much remains to be seen with regard to Jeff Holland, the early returns are more than encouraging. If he can have a similar career trajectory as Shaquil Barrett, the Broncos will have yet another weapon in their pass rushing arsenal.