ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Six players from the Denver Broncos' nine-man draft class made the initial 53-man roster, but it's a guy the team hopes doesn't play a down this year that has the team very excited.
Yes, the Broncos are more than excited about the potential of some of their other 2015 draft picks like linebacker Shane Ray, tackle Ty Sambrailo, Lorenzo Doss and Jeff Heuerman, who is on injured reserve. But when the Broncos grabbed quarterback Trevor Siemian in the seventh round earlier this year, he was recovering from ACL surgery and had only been Northwestern’s unquestioned starter for one season. That's not the usual recipe for tossing confetti at a quarterback prospect.
But Siemian simply forced the Broncos to keep him as their No. 3 quarterback and he did it with a live arm and level-headed play less than a year after surgery to repair his ACL.
“We saw the arm,’’ said Broncos coach Gary Kubiak Saturday. “There was no doubt about the arm. When you watch him throw the ball at Northwestern, some of the wind and trees are going sideways and he’s out there making throws all over the field. You knew that he had that ability. Now, everything else, you’ve got to see, but he really came in and he’s adapted very well ... With the knee coming along, would this be a long project situation? We didn’t know. He’s the one that made up the ground.’’
The Broncos held Siemian out of most of their offseason work, but he was cleared in time to participate in training camp and in the preseason. He moved from the No. 4 quarterback to No. 3 on the depth chart when he led the Broncos to a come-from-behind win in Houston in the Broncos' second preseason game.
The Broncos released Zac Dysert, a seventh-round pick in 2013, in the first round of roster cuts. Then the question became whether to A) keep him on the roster as the No. 3 quarterback, or B) risk exposing Siemian to waivers, where any team could claim him. By the end of the preseason, Siemian threw for 283 yards behind sometimes spotty protection as the Broncos worked a variety of combinations in the offensive line, with two touchdowns and an interception.
“He came in and obviously he was not healthy, there was a concern how long could we go, but he was the one that did it,’’ Kubiak said. "He worked really hard throughout the course of the summer ... Every time he went on the field, he found a way to make plays. He’s a leader and a very confident young man.’’
Siemian also scored with the coaching staff with his occasional work against the Broncos’ starting defense as the scout team quarterback in practices. While that has been a tall order for all of the Broncos’ quarterbacks -- Peyton Manning has called it “hard work’’ -- including Siemian, the Broncos liked the way he bounced back from mistakes and handled himself along the way.
“He’s a very confident kid,’’ Kubiak said. “There is not a throw he can’t make. I think the question was how much could he handle mentally and from what he did in college, how much could he progress. He’s handled that very, very well. Guys gravitate to him. You never know ... leadership skills until a guy walks into the door. He has shown that.’’
Following the Broncos’ preseason finale, Siemian said the decision about making the roster was “over my paygrade’’ and called himself “lucky’’ to be in a meeting room with Manning and Brock Osweiler.
“I’m feeling good,’’ he said this past week. “I mean, there’s definitely stuff I need to work on for sure, and I’m still learning, like I said, so just learn something new every day and get a little better each day. And I think I’ve done that.’’