Broncos' depth good for the team, bad for undrafted rookies

Jordan Taylor played 38 snaps on offense in Denver's preseason finale. Denver Post via Getty Images

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The streak is over and in the biggest of pictures, it might be a good thing for the Denver Broncos.

When the Broncos reduced their roster to 53 players Saturday, it was the first time in over a decade an undrafted rookie was not among the names on the initial roster. So, what started with cornerback Roc Alexander in 2004 has ended with wide receiver Isaiah Burse and running back Juwan Thompson, who each made the initial 53-player roster last season.

The Broncos had been tied for the third-longest streak in the league. The Indianapolis Colts’ extended their league=leading streak to 17 seasons Saturday when Yale running back Tyler Varga made the initial roster.

The Kansas City Chiefs' streak of 12 years ended Saturday when they released all of their undrafted rookies.

"I’ll tell you right now that heads are going to roll in the personnel department because they didn’t find a (college free agent) out there," Broncos GM John Elway said with a laugh Saturday. "We’ll cross that bridge. We didn’t find that needle in the haystack, but it (speaks to) the roster that we have. It’s a lot deeper than it used to be, and there are several people that could have made the roster this year, but we ran out of spots."

The players who closed out the preseason with the best chance to keep the streak alive for the Broncos were wide receiver Jordan Taylor and linebacker Zaire Anderson. Both got significant playing time in the preseason, including 38 snaps on offense to go with 10 snaps on special teams in last week’s preseason finale against the Arizona Cardinals for Taylor. Anderson got 31 snaps on defense and 23 snaps on special teams in that game.

But they also happened to find themselves on the deepest Denver teams in several years at two of the most crowded spots on the roster. The Broncos kept six wide receivers, including Bennie Fowler, who was an undrafted rookie in last year's training camp and then spent the season on the team’s practice squad in 2014.

And linebacker was so crowded the Broncos released Steven Johnson -- who tied for the team lead in special teams tackles in 2013 and was second last season -- and Lamin Barrow, who was a fifth-round pick in the 2014 draft.

During the streak the biggest success stories among the Broncos undrafteds have been cornerback Chris Harris Jr. (2011), an elite player at his position, running back C.J. Anderson (2013), linebacker Wesley Woodyard (2008), long snapper Aaron Bewer (2012) and tackle Tyler Polumbus (2008). Harris leads the way as among the best in the league at his position and signed a $42.5 million contract extension with the Broncos last December.

Woodyard was a team captain throughout his six-year tenure with the Broncos and is set to enter his second season with the Titans. Anderson is the Broncos’ No. 1 running back and was an injury replacement in the Pro Bowl following the 2014 season. Polumbus, now with the Atlanta Falcons, is set to enter his seventh NFL season.