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Shrine Bowl Preview: Four players to watch for the Broncos

(Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)

For 14 years, I have gone on what I call the “All-Star Road Trip” and that begins every January with the East-West Shrine Bowl. I have traveled to Houston, Orlando and Tampa for this game, and it has been in Tampa now since 2012.

The Shrine Bowl is a game featuring some of the best seniors in the country. They aren’t top-level picks like I’ll see next week at the Senior Bowl, but these are players who can have long and fruitful careers in the NFL. During the past 14 years, I’ve seen future Broncos players like Emmanuel Sanders (2010), Phillip Lindsay (2018), DaeSean Hamilton (2018) and Justin Hollins (2019) at this game.

The Broncos scouting staff is on the road again too. They will be at the Shrine Bowl practices in full force looking for more players to help put them over the top.

Who are a few of the players the Broncos should watch closely at this game? Let’s take a look.

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Joe Reed | WR | Virginia
6’1″ | 215 lbs.

The Broncos offense could use some more speed at the wide receiver position. This is where Joe Reed from Virginia comes into consideration. Reed has the speed to threaten a defense vertically and his speed also allows him to pull away from defenders after the catch. He does a good job of tracking passes over his shoulder and also knows how to position himself near the sideline or the back of the end zone to make a difficult catch. Reed does not back down from a challenge and had his best game of the 2019 season (nine catches, 107 yards, one touchdown) against then No. 14 Notre Dame. He’s a late-round wide receiver the Broncos should keep their eye on.

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Jon Runyan | OT | Michigan
6’5″ | 321 lbs.

The Broncos offensive line is a work in progress and they need to add more competition at the position. Michigan’s Jon Runyan could be a player they draft or pick up as a priority free agent from this game. Runyan (yes, he’s the son of former NFL Pro Bowl o-lineman Jon Runyan) is huge at 321 pounds, but is not a power player. Instead, he does a good job of moving his feet and countering rushers on the edge. Runyan would be a perfect player for Broncos offensive line coach Mike Munchak to develop. Munchak could take that natural athleticism of Runyan as a pass-blocker and teach him to play with better power as a run-blocker.

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Patrick Taylor Jr. | RB | Memphis
6’3″ | 227 lbs.

With new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, the Broncos are going to need running backs who can catch the ball out of the backfield. How about a back who can do that and also line up in the slot at 227 pounds? Oh yeah, how about that back also has an insane nose for the end zone (36 rushing touchdowns in four years)? I present to you Patrick Taylor Jr. from Memphis. Taylor is huge all-purpose running back and not your traditional banger between the tackles due to his size – he can catch naturally and even run routes like a wide receiver! The Broncos have Phillip Lindsay as their starter, but he needs help. That’s where Taylor could come in as a mid- to late-round pick for the Broncos.

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Parnell Motley | CB | Oklahoma
5’11” | 180 lbs.

There is a need at the cornerback position for the Broncos defense, even if it’s just for depth. Parnell Motley from Oklahoma has some traits that should make him very enticing for a Vic Fangio defense. First, he always seems to be around the ball, as evidenced by his 11 pass breakups in 2019. Motley is not the biggest corner, but he doesn’t shy away from tackling (another plus for Fangio) and can rip the ball away from an opponent (four forced fumbles in 2019). The second-team All-Big 12 defender should be one of the best cornerbacks at the Shrine Bowl and I’m expecting him to stand out during the week of practice.