At a glance, the Denver Broncos' roster might seem a tad underwhelming. However, if you take a deeper look at the squad, some seriously underrated players have been flying under the radar.

Each year it seems like the Broncos have a knack for finding undrafted free agent talent. In fact, two of the biggest hidden gems on the Broncos roster were signed as undrafted free agents the past two seasons. They are cornerback Ja'Quan McMillian and running back Jaleel McLaughlin.

Cornerback Ja'Quan McMillian

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) runs the ball ahead of Denver Broncos cornerback Ja'Quan McMillian (29)
© Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

In college, Ja'Quan McMillian was an impressive cornerback. Over three seasons at East Carolina, he amassed 12 interceptions, 28 passes defended, and 127 total tackles. His junior year in 2021 was particularly impressive, as he was top-10 in the NCAA in interceptions on the season (5). Statistically, this was his best season with career highs in solo tackles, total tackles, interceptions, and passes defended. This earned him second-team All-AAC honors in both 2020 and 2021. Despite these accomplishments, McMillian went undrafted in the 2022 NFL Draft, likely due to concerns about his size at 5'10” and 183 pounds.

The Broncos saw his potential, however, and signed him as an undrafted free agent. McMillian would face an uphill battle to make the roster, as he was undersized, undrafted, and was coming into the NFL from a small school. It didn't take long for McMillian to start turning heads in the offseason, though. McMillian would have an impressive training camp and preseason. He would end up being waived on the final roster cuts in late August, but was immediately resigned to the Broncos' practice squad. Late in the season, he would be elevated to the active roster. McMillian made his NFL debut in Week 18 against the Los Angeles Chargers, and he would end up playing every snap.

Heading into the 2023 offseason, McMillian picked up where he left off and continued impressing in training camp and in the preseason. Except this time around, McMillian would make the final 53-man roster. He wouldn't initially be a starter, but he was put into the Broncos' lineup in Week 4. He would play 43 snaps in that game and would end up averaging 47 snaps per game over the final 14 games of the season. The Broncos would go on an insane winning streak, and this is where McMillian showcased his best football. He would have eight stops, two huge interceptions, and a forced fumble.

McMillian would establish himself as a solid nickel option for the Broncos. While he's certainly far from a perfect corner, his potential is very intriguing. There is a good chance he is a hidden defensive gem for the Broncos in 2024.

Running back Jaleel McLaughlin

At Youngstown State, Jaleel McLaughlin was a dynamic running back. After spending a few seasons at both Youngstown State and Notre Dame, he became the all-time leading rusher in NCAA history with 8,161 yards. His ability to break tackles and make explosive plays earned him multiple All-American honors and showcased his potential to excel at the next level.

Despite his collegiate success, McLaughlin went undrafted in 2023. The Broncos, recognizing his potential, signed him as an undrafted free agent. During his rookie season, McLaughlin was turning heads in training camp and in the preseason. McLaughlin seized his opportunities, and impressed enough to be a part of the final 53-man roster. He appeared in all 17 games for the Broncos in his rookie season. He would rush for 410 yards and 1 touchdown on 76 carries, while adding 160 receiving yards on 31 receptions and 2 touchdowns. His versatility and explosiveness made him a consistent threat, particularly in third-down situations. He also had a certain elusiveness to him, making him incredibly difficult to tackle.

As an undersized running back at 5'7″, McLaughlin’s ability to adapt to the NFL's pace and physicality has been impressive.  His quickness, vision, and ability to make defenders miss in open space has provided a pleasant spark to the Broncos' offense. As the 2024 season approaches, McLaughlin's could end up competing with Javonte Williams for the starting running back position. Regardless, McLaughlin is someone you should keep your eyes on.