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The Denver Broncos surprisingly claimed a rookie running back off of waivers, stealing Nate McCrary from the Baltimore Ravens. What does he bring?
Denver Broncos general manager George Paton made an interesting comment after the team finalized its initial 53-man roster about a desire to improve the “team speed”. That was obviously emphasized throughout the 2021 offseason, Paton’s first on the job in the NFL as a GM.
The team speed in Denver has noticeably improved, and that is going to loom absolutely large as the Broncos attempt to compete in a division with so much speed already.
It’s not that the Denver Broncos were deliberately trying to acquire slower players before, but there has been a clear emphasis on adding dynamic athletes at every position, and that continued when Paton and the rest of the personnel department made the decision to move on from Royce Freeman and add undrafted rookie Nate McCrary from the Baltimore Ravens on waivers.
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Although Royce Freeman was no sloth in the pre-draft testing for the 2018 NFL Draft, he didn’t rank in the top 100 over the last 34 years at his particular position group as Nate McCrary did.
Nathan McCrary is a RB prospect in the 2021 draft class. He scored a 9.42 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 86 out of 1463 RB from 1987 to 2021. https://t.co/qvYFRXwj0x #RAS via @Mathbomb pic.twitter.com/DnCtfM5LGn
— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 29, 2021
McCrary had a nice preseason for the Baltimore Ravens, obviously, and the Denver Broncos’ pro personnel department obviously took notice.
He was in contention for the Ravens’ RB3 position and the irony of all this is, most people probably assumed going into roster cut time that it might be the Baltimore Ravens poaching a running back from the Denver Broncos (meaning Royce Freeman if/when he got cut) rather than the other way around.
McCrary has tremendous size at the position, just like Freeman, but his explosiveness and speed metrics are on another level. Although his RAS score says 4.52 in the 40-yard dash, McCrary was clocked by some at his pro day in the low 4.4 range or even high 4.3 range.
Either way, a 4.52 is not a bad number at all, and McCrary has some burst to him.
It’s always intriguing when the Broncos add players at the skill positions, but especially given how “set” it felt they were at running back all offseason, it’s fascinating to see a brand-new player come into the fold on the active roster who might contribute rather quickly.
McCrary showed some nice receiving chops in preseason play with the Ravens, some good contact balance, and tackle-breaking ability.
It’s tough to say goodbye to Royce Freeman, who was at one point the clear RB1 on this Denver Broncos team and the apparent thunder to Phillip Lindsay’s lightning. That dream was rather fleeting and now both of those studs from the class of 2018 have fizzled and are going to have to prove themselves on new teams in 2021.
For the Denver Broncos, McCrary has nice upside and even if the team tries to shuffle him around when Mike Boone returns, he will get a huge opportunity to put his athletic gifts to use on special teams and perhaps offensively through the first three weeks of the season.