The Denver Broncos surprised many, including me, when they traded their seventh-round pick away to move up and take Colorado wide receiver Juwann Winfree in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. The reason it was a surprise?
Most knowledgeable projections had Winfree going undrafted. And he probably would have, had he not chosen to attend the local Pro Day the Broncos hosted prior to the draft.
While Winfree is more of the opinion that his entire pre-draft body of work is the biggest factor to him getting drafted, it was no coincidence that the Broncos got an up-close look-see at the Pro Day, and drafted him a matter of days later.
“I definitely didn’t think they were really high on me, to be honest with you, but after the local pro day that I attended, and sitting down with the receiver coach [Zach Azzanni], he really expressed high interest in me,” Winfree said. “From there I could see I really changed their point of view on me. Them seeing me close-up, seeing what type of player I am and what type of man I am off the field was big for me. That definitely helped a lot.”
The Colorado connection for Winfree is strong. He’s of the opinion that the Broncos’ Pro Bowl running back Phillip Lindsay is one of the big reasons he landed in Denver as a 2019 draft pick.
“Especially with Phillip Lindsay, I know he put in a huge word for me,” Winfree said. “That’s my big brother right there. He paved the way for me, doing what he did, coming from [University of] Colorado. I’m just glad he was able to help me out there doing that. We have the same agent too, so I’m just completely blessed.”
Lindsay went undrafted last year after producing at a prolific level for the Colorado Buffaloes. Lindsay left the college ranks as CU’s third all-time leading rusher.
As for Winfree, he dealt with a lot of injuries in college, which is one of the reasons there’s so little of his tape available. But finally healthy and able to show the Broncos what he can do at 100%, it was enough to impress WRs Coach Zach Azzanni, who maybe pounded the table for Winfree a little more than GM John Elway let on following the draft.
“Juwann, he was kind of a target for us so we wanted to get up [trade up],” Elway said in his end-of-draft presser. “We had heard some things that some other teams were interested, so he was kind of a target for us… He got injured last year. We saw him work at his pro day and feel like he’s got some real upside. We feel good about getting him in the sixth round.”
Winfree is very much an unknown quantity and a diamond in the rough. The Broncos’ wide receiver depth chart is a log-jam of young talent right now, so Winfree will face some stiff odds even making the 53-man roster as a rookie.
But if he can show out in training camp and preseason action, anything’s possible, especially if his position coach is looking out for him. Worst case scenario, Winfree might be a draft pick who needs a year to incubate on the practice squad before being unleashed on the NFL. Only time will tell.