AFC West: Brelan Chancellor

SAN DIEGO -- I wanted to share leftover notes from the only open session for the San Diego Chargers' organized team activities this week.

The Chargers have another OTA practice closed to reporters Wednesday but will open things up to the media again Monday.

Oliver impresses: Undrafted rookie free-agent running back Branden Oliver caught my eye again Monday. The University of Buffalo product does not have elite top-end speed, running a 4.56-second, 40-yard time at his pro day. But he consistently showed good vision and quickness through the hole during 11-on-11 drills, with the ability to make defenders miss. Again, take this with a grain of salt because guys do not have pads on and no one is tackling anybody. But Oliver looks like he belongs so far running with the second and third units.

Depth at defensive end: The Chargers have a pretty good defensive end combination with Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes but not much depth behind those two. Lawrence Guy provided good minutes and had an impact as a spot guy last year. Sean Lissemore can slide out from nose guard and play defensive end. The Chargers also are hopefulDamik Scafe can stay healthy and play to his potential. The Boston College product had chance to make the final roster last season but suffered a foot injury and was released with an injury settlement. The Chargers brought Scafe back on the practice squad at the end of last season and signed him to a futures contract in January. Undrafted rookie free agent Tenny Palepoi also has shown flashes at times during practice.

Open competition at returner: San Diego has a lot of bodies competing for punt return duties so far during offseason work. Rookie receivers Brelan Chancellor, Javontee Herndon and Tevin Reese, along with veterans Eddie Royal and Keenan Allen, caught punts during the specialty period. I wouldn't rule out Royal or Allen handling punt return duties come September. Royal started 2013 as San Diego's main punt returner but yielded to Allen during the second half of the season due to a nagging toe injury. And Allen has said that he'd like to return punts again, although San Diego coach Mike McCoy might not like the idea of his No. 1 receiver fielding punts for a second straight year.

Competition at punter: A player to keep an eye on is undrafted rookie free-agent punter Chase Tenpenny, whose presence is viewed as a move to save veteran punter Mike Scifres' leg during the offseason. At 6-foot-3 and 252 pounds, the Nevada product looks more like a defensive end than a punter. Tenpenny, a left-footed punter, averaged 44 yards a boot at Nevada and finished with 30 punts out of 100 attempts downed inside the 20-yard line. Scifres had a solid 2013 season. He was among the best punters in the NFL in placing the ball inside the 20-yard line, finishing with a league-best 30 of 56 punts inside the 20. He can also kick field goals in a pinch. But Scifres turns 34 in October and is set to earn the second-highest salary among punters for the upcoming season at $3.25 million. Competition at the position could have Scifres thinking about taking a pay cut.
On the Denver Broncos' pre-draft list of wants and needs, they could still use some help at wide receiver. The help they’ve already signed this offseason at wide receiver, Emmanuel Sanders, also happens to be the team's top returner.

But the Broncos would like Sanders to surpass his career-best of 67 catches when he gets to work in their offense, so having him also return kickoffs and punts is not ideal. Once in a while, sure, but the Broncos aren't looking to put Sanders on the receiving end of punts and kickoffs unless they have to because they have big plans for him in the offense.

[+] EnlargeBrelan Chancellor
Scott Sewell/USA TODAY SportsBrelan Chancellor could be an appealing option as a return man for the Broncos.
And there are plenty of front-line receivers in this draft with serious return skills -- most notably players such as LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. and Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks -- but down the board is an intriguing player worth a long look by the Broncos.

North Texas wide receiver Brelan Chancellor wasn’t invited to the scouting combine, but he deserved to be. He had 1,964 all-purpose yards this past season, a total that included a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against then-No. 9 Georgia that showed patience and the speed to close the deal against a SEC heavyweight.

Also, only two college players in the nation had three punt returns for at least 50 yards last season and Chancellor was one of them.

Chancellor showed some plenty of versatility as a receiver, especially this past season, and could line up outside or in the slot to add some depth on a roster.

He had a 53-catch season in ’13 with an average of 14.9 yards per catch. At 5-foot-8 1/2 and 188 pounds, Chancellor is undersized. But like a similarly sized wide receiver on this draft board in Wyoming's Robert Herron (5-foot-9, 193), Chancellor is a former running back who has been durable and decisive with the ball in his hands.

Chancellor ran a 4.51 40-yard dash at the school’s pro day earlier this month, a workout the Broncos attended. His 41-inch vertical jump and broad jump of 10 feet, 1 inch would have been among the best at the combine.

Chancellor’s Indy snub was one of those annual misses made by the committee of personnel executives who make the selections, but hey can’t invite everybody who's worthy. Often the desire to put a player who has been injured through the extensive medical exam will tip the scales in some of the selections.

Last year, 29 players who were not invited to the combine were selected in the seven-round draft -- or 11.4 percent of selections -- so a guy who was a conference special teams player of the year isn't exactly a sleeper to the guys who evaluate for a living.

As a result Chancellor is not an under-the-radar player for special-teams units with a need -- he's squarely on it.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider

AFC WEST SCOREBOARD