Courtland Sutton was one of the few bright spots for the Denver Broncos in their Week 15 defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs. And after reviewing the film, we have more evidence that he is blossoming into a complete NFL wide receiver in 2019. While few will remember his display in a 23-3 loss in Kansas City, his showing was one in which his underrated ability after the catch came to the fore.
The 6’4″ and 216-pound Sutton is regarded more for his incredible knack for bringing down scarcely believable contested catches. Given his size and his relatively pedestrian 40-yard dash time of 4.54 seconds, Sutton may not be seen by many as a dangerous open-field threat.
Yet just as you should never judge a book by its cover, you should never judge a receiver by his body type, and Sutton demonstrated that in the Broncos’ blowout loss at Arrowhead Stadium.
Sutton caught four of 10 targets for 79 yards. It’s an unspectacular statistical performance, but one that earned him a Pro Football Network Offensive Share Metric (OSM) grade of 29.89. OSM uses NFL’s NextGen Stats and a series of algorithms to measure a player’s contribution to his offense’s production by looking at the factors only he could control.
The score Sutton received for his Week 15 display indicated a good level of performance. He was right on the fringe of a ‘very good’ grade, and it was a mark he earned by turning short throws from Drew Lock into significant gains.
Despite averaging just 2.9 yards of cushion – the smallest amount of any receiver in Week 15 – Sutton led all wideouts in yards after the catch per reception with 15.3, according to NextGen Stats.
Lock had limited success pushing the ball downfield. Per NextGen Stats, his average intended air yards per pass was 6.9, but his average amount of completed air yards was only 2.9. Where the rookie did have success, however, was in quickly getting the ball to Sutton in space.
Here in the fourth quarter with the Broncos backed up against their endzone, Sutton earns his team some breathing room by catching a quick screen pass and cutting upfield, before showing off his power by shaking off a tackle from Bashuad Breeland and gaining 33 yards.
Only two of Sutton’s four catches went for more than 10 yards, but this nine-yarder on third down would have earned substantially more yardage if not from some excellent hustle from Chiefs defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon. It was a play that foreshadowed Sutton’s second and final significant gain of the contest.
Kansas City cornerback Charvarius Ward did not learn his lesson from that completion, as Sutton was later again able to gain separation and evade his tackle attempt to get into the open field. He then demonstrated elusiveness to weave his way past Kendall Fuller, and it took two defenders to eventually haul him down 27 yards later and prevent Sutton from finding paydirt.
In snowy conditions where it was difficult to find solid footing and hit top gear in space, Sutton shone in an area of the game where he is not highly regarded. Denver may not have hit the heights some anticipated this season. But, having surpassed 1,000 yards on Sunday, Sutton is making the second-year leap expected of him and developing a well-rounded skill set that should help the former second-round pick grow into one of the NFL’s elite at the receiver position.