As the Denver Broncos get ready for training camp at the end of July, many of the off-season questions regarding the team have been related to how the addition of various skill-players will help the Broncos compete for the division this upcoming season. After previously reviewing the Broncos quarterbacks and running backs, we’ll take a look at the teams’ wide receivers in 2020.
Overview of the Broncos 2020 wide receivers
The Broncos infusion of talent at the receiver position could revitalize the whole group, as the added talent at the top of the depth chart has created a trickle-down effect through the rest of the position group.
Though Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler, DaeSean Hamilton, and Tim Patrick have their roster spots all but locked up, their roles on the final roster will remain a mystery. Meanwhile, the rest of the Broncos wide receivers will find themselves competing for a roster spot at WR or on special teams in 2020.
Can Courtland Sutton emerge as one of the league’s elite receivers?
In 2019, Sutton became more of a household name around the NFL with a handful of highlight-reel-worthy catches, a Pro Bowl selection, and by having more than 1,000 yards receiving with three different quarterbacks, two of which had never made an NFL start prior.
This season, he’ll look to build on that success as he forges a connection with Denver’s presumptive QB of the future, Drew Lock. That process should be eased by the addition of Jeudy and a more-developed Noah Fant, which could draw away some of the bracket coverage looks that suffocated Sutton’s production down the stretch last season during key passing situations.
Now, Sutton has newfound stability and better talent at the quarterback position than he has at any point of his career. Pairing that with the offensive weapons surrounding him should help alleviate some of the pressure he faces naturally. Sutton has a strong opportunity to turn into a superstar in 2020.
Jerry Jeudy is ready to hit the ground running in 2020
There hasn’t been an off-season this truncated since the 2011 NFL lock-out, and as a result, rookies across the NFL are now projected to have more of a difficult transition to the league, save for a few outliers.
Fortunately for the Broncos, Jeudy appears to be one of those outliers, thanks to his advanced route running and football intelligence. Not only does Jeudy have the rare physical ability to stop on a dime, generate a quick change of direction, and body control at the top of his routes, but he also understands how to set up opposing cornerbacks with his various releases off of the line of scrimmage and sharp breaks.
His ability to understand how to run NFL-caliber routes should make the transition easier. When you look back at previous draft classes, it’s often discovered that the more polished route-runners typically find immediate success in comparison to the more physical and sizeable players at the position.
For example, A.J. Brown and Terry McLaurin from last year’s rookie class, JuJu Smith-Schuster out-shining John Ross and Corey Davis back in 2017, and Michael Thomas emerged as the best receiver in the 2016 draft class that featured Laquon Treadwell, Corey Coleman, and Will Fuller drafted before him. Jeudy could be the next player in line.
Will DaeSean Hamilton be the odd man out in the Broncos 2020 wide receivers room?
Right now, Hamilton finds himself in an uncomfortable position with second-round pick Hamler nipping at his heels for one of the three starting receiver spots, and Patrick not too far behind him.
As was the case in 2018, Hamilton struggled in 2019 for the first three-quarters of the regular season, but then found a spark with Lock at QB towards the end of the season. In the last four games in each of his first two seasons in the league, Hamilton has totaled 40 receptions for 361 yards and three touchdowns.
Unfortunately, Hamilton hasn’t quite reached the level of production that the team had expected him to be at. In 2020, Hamilton will have to play error-free and can’t afford to get off to a slow start. If he does, Hamilton could find himself dropping down the depth chart.
K.J. Hamler’s presence will make everyone on the offense better
Considering his need for more refinement and development along with the shortened off-season, Hamler will enter the season with a limited role at the start of the season, but one that could expand quickly because of what his speed can do against opposing defenses.
The Broncos have repeatedly fallen victim to that type of speed against the Kansas City Chiefs. Tyreek Hill’s speed forces NFL defenses to spread out and play further off the ball to keep him in front of them. While this lowers the likelihood of being torched over the top on any given play, it opens up the run game and creates larger windows for the quarterback to target his other receivers.
Those traits are why the Broncos took Hamler in the top half of the second round. How soon they’ll be able to utilize it relies on how smoothly he can adjust to the professional game.
Is Tim Patrick a special-teamer or a starter?
Patrick’s ability as a gunner on special teams increases the likelihood that his roster spot is safe, but where he falls on the depth chart remains much of a mystery as various other pass-catchers on the Broncos’ roster.
If Denver decides to line Jeudy up in the slot primarily, where he played at his best in college, Patrick’s combination of size, veteran experience, and consistency when on the field, gives him the edge over Hamilton and Hamler as a boundary target.
However, If Jeudy plays more on the perimeter of the offense, it will be hard to envision Patrick getting too many snaps as a larger slot player, which could lead to Hamler and Hamilton seeing the field more often instead. Even if Patrick falls behind those two, his ability as run-blocker, red-zone target, and gunner means he should still see a significant amount of time on the field.
Tyrie Cleveland adds even more speed to the Broncos offense and special teams
The number of snaps Cleveland sees on offense during his rookie season will likely be few and far between but he does have the ability to be a contributor for the Broncos on special teams right away.
While at the University of Florida, Cleveland was consistently one of their best special teams players, with a combination of size, speed, and physicality, he became the team’s best gunner. He’s also in consideration as a potential return-option for the Broncos.
Will Diontae Spencer remain Denver’s lead returner?
In his first season as the Broncos kick and punt return specialist, Diontae Spencer provided Denver with a sense of reliability and an explosive playmaking element that the team hadn’t had since Trindon Holliday returned punts and kicks for them in 2013.
With that said, earning that role in 2020 will be much more difficult for Spencer than it was last season. Spencer will now have to compete with rookie speedsters Cleveland and Hamler and other players like Khalfani Muhammad and Trinity Benson.
Even if Spencer holds on to the return job, his role on offense will likely be non-existent with Denver’s off-season additions.
How will the Broncos younger and more inexperienced talent put themselves into a position to secure a roster spot? Read more on the next page.