Entering the 2017 season, wide receiver looked to be an offensive strength for the Denver Broncos, but recent injuries to multiple players have crippled their overall depth at the position. The team will be without Emmanuel Sanders and Isaiah McKenzie who suffered sprained ankles in their disastrous loss to the New York Giants for their upcoming gridiron battle against the Los Angeles Chargers — and fourth-year pro Cody Latimer is also questionable for Sunday’s affair. That is a big issue to overcome, especially for an offense that has struggled to routinely put points up on the board all season long.
In order to have enough receivers for the game, the franchise called up practice squad member and former Utah State star Hunter Sharp to the active roster and signed River Cracraft to take his place on the practice squad. Don’t expect these to be permanent solutions for the Broncos at wide receiver, but just band-aids while the others recover from injury.
Demaryius Thomas and the aforementioned Sanders are undoubtedly the team’s best receivers and both are under contract through the 2019 season. Outside of them, there are few long-term options on the team, but injured rookie wide receiver Carlos Henderson will be a part of the Broncos’ future at the position once he is healthy. Depth contributors such as Bennie Fowler (RFA), Jordan Taylor (ERFA) and Sharp (ERFA) could certainly be back on affordable tenders, but Latimer’s future is uncertain being an unrestricted free agent. Though he is an integral member of Denver’s special teams, he has been a terrible bust as a wide receiver and never developed into a player worthy of a second-round selection.
All things considered, the Broncos would be wise to use one of their many selections on a well-rounded collegiate receiver in the 2018 NFL Draft. Listed below are several prospects that may be of interest to the team next April.
James Washington (Senior) — Oklahoma State
While it's unlikely that the Broncos would take a wide receiver in the first round of next year's draft, Oklahoma State's James Washington would have to be in that discussion if they were considering so.
The senior wide receiver has been fantastic for the Cowboys this year, racking up 34 catches for 882 yards (25.9 yards per catch) and six touchdowns in just six games this season. He most recently destroyed Baylor's woeful defense to the tune of 235 yards (on only six receptions) and a touchdown last week. Through 44 games in his collegiate career, Washington has amassed 186 catches for 3,805 yards (20.5 yards per catch) and 32 touchdowns. That’s incredible production and it would be tough to find anyone else in the collegiate ranks who can compare to him statistically.
In my opinion, Washington is the complete package at wide receiver. Though only possessing average size (6’0 and 205 pounds), Washington has tremendous speed and athleticism that makes him a home run threat anytime he catches the ball. Not only that, his knack and ability to come down with 50/50 jump balls is impeccable. You won’t find a better vertical receiver and deep ball receiver in the nation. Oklahoma State’s penchant for airing it out may inflate his stats compared to receivers from less pass-happy programs, but he makes the most of every opportunity he is given.
I’m very impressed with his knowledge of the game and supreme route running skills, which are two areas a lot of young receivers fall short. His prowess in those areas should allow him to become an immediate starter and contributor in the NFL and be a high-profile player for many years to come. Washington is receiving first-round grades from most draft analysts and has drawn favorable comparisons to current Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry.
Perhaps Washington will be everything that Justin Blackmon never developed into. I have a feeling he is going to be a player football fans will be talking about for years to come.
Courtland Sutton (Senior) — Southern Methodist
Sutton might not be getting as many headlines as Washington, but he’s a damn good football player. In fact, some believe he is definitely the top receiver eligible in this year’s draft class. The star of the Mustangs’ offense, Sutton has been putting up fantastic numbers since he made the transition from defensive back to wide receiver as a sophomore for Southern Methodist.
In two and a half years as a starter, the All-American has snagged 158 receptions for 2,624 yards and 26 touchdowns. While Washington beats opposing defensive backs with his top-tier athleticism, Sutton (while no slouch athletically himself) sets up defensive backs for trouble with his 6’4 and 225 pound frame. It’s hard to defend against him in the red zone and it’s darn near impossible to guard him one-on-one. He is a man among boys in the American Athletic Conference and is arguably its best player.
Scouts and teams may knock his draft grade a bit due to competing against lesser competition. Furthermore, there is no question he needs to become a better and more polished route runner, but Sutton has the potential to be a number one receiver in the NFL and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see a team gamble on his upside in the first round of the draft.
Other Wide Receivers to Know:
- Christian Kirk (Junior, Texas A&M)
- Calvin Ridley (Junior, Alabama)
- Equanimeous St. Brown (Junior, Notre Dame)
- Deon Cain (Junior, Clemson)
- Auden Tate (Junior, Florida State)
- Dante Pettis (Senior, Washington)
When should the Broncos select a wide receiver in the 2018 NFL Draft?
This poll is closed
As early as the first round. The offense needs more playmakers!
Day two at the earliest. We could use an upgrade, but not in the first round.
Day three. We could use some depth, but that’s it.
We are fine at wide receiver. We don’t need to select one at all.