I'm breaking down our team to look at what we have in the cupboard for this offseason. In doing so, I've gathered data from nflgsis.com to give us some stats to look at as we evaluate what our players did in the 2016 regular season. Also, overthecap.com contract info will be embedded when available. I'll add to that a synopsis of each player including their contract situation. Hopefully this helps Broncos Country here at MHR be better educated on the state of the team, it’s strengths and weaknesses, and what positions we’ll likely target in free agency and the draft.
Now we take a look at our passing game play makers: the wide receivers. Overall, the Broncos entered 2016 with an interesting mix of talent at WR. We have 2 outstanding starters set in stone, then a bunch of young guys who don’t appear capable of standing out enough to be the clear #3 on the roster.
Again, let me point out that with our offensive coaching being so consistently poor, I wouldn’t suggest you read too much into this. I’ll have plenty to say about the young guys on the roster, but honestly with better coaching, any one of of them could step into a bigger role on the team in 2017.
Wide Receivers Stats
DeMaryius Thomas even in the horrid offense the Broncos utilized in 2016 still cracked 1,000 yards receiving. He still has #1 WR talent and as you can see from his contract, he won’t be going anywhere in 2017. He’s the kind of offensive weapon that can help a team win games they shouldn’t (see 2011) and is still an integral part of the Broncos offense.
Emmanuel Sanders also cracked 1,000 yards in 2016 while getting signed to a very solid extension that in my opinion was well deserved. I can’t say enough about the game Sanders brings week in and week out. He leaves it all out on the field and sells out to make catches.
He brings a superb skill set to the Broncos receiving corps with a mix of speed, quickness, and durability. While I’d still like to see him work more out of the slot, he’s one of the best deep threats in the NFL.
Jordan Taylor to me was the guy that showed the most promise out of all the depth players we had in 2016. He’s long, tall, and runs very crisp routes. He’s a WR you use much like the Broncos use DT. In 2017 he needs to be used more to take advantage of his great attacking instincts. Especially when the team gets in the Red Zone. I’d really love to see some packages where he’s the #2 WR and they move Sanders into the slot, but we’ll have to see what happens in OTAs. Keep in mind he’s a ERFA this year and won’t be going anywhere else.
Bennie Fowler III
Bennie Fowler didn’t really do much in 2016 to step forward in his WR career which honestly leaves me wondering whether his success in 2015 should be credited more to Peyton Manning. At the end of the day, I say the jury is out. He’s a young WR who has great size, decent speed, and good hands.
Cody Latimer really can’t be labeled anything other than a bust at this point given where we took him in the draft. He’s a special teams guy who is getting beat out in the depth chart by UDFA pick ups. He does a really awesome job at run blocking downfield and plays hard. The knock I’ve read on him since he joined the NFL is his a lack of football IQ. Being in the final year of his rookie deal, he’ll really need to take a big step forward in 2017 to stay with the Broncos.
Kalif Raymond has the quicks in spades. He’s primarily been used in 2016 as a returner with our special teams unit. He’s the kind of young talent you’d love to see develop into a #3 guy for the offense. That being said, he’s got a great opportunity to make the team purely as a returner.
Overall for the short term, this unit is in great shape. We have two of the best receivers in the game in DT and Hemanuel. The only question really becomes one of depth. I think Taylor has what it takes to be a decent NFL WR that can last more than a few years. Beyond that, I’m just not sure.
One point I’d make is that we have too many WRs of the same mold: Larger possession type WRs that fit well as a depth for DT. What we lack is more guys with the quicks to take advantage of the middle of the field. We need a receiver with quick cuts and great hands.
As far as free agency and the draft goes, it largely depends on what our new offensive coaches want. If they agree with me about the #3 spot, we have to bring in someone to fit that mold. If they want to run more 12 personnel, we can roll with what we have. In the draft specifically I would only see us grabbing a WR if one of value fell to us in the middle rounds.