Free agency is just around the corner for the NFL and it is a great time to take a nice long look at what the Denver Broncos have in the cupboard. Every ounce of this is my own personal opinion based off what I’ve seen from the players.
Today we’re continuing our series with our receivers and find out what holes the Broncos should be looking to fill in the 2018 NFL offseason.
We’re going to use the following system to rank the players:
1 - Project / developmental - Not ready
2 - Backup quality - Good for a spell
3 - Mediocre starter - Meh...he can play
4 - Good starter - Solid player
5 - Superb player - Playmaking stud
I’ll rate each unit as follows based off of my assessment of the individual pieces the Broncos have on hand:
1 - Blow it up - the Broncos have nothing NFL quality to work with
2 - Severely lacking at least one starter
3 - Mediocre need
4 - Solid talent and depth
5 - NFL super group
Jeff Heuerman - 2
We’d heard for quite a few years how impactful Heuerman was going to be as an athletic freak of a tight end. It just isn’t happening, people. He’s largely JAG for the Broncos who looks OK as a pass-catching option at times, but he’s nothing special overall and not a great blocking TE.
Jake Butt - 4
This is the guy to watch in 2018. Of all the options the Broncos currently have on the roster, this kid has the most potential to be an impactful player in the tight end position. He can catch, he can block, and he is a very good route runner. After being on the injured reserve list for one year now, Butt should be dialed up and ready to compete this year.
Austin Traylor - 3
I really liked what little we got to see from Traylor at the end of the season in 2017. He’s a guy that is going to make Virgil Green completely expendable because he’s got the size to be a great blocker and has solid pass catching skills.
Matt LaCosse - 1
This guy on paper looks like Jeff Heuerman v 2.0. He’s looked promising at times with the Giants, but has never been able to get out from under the injury bug and make a lasting impact on the field. He probably only makes the team with an astounding preseason both in practice and on the field.
Overview - 3
I don’t think we have a superstar in the current Broncos’ tight end group. Jake Butt has the potential to be one, but the jury will be out on that until next year. I do think this is probably the most likely “3” rating group that won’t see major change in this offseason. I like what the team has in Butt and Traylor with Heuerman as a depth guy.
Demaryius Thomas - 3
Don’t get me wrong, DT is a heck of a specimen at WR... but the guy has lost a step. I don’t know what the deal was in 2017, but he just didn’t get the separation that we’ve seen from him during his previous career years. He’s still a very good route runner and has the size to stay impactful as a receiving target, but cracks are starting to form in his game. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to see the Broncos pass on the option of renewing his contract.
Emmanuel Sanders - 5
Sanders is a beast of a wide receiver. Put aside the nonsense about his off-the-field drama. He’s one of the toughest speed and quickness guys I’ve seen play the game. I value him more than I do DT at this point, and hopefully the Broncos feel the same way.
Bennie Fowler - 2
Fowler has value as a backup who knows the playbook and can run routes. His game has absolutely nothing special to it in any way though, and I’m quite a bit over him being so high on the depth chart.
Jordan Taylor - 3
Taylor probably isn’t as good as his super fans think he is and doesn’t do as bad as his haters think he does. He’s a solid depth guy that has some really good jump-ball skills. Taylor can be the guy you rely on across from a No. 1 WR who is going to be in man coverage. He’s not fast enough to get great separation and he’s not quick enough to be an inside route running threat. I do love his hands though. He’s a guy who can go get a fade or a back-shoulder throw nine times out of ten.
Isaiah McKenzie - 1
As sore as we may be about his play as a returner, I remember looking at his college film after the draft and really being impressed with his open field skills. The big problem for him translating at the NFL level is his size and the inability for the Broncos to scheme open, small, quick guys like McKenzie.
Carlos Henderson - 2
Henderson didn’t look great in the 2017 preseason. Hopefully he develops in 2018 because he’s got the kind of raw skills in speed and strength that a coach can’t teach. Of the young WRs on the team, I think he’s the guy that is most likely to pan out for the team.
Overview - 3
Denver needs an infusion of talent at the wide receiver position. This becomes an even bigger need if they don’t pick up DT’s option, though I have a hard time thinking that is seriously going to happen if we’re trying to pick up Kirk Cousins.
Roster status overall:
Defensive Ends 4
Nose Tackles 4
Outside Linebackers 3
Inside Linebackers 2
Cornerbacks 5 / 3
Interior O-Line 3
Tight Ends 3
Wide Receivers 3