Broncos GM John Elway used his favorite draft weekend phrase when describing his second-round pick, SMU wide receiver Courtland Sutton - “tremendous upside.”
For a player who came into college as a safety but became a wide receiver at the suggestion of then-coach June Jones, that description was perfectly fine with Sutton.
“When a person like Mr. Elway says something like that about somebody like me, it gives me hope that the things that I’m doing to become an elite player at this position are being recognized and noted,” Sutton said after he was picked at No. 40 by the Broncos. “When you’re a guy who’s trying to be great at what you do, you want people who have already been proven true at the thing that you do, to be able to say, ‘Look, you’re a guy who has a huge chance to be great.’ To have Coach Elway say that about me, that’s a huge honor.”
We had a 1st-round grade on SMU WR Courtland Sutton and we're excited to select him at No. 40.— John Elway (@johnelway) April 27, 2018
He has tremendous upside as a player and on top of that is a great person. pic.twitter.com/qXiRMGg82A
“Coach Elway” called Sutton “big, fast and really raw” but hinted that the former Mustang could be seeing the field as a rookie.
“He really has a tremendous ceiling and upside,” Elway said, adding that WR coach Zach Azzanni will have fun with his new player. “He’s big and he can really run. He can make the very difficult catch and make great catches. Zach Azzanni will be very happy with him because he’s a great kid and likes to learn.”
Although Elway sees Sutton as a guy who can develop into a No. 1 receiver, he will be expected to be the Broncos’ third receiver following the loss of Bennie Fowler and Cody Latimer.
And that third wide receiver is crucial in the Broncos’ offense.
“The third receiver is like a third corner. Everyone is in sub and everyone is in three-wide. It’s like being a starter,” said Joseph. “With Sutton, and obviously the 6-4 frame, that’s key in the red zone. His skillset translates to being the No. 1 guy. He’s got No. 1 traits as a receiver. Obviously he’ll come in and compete for the third spot, but John said it, in the future he can be our No. 1 guy.”
Sutton said “just learning the position of the wide receiver” is the thing he’s most looking to improve as a Bronco.
“I am very new to the position. I am learning as I go,” he said. “I am taking a little bit of knowledge from everybody that I get a chance to take knowledge from...guys who played the position at a very, very high level.”
Coach Vance Joseph believes his new position coach “will be huge” for Sutton’s development.
“The coach is so important. For a young guy like [Sutton], with the physical tools he has, to sharpen his route running ability is going to be huge for him,” Joseph said. “That’s Zach’s strength; he’s coached college ball for a long time, so he’s big in the fundamentals. That’s huge for a young guy.”
Coming from the same school as Emmanuel Sanders - a player Sutton has often reached out to for advice on getting to the next level - the third-round pick already has a familiar mentor to help him.
“Being able to have that relationship with him and being able to talk with him—it wasn’t an everyday thing but we would talk a few times about how I get to that level and how I continue to climb to be the best that I can be, even with that big fight against me coming from a smaller school.”
Now Sutton is “fired up” to join Sanders and the rest of his Broncos teammates to continue his learning curve.
“I’m excited to get in there and become a Bronco and to get in there and learn from Emmanuel and to learn from Demaryius [Thomas]. I want to come in there and learn how to become the best version of myself I can be in this position,” he said. “I’m trying to come in and help this organization get back to the Super Bowl and win it. I’m really excited to be a part of this organization and be a part of something that’s greater than myself.”