The Broncos have a young core of offensive skill weapons heading into the 2019 season. Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton, and Tim Patrick all burst onto the scene as rookies (Patrick was technically a second year but spent his rookie year on and off practice squads), showing flashes of potential and look to have a bright future in Denver’s offense.
However, Denver is still missing a few pieces at the skill positions. The team is reportedly looking for a “burner” at wide receiver, and will likely be shopping around the bargain bin in free agency to see if they can acquire one.
Broncos looking for a "burner" WR. Exploring FA options.— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) February 26, 2019
They love their young nucleus of Sutton, Patrick and Hamilton but don't have anyone that takes the top off.
Part of the emphasis for this type of player is likely due to Joe Flacco joining the team, as he has always thrived with a deep threat on the outside. Between Jacoby Jones, Torrey Smith, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, and John Brown, the Ravens always tried to keep a home run guy in their receiving cupboard.
Now, some of those moves panned out better than others, but it’s no surprise that Denver is looking for that type of player to pair with Flacco, and/or whoever will be quarterbacking the Broncos this year and in the future.
Benjamin Allbright, who first reported Denver’s interest, joined the 1st & 10 at 10 crew on Orange and Blue 760 today, to talk about this.
“They’re definitely looking for someone with wheels who can take the top off. They like the young core of Hamilton, Patrick, and Sutton but none of those guys are stretching the field vertically, so they need that guy.”
Two names that came up in Ben’s conversation on-air were former Cardinals and Ravens receiver, John Brown and Bengals wide receiver John Ross.
John Brown played with Flacco last year and had some success with the deep ball there, but he has sickle cell trait which potentially could keep him from playing in Mile High on a consistent basis.
John Ross is an interesting name that has emerged recently as the Bengals are reportedly looking to trade him in his third year of his rookie deal.
Two years ago, top WR prospect John Ross set fire to the Combine with his 40 time. Now, sources say the #Bengals are shopping their former first rounder. A fresh start would be welcome by both parties, sounds like.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 26, 2019
Ross put himself on the map at the 2017 combine by breaking Chris Johnson’s long-standing 40 yard dash time, running a blazing 4.22. While he certainly has the speed, injuries and drops have limited his effectiveness for his two years in Cincinnati.
However, that might not totally deter the Broncos, as their two young receivers have struggled with drops as well. Ross did have 7 drops last year for a 12% drop rate, which was one of the highest in the league, but Courtland Sutton had 9 drops for an 11% drop rate (he also had more targets), and Tim Patrick had a 10% drop rate. All of these receivers were near the top of the league in that regard.
While it may not be a good idea to add one more receiver to the mix that also struggles with drops, I don’t know that it will scare Denver away, since they’re already dealing with it. Ross also was able to turn just 21 catches into 7 touchdowns last year, all while catching passes from Andy Dalton and Jeff Driskel.
Among WRs with at least 15 deep targets (20+ yds), John Ross saw the second highest uncatchable target rate (73.3%) according to @SportsInfo_SIS— Ryan McCrystal (@Ryan_McCrystal) February 26, 2019
Maybe the Bengals should get a competent QB before giving up on Ross.
While Allbright pointed out that Ross’ drops do worry him, he said if Denver could get John Ross for a 4th or 5th round pick he “would be all over it”.
“Anything Day 3 (of the draft) you’re spending a pick on developmental talent anyway....4th - 7th is where you take your chances on athleticism, character guys, things like that. So if you think there’s a guy there then why not, but you know what Ross is, he’s an established commodity, if you think you can teach him to catch he’s still on his rookie deal, why not throw a 4th or 5th at it.”
I tend to agree with Allbright here, and Ross would be one of my first choices for a speedster/deep threat.
If Denver decides not to pursue Ross, but wants to poke around in free agency, here are a few other names to watch. Former Charger, Tyrell Williams, has great size/speed, and showed flashes under Philip Rivers. If his sickle cell trait ends up not being an obstacle, I think John Brown could make sense in Denver. Lastly, Chiefs receiver, Chris Conley, is another combine wonder who never really panned out.
Keep your eye on the speedy receivers this week at the combine and in free agency, as it’s likely one of them ends up Denver.