With the free agency season about to kick off for the Denver Broncos, it is a great time to step back, take a look at the roster, and play a little armchair GM leading up to all of the excitement of possible free agent signings, trades, and of course the NFL Draft.
All of this is my own personal opinion based on the tried and true eye test of what I’ve seen from these players on the field. For the sake of brevity, I’ll be leaving out guys that didn’t see the field in any significant way in 2019. Enjoy the discussion, join the subjective debate, and share your thoughts good or bad in the comments.
All snap count numbers come from https://www.footballoutsiders.com/. All contract information is from https://www.overthecap.com. Any football statistics noted are from https://www.pro-football-reference.com.
Now that we’re through with the big uglies in the trenches, let’s take a look at the skill positions on the outside in the wide receivers and tight ends.
Player Rating Key:
1 - Project / developmental - lacking necessary skills to contribute as it stands today
2 - Backup quality - Can play, but isn’t a guy you want out there every snap
3 - Mediocre starter - Doesn’t bring anything special to the table, but is able to do the job
4 - Good starter - An above-average talent
5 - Blue chip player - Top 10 talent in the NFL at what he does
Unit Rating Key:
1 - Critical Need - lack of talent at starter and depth
2 - Lacking at least one starter
3 - Mediocre need
4 - Solid talent and depth
5 - Elite talent level
Courtland Sutton - 5
Courtland Sutton is every bit of a rising star as you will find in the NFL. He’s a guy that has all of the tools as a wide receiver with a perfect blend of size, power, and speed.
But what I like most about Sutton is what he brings to the table from the mental standpoint. He’s an authentic guy that is all in. He wants to win. He wants to be a great NFL receiver. The Broncos were honestly blessed that he fell in the draft as far as he did...he really should have gone in the first round, but I digress.
Sutton is one of the young guys on offense that this team is going to be able to build around. He got his first 1,000 yard season last year and the sky is the limit.
DaeSean Hamilton - 3
I seem to remember folks being as excited about Hamilton in the 2018 draft as they were about Sutton. Wow was that hype misplaced to date.
It isn’t that Hamilton looks like a bust...from time to time he really flashes a high level of skill. But the problem is that he’s very up and down. He drops passes he shouldn’t drop. He doesn’t get the separation you’d think a quick and fast guy like himi should get.
But I’m still a believer in him if for no other reason that that we’ve had such a dearth of quality quarterbacking while he’s been on the team. He looked really good at that back of the 2019 season when Lock was starting and that is something to be hopeful for. It is for this reason I’m giving him the nod as a solid starting slot receiver.
ERFA Tim Patrick - 2
For all the promise Patrick showed in 2018, he had an injury hold up his progress in a big way in 2020. He still got action in 8 games of last season, but the jury is largely out on if Patrick is going to be able to regain his place as possibly a #3 receiver.
With all the hype surrounding the WR position in both free agency and the draft this year, I expect him to be fighting for his NFL life in training camp.
Patrick is a largely a receiver like Sutton - size, speed, and a good ability to go up for the ball. His ceiling is a solid #2 and looks like a guy that could be the perfect compliment to Sutton if he could just put his game together and stay healthy.
Juwann Winfree - 2
Winfree is a local fan favorite from CU and was drafted largely in 2019 as a developmental prospect. 2020 is going to be a big year for Winfree as he very much looked more rough than diamond in 2019.
WInfree’s best strength from what I’ve seen is his physicality. He knows how to fight for the ball and that paired with his above average speed makes for a dangerous NFL receiver if and when he gets it all put together.
Fred Brown - 1
Brown was a player that we got to see in action in 2019 albeit in only 100 snaps on offense. He’s got decent speed, but outside of that didn’t show much in 2019. He’s a developmental guy that went undrafted. The only real way he makes it out of training camp is if he really flashes on special teams (which is the role he largely played in 2019).
Unit Rating - 3
I’m honestly not very hyped about this group. We have Sutton and then a very large drop off in talent to the next guy. The WR corps is stuffed full of young guys who have yet to show the Broncos that they are the answer for any question the team has on offense.
While I’m way over the talk of wide receivers getting picked high in the draft, it honestly makes a ton of sense for the Broncos. A free agent solid veteran would also really make sense.
Noah Fant - 4
Fant got a lot of attention in 2019 and rightly so as our 1st round draft pick from 2019. As a tight end, I honestly think he did a pretty good job. It is position that isn’t easy to transition to from the college to the pro level and by the end of the season he was starting to look like the kind of impactful weapon the Broncos offense needs at the tight end position.
It wasn’t without bumps though as Fant had some drops that should have been easy catches for a guy with his ability and size. He also has some clean up work to do on his route running. And honestly, that’s in this writer’s opinion where his offseason work should focus.
Yes he can add some speed and get his body in leaner shape for the NFL season, but the biggest improvements he can make is in getting to be an excellent catcher of the football and being able to execute his routes at a high level. He made some big plays for this team last year and most of that came from his raw talent and speed.
Look for more from him in 2020. If he can get on the same page with Lock, he could have a stellar year.
Jeff Heuerman - 3
Heuerman had a solid year in 2019. He was brought back as a veteran presence and I honestly liked the contract and the fact that he’s still around. He’s a better all-around tight end than Fant in that he can run block very well at times. He’s a decent route runner as well and is a great option as a backup tight end for any NFL team.
Troy Fumagalli - 2
Fumagalli is another guy that in the past couple of years has gotten a lot of hype and I think most of that stems from how badly the Broncos needed anyone to step up at the tight end position and become a real stud in the passing game.
Fumagalli’s game isn’t necessarily bad. He blocks well and he can catch. The problem is that he doesn’t have the kind of burst or straight line speed to make his own separation as a router runner and it shows up big time when he does get on the field.
Jake Butt - 1
I gotta say that when we drafted this guy in the 5th round a few years back, I was a huge fan of the move. Butt looked like everything you wanted from a tight end coming out of college outside of that pesky injury...and the next one...and the next one.
I sure do love an underdog story, but I think Butt’s time has come and gone. His legs don’t seem able to keep him healthy through an NFL season and it is high time the Broncos cut bait and move on.
Unit Rating - 3
I’m a believer in Noah Fant, but outside of that we have one legit backup player that looks solid. Another sound backup TE is needed for this team and it wouldn’t hurt to get a developmental guy in the draft.