The Broncos’ receiving corps. is in the midst of a transition of sorts. DaeSean Hamilton’s exit leaves the door open for Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler to own the slot for the near and long term, while Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick’s looming contract questions open the door for a big bodied boundary receiver to find his way to playing time.
Could a former Colorado State Ram make the most of the opportunity?
Warren Jackson’s profile
Weight: 219 lbs
Age: 21 years old
Following a 2019 where Jackson caught 77 passes for 1,119 yards and eight touchdowns, Jackson opted out of the 2020 season when the Mountain West initially postponed their fall season. Rather than return to CSU after the season resumed, Jackson chose to prepare for the NFL Draft. He received invitations to both the East-West Shrine Bowl and NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, but both were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
After going undrafted in the 2021 NFL Draft, Jackson received $60,000 in guarantees to sign with the Broncos as a free agent. Only three prospects received more.
Jackson’s size and length are the kind of uncoachable traits that immediately catch your eye. Standing 6’6” and weighing in at 219 lbs. makes Jackson one of the bigger receivers in this past draft, and he combines it with an absurd 83 3/8” wingspan. His length offers promise that he could excel as a downfield and contested catch receiver because he can outreach and outrebound defenders for the ball.
The decision to skip 2020 did not hurt him in the eyes of his coaches, as the CSU staff spoke highly of his work ethic. For such a tall player, Jackson displays very good body awareness and looks comfortable making catches in tight quarters around the sideline or in the endzone. He shows natural hand-eye coordination with late hands to prevent corners from attacking his length and can adjust to errant passes so as to help make his quarterback right. He also has the physicality to fight for extra yards after the catch. Per the Athletic’s Dane Brugler, 75.8% of his receptions went for a first down or touchdown.
On the field, Jackson’s biggest issues stem from his lack of athletic ability. He lacks the burst to threaten off the line of scrimmage and isn’t so strong as to beat the press with his physicality. He’s a long strider who lacks top end speed or fluidity in his breaks to create separation. To try to make up for this in the NFL he’ll need to become a better route runner than he showed at CSU or defensive backs will have an easy time sticking to and fighting him at the catch point.
In addition to Jackson’s weaknesses in the passing game, he’s a marginal blocker which casts doubt about any ability to switch positions to tight end. Jackson also brings some durability concerns as he’s missed two games with a knee injury in 2018 and also missed action with a shoulder injury in 2019.
Warren Jackson’s roster status with the Broncos
There are currently 14 receivers on the Broncos’ roster, which means Jackson has limited opportunities to make an impression and stick in a crowded room. Sutton, Jeudy, Hamler, and Patrick are locks for the final roster, which means Jackson could be fighting nine other players for two or maybe three roster spots.
The big thing working in Jackson’s favor is the fact Sutton and Patrick are both playing on expiring deals. If the rookie shows enough in the preseason to catch eyes around the NFL, he may survive the cutdowns because of a fear about losing him to another team’s final roster. George Paton and the coaching staff may deem him too promising to lose, even if he needs a developmental year.