Montrell Washington has been having a great training camp so far. It may mean something. It may mean nothing, but let’s take the optimist view and say that this is the beginning of a great connection between Washington and Russell Wilson - similar to the connection he had with another small fast receiver, Tyler Lockett.
With the 162nd pick in the 2022 draft, the Denver Broncos selected Montrell Washington out of Samford College. Montrell is a wide receiver, but many thought he was picked mainly because of his return abilities. Montrell should be the primary punt and kickoff returner for the 2022 - both return units were poor last season (see below).
|Year||AVG PR||Rank||AVG KOR||Rank|
In 2020 Diontae Spencer returned sixteen punts from the Broncos for 253 yards with about one third of that yardage coming on his 83-yard punt return touchdown against the Panthers. Spencer’s 2020 performance is the lone bright spot over the last few years in terms of Bronco punt and kick return teams. But the fact remains, that the Broncos were terrible on both punt and kick returns in 2021 and that is what was being addressed by drafting Montrell Washington.
But Washington is more than just a return guy. He is actually a good wide receiver, he just happened to play at the FCS level, so he was mostly overlooked (he was not invited to the combine). He also really didn’t have a great season as a receiver until his senior year when he had 61 catches for 855 yards and 9 TDs (along with with 19 carries for 140 yards and 6 TDs). He had 69 total catches in his first three seasons combined. Fifteen of his 24 (non-return) TDs also came in his final season. His four return touchdowns don’t show on ESPN’s page for some reason.
Washington had good numbers as a senior, but the disclaimer that is always given with FCS, D2 or D3 players is the level of competition that they normally faced was weak compared to a player that played at a BCS school. While that criticism of Washington is warranted, he did play well when he had the chance to play tough opponents. Samford plays in the Southern Conference which was won by ETSU in 2021. ETSU got blown out 27-3 in the playoffs by eventual national champion NDSU, but they did make the playoffs and many teams have been trounced by NDSU recently. Samford lost to ETSU 55-48 in overtime in 2021. Samford also hung with Florida in a 70-52 shootout where Washington was the offensive star for the Bulldogs.
Washington had two games of 10 catches as a senior (vs Florida and ETSU), he caught nine touchdown passes (1 vs Florida and 2 vs ETSU) while rushing for six more touchdowns (one each against his two toughest tests as senior). So he played well against the toughest teams he faced in 2021. He also returned four kicks for touchdowns during his career including a 98-yarder against the Gators.
It’s not hyperbole, to say that Washington did just about everything he could to help the Bulldogs nearly upset the Gators in the swamp. He passed (1/1 for 16 yards), ran (3 carries for 19 yards and 1 TD), caught (10 for 124 with one great TD catch) and returned (5 KOR for 179 yards (35.8 AVG) and one TD). Neither team had a returned punt in this shootout. If you haven’t watched all 19 touches by Washington from this game, you should. His performance in this game alone, could be why the Broncos drafted him.
Of course, the naysayers could argue that Florida was a bad team in 2021 (finishing 5-5 and not even making the nobody-gives-a-turd Bowl), but the Gators had the talent to nearly beat national champion runner-up Alabama Crimson Tide (lost by 2). The Gators did get steam-rolled by the national champion Bulldogs (Georgia not Samford) 34-7. They also lost to Kentucky, USC (the original one, look it up) and Missouri. So maybe Washington’s performance against Florida should be taken with a grain of salt. However, I choose to view it as evidence that he came play well against NFL-level defenders.
In Washington’s other chances to play against “top” talent in college he had a decent game in the playoffs in 2019 against Youngstown St (2 catches for 80 yards and one TD - a 64 yard TD), but he was almost blanked in the Bulldogs game against Florida St. in 2018 (0 catches, 3 carries for 2 yards). He did get one carry for five yards as freshman against UGA.
If you dig more deeply only this small receiver (5’10”, 170 lbs), you find that he is quite good at catching difficult passes as you can see in his highlight reel. He is also both fast (4.38 40 at his pro-day) and quick. He did not get a combine invite, but it might not have helped this year as there were a record number of guys running 4.3 40s this year at the combine. Even if he had run a 4.38 at the combine, at 170 lbs he might he been overlooked. There have been some years where a 4.3 40 has been enough to jack up a guy’s draft stock. This year there were 31 guys who ran a 4.39 40 or better at the combine and eight of them were wide receivers.
|Wide Receiver||School||40 time|
|Danny Gray||Southern Methodist (TX)||4.33|
|Christian Watson||North Dakota State||4.36|
|Garrett Wilson||Ohio State||4.38|
|Chris Olave||Ohio State||4.39|
The other thing to know here is that Russell Wilson likes having a deep threat to throw to - because he likes to (and is adept at) throw(ing) deep. Generally his deep threat been a speed merchant who opposing defensive coordinators fear. Using a minimum of 9.0 yards per target, we can see who this person (or people) was (were) each season:
- 2012 - Sidney Rice and Golden Tate
- 2013 - Doug Baldwin, Luke Wilson, Jermaine Kearse, and Tate
- 2014 - Wilson. (Kearse and Baldwin were both below 9 this season).
- 2015 - Baldwin, Kearse and Tyler Lockett (not to be confused with Ricardo Lockette)
- 2016 - Jimmy Graham, Lockett and Baldwin
- 2017 - Paul Richardson was the closest at 8.8 yards per target, but no Seahawk receiver with more than one target per game was over nine.
- 2018 - Lockett
- 2019 - Lockett, D.K. Metcalf and Will Dissly
- 2020 - Metcalf
- 2021 - Lockett
So it is possible that multiple Broncos this season could be used as deep threats in a similar manner to years when Wilson had multiple deep threats in Seattle. If Washington continues to play well during the preseason and with the remainder of camp, it would not surprise me to see him used along with KJ Hamler as deep speed threats to keep the defense honest.
Courtland Sutton averaged exactly 9.0 yards per target in his best season (2019). Hamler has been misused IMO with 6.8 yards per target as a rookie and 7.4 in 2021, but I could see his number go over nine if he gains Wilson’s trust on his ability come down with deep throws. Jerry Jeudy averaged 7.6 and 8.3 in his first two years.
In 2021, the Bronco offense didn’t really throw deep. Tim Patrick had the highest yards per target value of any Bronco with more than two targets and his was 8.6. Patrick also led the Broncos in 2020 with a value of 9.4.
According to stathead.com, Russell Wilson has attempted 1033 deep regular season passes in his career. He has completed 43.5 percent of them for 113 touchdowns. He has also had 39 of his deep throws picked off. Wilson has been throwing somewhere around 100 deep passes per season. PFR (stathead) counts a deep throw as one that lands 15 yards from the LOS. This is different from other stat sites like SIS which count a deep throw as landing 20 yards or more from the LOS. In 2021 the best deep throw starting QB (min 20 deep throws) was Russell Wilson, even with the injured finger. Geno Smith and Gardner Minshew had better passer ratings on deep passes, but neither had enough throws to qualify. Smith had thirteen deep throws and Minshew had seven.
I should also point out that with a minimum of ten deep throws, Josh Johnson had the best deep completion percentage in the league in 2021 at 58.3 percent. He completed seven of twelve. There were six QBs with ten or more deep throws in 2021 who completed fifty percent of them or more, but if you go back to that 20 throw minimum you cut that number in half: Justin Fields (27/53), Joe Burrow (45/90) and Jacoby Brissett (17/34). Kyler Murray (45/91) and Justin Herbert (51/103) just missed 50 percent (unless you round up).
I would expect Wilson to continuing throwing deep this season. The question is going to be who gets the most deep targets?
Which receiver do you think will be Russell Wilson’s favorite for deep targets in 2022?
This poll is closed