Peyton Manning has thrown 131 touchdown passes in his time with the Denver Broncos, including an NFL record 55 in 2013. Last season Manning threw 39 touchdown passes against 15 interceptions.

The loss of Julius Thomas, who led the Broncos in 2014 with 12 touchdown receptions but signed with Jacksonville this offseason, could play a significant role in the number of touchdowns that are delivered by number 18. In 2013, Thomas quickly became Manning’s favorite red zone target and a touchdown machine, finding the end zone 24 times over the past two seasons.

Now that JT is gone, who will lead the Denver Broncos in touchdown receptions?

Gary Kubiak brought tight end Owen Daniels to town as a replacement for Julius Thomas. Daniels, who played under Kubiak in Baltimore and Houston, scored four touchdowns last season while filling in for the injured Dennis Pitta.

Daniels has never scored more than six touchdowns in a season, but has also never had a quarterback anywhere near the caliber of Peyton Manning. Julius Thomas’s career numbers illustrate how heavily Manning has relied on his tight end in the past. As the starting tight end in the Denver offense, Daniels should see plenty of opportunities in the red zone.

Wide receiver Cody Latimer was selected by the Broncos in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Indiana University. Last season, the rookie receiver rarely saw the field. Latimer finished 2014 with a measly 2 catches for 23 yards. Latimer himself expects a breakout season in 2015.

“Last year was a disappointment to myself. I hated not being on that field,” the former Indiana star said via the Denver Post. “I took it as an oath of mine. This year I’m going to get on that field. I’m going to study extra and do whatever I need to do.”

The 6-foot-2, 215 pound receiver plays physically and is a willing blocker. If he can make the leap mentally, and prepare himself to get better everyday, than Latimer could have a huge impact on the 2015 season.

Wide receiver Jordan Norwood was signed by the Broncos last year. Norwood impressed in the preseason, but tore his ACL last August. The 28-year-old journeyman has only scored one touchdown in his career and hasn’t played in a regular season game since 2012, but has good hands and deceptive speed.

If Norwood can develop chemistry with Peyton Manning this off-season, Broncos fans will learn a lot about him this season.

The Broncos signed wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to a four-year deal last offseason. Sanders rewarded the Broncos with 101 receptions, 1,404 yards and 9 touchdowns. Sanders was rewarded with a trip to the Pro Bowl. Last season, Sanders proved his toughness time and time again, and seemed to be the Bronco who played with the most heart.

“I gained a lot of confidence in games because the ball was coming my way eight to 10 times a game,” Sanders said via ESPN. “I’ve asked myself why did I catch all those balls that came my way? Why was I able to fly past those defensive backs? I feel like the same blueprint I had last year, I want to use this year and hopefully get the same results.”

If Sanders can duplicate his results from last season, he will find himself among the NFL’s elite receivers and touchdown leaders.

Demaryius Thomas, the Broncos number one receiver, reeled in 11 touchdown receptions in 2014. The 27-year-old, who recently signed a hefty extension with the Broncos, has scored 35 touchdowns over the past three seasons. Thomas has a rare blend of size and speed that affords him quite an advantage over whoever lines up opposite him. He’s currently tied for the franchise record for receiving touchdowns in a season, 13, which he accomplished in 2013. Could he best that number in 2015?

Thomas was targeted 184 times last season. If he sees a number near that in 2015, expect to see “DT” spending a lot of his time in the end zone.

So, who will have the most receiving touchdowns?


Bryce Rudnick, a Mile High Sports intern and CU-Boulder student, contributed to this report