In a season preview series ranking the top 32 players at each position group, Pro Football Focus has given a considerable amount of love to the Denver Broncos’ running backs, tight ends, and wide receivers.
At running back, PFF’s Sam Monson believes the Broncos have two of the league’s top 25 backs with Javonte Williams and Melvn Gordon ranking at 24th and 17th, respectively.
“Seventy-six broken tackles on just 157 carries this past season was by far the highest rate of any back we have recorded over a single season of college football,” Monson wrote of the rookie from North Carolina. “Williams is a powerful throwback of a running back who could be a devastating ball carrier right out of the gate”
It seems likely that we could soon be looking back at these rankings with the belief that Monson should’ve flipped Williams and Gordon, but Gordon is coming off a solid season in his own right and is has proven himself.
“Gordon’s 83.0 rushing grade last year was the second-best mark of his career,” Monson wrote. “He generated an impressive 3.1 yards after contact per carry for the Broncos, breaking 51 tackles on 215 attempts. Gordon’s work in the passing game has been getting steadily worse over the last few seasons, however, with two straight seasons of PFF pass-blocking grades in the 40s.”
That decline in the passing game leaves the door open for Williams, and maybe even Mike Boone.
Denver also had a receiver, Courtland Sutton, make PFF’s receiver rankings. Sutton ranked 28th, but he seems sure to climb those rankings this season as long as he can get some decent quarterback play.
“He broke out in a big way in his 2019 sophomore campaign, though,” PFF’s Anthony Treash wrote. “Sutton improved his PFF grade by nearly 20 grading points from his 2018 rookie season to 83.1, which ranked 11th among all qualifying receivers for that season. He often went toe to toe against press coverage, and he consistently came out on top. Sutton’s 2.50 yards per route run against press on the outside in 2019 was among the five best marks in the NFL.”
One would think Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, and K.J. Hamler also have an opportunity to join the ranks of the league’s elite pass catchers with a strong year, though Sutton — and Noah Fant even — already appear to be there.
“Fant is part of a young, ascending receiving corps in Denver that just needs a quarterback to emerge,” PFF analyst Ben Linsey wrote. “Fant did more of his damage underneath with the Broncos this past season. His 457 receiving yards on passes within nine yards of the line of scrimmage ranked fourth at the position in 2020 after finishing 27th in the same category back in 2019. Fant’s athleticism makes bringing him down after the catch a difficult task.”
As has been the case each of the last five seasons, it seems like it’s all going to come down to the quarterback for the Denver Broncos.