Player Profile: Broncos’ Courtland Sutton eyes big things after week one

Nov 18, 2018; Carson, CA, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton (14) runs after making a fourth quarter catch as Los Angeles Chargers defensive back Adrian Phillips (31) and defensive back Desmond King (20) defends at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

For the first player profile of the season, we will take a closer look at Broncos’ second-year wide receiver, Courtland Sutton.

Sutton was born in 1995 in Brenham, Texas, where he attended Brenham High School and played on the school’s football team. Sutton had tons of success on the high school football field and was elected to first-team All-District as a tight end and second-team as a safety during his senior campaign.

His school, Brenham, advanced to the Texas 4A Division II State Championship game, where they eventually lost to Aledo High School.

Sutton attracted the attention of a few Division I schools, but was not regarded as a “can’t miss” player coming out of high school. Ranked as a three-star prospect by recruiting services – such as ESPN – Sutton had offers from SMU, BYU, Colorado, Rice and Texas State. He ultimately committed to SMU, located in Dallas, roughly a three-and-a-half-hour drive from his hometown.

At SMU, Sutton began to flourish after taking a medical redshirt season following his appearance in two contests as a true freshman before suffering an injury.

He started every game from his redshirt freshman season through his junior season – a total of 37 games. During those three-plus seasons, Sutton caught 195 passes for 3,220 yards and a whopping 31 touchdowns. After the wideout’s stellar redshirt junior season in 2017, he was named to the AP All-America Second Team and to the All-American Athletic Conference First Team. He finished the season with 68 catches for 1,085 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Sutton formed himself into an NFL prospect by reaching the 1,000-yard mark in receiving yards in both his sophomore and junior seasons, declaring for the draft after finishing his junior year. By the time he declared, Sutton ranked second in SMU football history in touchdowns, third in receiving yards and sixth in receptions.

The Broncos selected Sutton in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft with the 40th overall pick. He was the third wide receiver selected in the 2018 draft, behind D.J. Moore and Calvin Ridley.

In Sutton’s NFL debut against the Seattle Seahawks, he recorded two catches for 45 yards. He scored his first NFL touchdown in week five against the New York Jets when he hauled in an eight-yard pass from Case Keenum.

As a rookie, Sutton saw action in all 16 contests with nine starts. He caught 42 balls for 704 yards and four touchdowns. Sutton’s 704 receiving yards were the fourth most by a Broncos’ rookie in team history.

Fresh off a breakout game and career-best performance on Monday night against the Oakland Raiders, Sutton looks like a much-improved player from year one and has a real opportunity to be a focal point in the Rich Scangarello-led offense. With Emmanuel Sanders as the top target in the passing game, Sutton can provide some serious production in the number two wide receiver role this season.

Oct 18, 2018; Glendale, AZ, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton (14) makes a diving one-handed catch for a touchdown in the first quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Sutton went for seven catches, totaling 120 yards in week one – both personal bests. It was also his first career 100-yard receiving game.

The big wideout made it an objective to improve on his route running during the offseason and it showed. A telling statistic from Monday night’s game is that five of Sutton’s seven catches came in the middle of the field, accounting for 112 of his 120 yards receiving. Of the Broncos’ nine plays of 15-or-more yards, Sutton had five of them.

According to Pro Football Focus, Sutton finished the game with an 86.3 graded game, his highest to date. He also played 57 snaps, good for 87 percent of the total offensive snaps.

If Sutton can become a complete receiver, not just a deep-ball specialist, Scangarello and the offense will have more ammo at their disposal when it comes to calling plays and drawing up game plans.

The Broncos play host to the Chicago Bears in week two and Bears’ coach Matt Nagy had some high praise for Sutton.

“I was impressed with him coming out of college, I think the biggest difference that I see from this week one game vs. last year is more of a confidence and a swag that he has,” Nagy said. “He has really good ball skills.”

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