John Elway should breathe a sigh of relief this offseason knowing he finally doesn’t have to worry about the quarterback position. However, now Elway will have to get to work on building a team around Drew Lock, just like he did with Peyton Manning.
Surrounding Lock with talent starts with two top priorities for the Broncos, those being upgrading the offensive line and the receiving core.
How many pieces will the Broncos have to add and how does Denver’s current depth chart look?
The Broncos found a dominant No. 1 receiver in 2019 with second-year man Courtland Sutton.
Sutton reeled in 72 receptions, gaining more than 1,100 yards, 50 first downs, and scoring six touchdowns. That all happened despite playing with three quarterbacks, two of which had never thrown an NFL pass before.
Now, with a whole offseason to build chemistry with Drew Lock ahead of him, Sutton has a strong chance of being an All-Pro candidate in 2020. The Broncos have had great top receivers dating back to Rod Smith and Brandon Marshall, but Sutton has the potential to be better than all of them.
DaeSean Hamilton is one of the biggest enigmas on Denver’s roster as we head into 2020. You could see him lining up opposite of Sutton this season as Denver’s No. 2 receiver, or you could see him miss the final roster entirely.
Hamilton closed the 2018 season well, finishing the season with 30 receptions, 25 of which came in the final four weeks. He was then hyped throughout the offseason as the No. 3 receiver for 2019 with the presumption he’d become the No. 2 once Emmanuel Sanders left.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and Hamilton was a huge disappointment from the start of training camp up until Week 12, where he totaled just 11 receptions for 101 yards plus a dropped touchdown in a one-possession loss to the Raiders. After the trade of Sanders, when you’d expect Hamilton’s numbers to take a huge leap, his numbers actually declined as it took him four weeks to catch another pass and five weeks to have a game over 20 receiving yards.
Where Hamilton continues to disappoint, Tim Patrick continues to exceed expectations with his play. The undrafted, former Utah Ute receiver outplayed Hamilton both last season and this one, as it was he who filled the void left by Sanders.
From Week 8 (the first game following the Sanders trade) through Week 12, when Hamilton didn’t record a single reception, Patrick racked up 80 yards on five receptions despite playing in just two of the four games during that span.
Injuries held Patrick back in 2019 as he only appeared in half of the Broncos’ games, but when healthy, it’s clear that he’s the second-best receiver on this roster.
Diontae Spencer was the Broncos’ most pleasant surprise at receiver and on special teams. The former Canadian Football League player instantly became the Broncos’ best returner since Trindon Holliday, and he was arguably even better.
He also provided the Broncos offense with a speedy receiving weapon that just wasn’t on the team after the Sanders trade.
However, Spencer’s roster situation for 2020 is very murky. Right now, he’s on a trajectory to become a bigger and more prominent piece of this offense, going from four snaps in the first quarter of the season to 15 in the final month, but he could be off the roster entirely depending on how Denver addresses the draft.
Juwann Winfree was a complete non-factor in his first season with the Broncos.
He was a boom or bust pick coming out of the University of Colorado given his physical talents, and as he barely made an impact on the team in Year 1, even on special teams, it’s looking a lot more bust than boom.
Winfree will have an opportunity to earn a roster spot this offseason but is in no-way a shoe-in to make the final 53.
What to expect in 2020
Addressing the wide receiver has to be one of the Broncos’ top priorities this offseason. The offensive line and defensive lines need help too, but adding more reliable receiving weapons for a quarterback that currently only has one should be near the top of the list, if not atop it.
The Broncos could look to add a receiver like the Jets’ Robby Anderson, but given the immense level of talent of this year’s draft at receiver, it’s been heavily speculated that the Broncos will look to bolster their pass-catching corps through the draft.
There are dozens of receivers that the Broncos could consider after the first round that would still make an immediate impact on this team, meaning there aren’t many receivers worth drafting 15th overall for the Broncos. One of the few they should consider is Alabama speed demon Henry Ruggs III.
Ruggs ran a 4.24 at Alabama’s pro day last year and he’s now a year older and closer to his athletic prime, and unlike last year he’ll actually be training for the event. He could end up being the next Tavon Austin or the next Tyreek Hill, and the Broncos should take the risk.