Despite being 2-1, the Denver Broncos offense has been incredibly underwhelming this season. With one exception: Courtland Sutton.

While the rest of the offense is struggling, Sutton is continuing to make plays, especially on critical 3rd and 4th downs.

“For third and fourth downs, whenever we get in those situations, you want to be the guy that Russell is looking for,” Sutton said after the Broncos’ Week 2 win over the Texans.
Sutton is off to the best start of his career.

Through three weeks this season, he is currently fifth in the league in receiving yards (291 yards) and 12th in receptions (6.3 per game).

Growing Up In Texas

Sutton grew up in Brenham, Texas.

He spent many weekends as a kid goofing around on his family farm. However, as a teenager, he started getting put to work. It was there that he developed his strong work ethic.

At Brenham High School, he was named All-District as a tight end and safety in his senior year. He also helped lead his team to a 14-2 record and an appearance in the 4A State Championship.

However, as a tight end on the JV team the year prior, Sutton stuck to mainly blocking, which didn’t make him stand out to college recruiters. He was also considered too small, only 6’0″ and 190 pounds before college. By the time he made a name for himself, he was told all the scholarships had already been given away.

One week before signing day, Southern Methodist University had one of their commitments drop out. Sutton took a visit and immediately agreed to attend the school.

Sutton had a three-inch growth spurt in his first year of college and found himself at 6’3″.

Although he initially started as a safety, when the team got a new head coach in Chad Morris, he was switched to wide receiver in his second year.

By the time he ended his college career, Sutton had caught 195 receptions for 3,220 yards and 31 touchdowns. He left SMU as a three-time captain with the second-most touchdowns, third-most receiving yards, and sixth-most receptions in the school’s history.

The Ups and Downs of the NFL

Sutton declared for the 2018 NFL Draft as a redshirt junior after finishing his Bachelor’s degree in sports management.

The Denver Broncos selected Sutton as the 40th overall pick in the second round. He was the third wide receiver taken in the draft that year.

Sutton made his NFL debut with two receptions for 45 yards in the Broncos’ season-opening 27–24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. He scored his first professional touchdown in Week 5 against the New York Jets.

While he had a decent rookie season, his sophomore season truly put him on the map.

In his second year, Sutton finished with 72 receptions, 1,112 receiving yards, and six touchdowns. Due to a Deandre Hopkins injury, he was named as a Pro Bowl alternate. This made him the youngest Broncos wide receiver ever to earn a Pro Bowl nod, breaking Demaryius Thomas’ record.

Expectations were high for Sutton’s third year. Unfortunately, he missed Week 1 due to a shoulder injury. It got worse in Week 2 when he suffered a torn ACL and had to miss the rest of the season.

Sutton returned for Year 4 in Week 1 of 2021. Midway through the season, he signed a four-year $60.8 million contract extension with the Broncos, good through the 2025 season. With a challenging quarterback situation at the helm all season and still recovering from the ACL tear, he still managed to produce 58 receptions, 776 yards, and two touchdowns.

In the first year of his new contract, it’s clear that Sutton is Wilson’s go-to guy. He has already caught eight passes of 16-plus air yards, leading the NFL and three more than any other player. He is tied for the NFL lead with nine receptions on third or fourth downs.

Sutton is enjoying getting to be that rock for the team.

“I want those opportunities to be able to make those plays,” the star receiver explained. “I want to be able to be the guy that he goes to on the big third downs and fourth downs so that we can convert them on the field.”

There’s plenty of optimism that Denver’s offense will continue to improve and build consistency as the season progresses. Until then, they will continue to rely on Sutton, who’s already there.

They’ll have another opportunity to show it when the Broncos visit the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday at 2:25 p.m. MST.