One of the biggest moves of the offseason was the Denver Broncos’ acquisition of Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in late March. While the price was steep — three players and five draft picks — the veteran provides the team with stability at a position that has been in constant flux since Peyton Manning retired after winning the Super Bowl in 2015.
Even though Wilson leaves behind one of the NFL’s top one-two punches in Seahawks wide receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, the cupboards aren’t exactly bare in Denver where they have a trio of former early-round picks in Jerry Jeudy (1st in 2020), Courtland Sutton (2nd in 2018), and KJ Hamler (2nd in 2020) as well as Tim Patrick. Hamler appears to be on the outside looking in for targets right now with the other three likely serving as Wilson’s top targets in 2022.
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Coming off an encouraging rookie campaign, Jeudy opened 2021 with a team-high 72 yards on six catches in a win over the New York Giants. Unfortunately, he suffered a high ankle sprain and would miss six games recovering. Jeudy was uneven the rest of the way, finishing with just 38 catches and 467 yards on the season; he also failed to score a touchdown. In 26 career games, Jeudy has topped 80 yards just twice, both coming in 2020.
While it’s too early to saddle the Alabama product with the bust label, he needs to start showing more of the route running and deep speed he was lauded for coming out of college. The addition of Wilson could be big in this regard as the veteran has long been considered one of the NFL’s elite deep-ball throwers, and in the thin air of Denver he and Jeudy could form a dangerous duo.
Sutton (58-776-2) enjoyed a breakout season in 2019, topping 1,000 yards and looking like an emerging star. He tore his ACL and MCL in Week 1 the following year, however, and missed the rest of 2020. While he played in all 17 games last season, Sutton was wildly inconsistent and finished with disappointing numbers. At the heart of that inconsistency was Jeudy. In the six games Jeudy missed, Sutton caught 40 passes for 585 yards and a pair of scores. In the 11 games they played together, the SMU product managed just 18 receptions, 191 yards and no TDs.
The question is what caused the struggles? Was it the shaky quarterbacking of Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock, who couldn’t do enough to feed two or three capable targets? Or, were their lingering issues stemming from his knee injury? Now two full years removed and with a bona fide NFL quarterback at the helm, Sutton has no excuse not to improve on last season’s middling effort.
Tim Patrick and KJ Hamler
Signed to a three-year extension before the end of last season, Patrick is the overlooked member of Denver’s receiving corps, coming from the humble beginnings of undrafted free agency. He’s finished second on the team in receiving yards in each of the past two years, posting a combined 104 catches, 1,476 yards, and 11 TDs. Despite solid numbers, it’s hard not to feel like Patrick is swimming upstream and will only see consistent work if Jeudy or Sutton struggle or get injured.
Hamler is a blisteringly fast slot receiver whose career trajectory figures to be the flattest of the top four Denver wideouts. Aside from inherent restrictions, such as size (5-foot-9, 178 pounds) and role, he is recovering from a torn ACL of his own in September of 2021. The former Penn Stater is said to be ahead of schedule but probably won’t be fully healthy until roughly Week 6.
Fantasy football outlook
Perhaps no one in Denver can match Metcalf in terms of pure talent, but the combo of Jeudy and Sutton could certainly produce similar numbers to Lockett and Metcalf.
Jeudy’s deep speed should create the best match with Wilson’s skill set, and as such he should be the first Broncos receiver drafted as a high-end WR3 with a reasonable shot at being a quality second in PPR.
Sutton is more of a midrange No. 3 with arguably a higher floor and lower ceiling. He tends to come as a value in most formats, although that could change as we get deeper into draft season and he gains more national pub with a strong camp and/or preseason.
Patrick would be an interesting late-round depth pickup as your fifth or sixth option, whereas Hamler is best left to the wire.