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The Denver Broncos are in one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL.
The AFC West looks strong right now. The Chiefs have gone to back-to-back Super Bowls, winning one of them. The Raiders almost made the playoffs, and the Chargers should be much improved now that they’ve found a franchise quarterback and can build around him.
The Broncos should still be in the mix, however, especially with the group of pass-catchers they’ll be fielding this season.
Getting Courtland Sutton back from a season-ending ACL injury in 2020 is going to work wonders. At 6-foot-4, 216 pounds, he’s that perfect X-receiver who can work as the offense’s top passing option — as long as he’s healthy and back to normal. His presence will allow second-year receiver Jerry Jeudy to slide into the No. 2 role, a role in which he should thrive after an up-and-down rookie season.
Former first-round tight end Noah Fant is now entering his third season in the NFL. With 62 receptions for 673 yards and three scores last season, Fant is slowly becoming the dynamic, playmaking threat many expected him to be coming out of Iowa in 2019.
The perception of the group isn’t just about that top trio though.
As you start to work deeper into what the Broncos have to offer, you find that things become even more exciting. Tim Patrick, 27, was second on the team in receiving yards last season after Sutton was sidelined by injury. Patrick hauled in 51 catches for 742 yards and led the team with six receiving touchdowns. He offers another big body at the position.
There are also a couple of other second-year guys outside of Jeudy, and many hope they will step into a larger role this season. Last year’s second-round pick KJ Hamler, a speedster out of Penn State, is one of them. The other is tight end Albert Okwuegbunam out of Missouri.
Now add in the nice, late-round value from Auburn’s Seth Williams, and there’s no denying that there are both top-flight pass-catchers and depth.
A lot will depend on Jeudy’s improvement. He led the team in receiving yards (856) last season, but he also struggled with drops. This year should be a different story though. Jeudy says he is ready to take that next step forward.
“I feel like I’ve matured,” Jeudy said Tuesday, via DenverBroncos.com. “You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into [during] your first year of doing something. This is my second year, and I feel like I have learned a lot from my first year. I know how to overcome whatever I had in past years to make this year better.”
At one time, Jeudy was considered a potential No. 1 overall pick. He ultimately fell to Denver at No. 15 in the 2020 NFL Draft, but the talent that made him a first-round pick is absolutely there. A second-year breakout is likely, and if that happens, this unit will be taken to a whole new level.
There’s also the recent addition of second-round running back Javonte Williams, who is an excellent receiver out of the backfield.
The more you look at this group, the more you realize how much pressure is on Drew Lock. He’s got the physical tools to succeed, and he’ll now have more than enough talent, especially with Sutton back, to succeed. Lock needs to take a massive step forward in 2021 as well — or the Broncos need to figure out a way to get Aaron Rodgers to Denver.
Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.