ESPN Gives Broncos' Offensive Weapons Surprising NFL Ranking
At this time last year, the Denver Broncos scared no one when it came to offensive weaponry. That's what fielding an offense led by Joe Flacco will do.
The Broncos had some serious talent at this time last year but lacked the triggerman. All the Emmanuel Sanderses, Courtland Suttons, Phillip Lindsays, and Noah Fants couldn't overcome the on-his-last-legs Flacco. All the explosive talent in the world at the skill positions feels like it's for naught when Flacco is the distributor of the football.
My, what a difference a year makes. ESPN's Bill Barnwell is one of the better journalists covering the NFL and an astute analyst. Each year, he ranks all 32 teams based on offensive weaponry.
At this time last year, Barnwell ranked the Broncos No. 31. One year later? Barnwell ranks the Broncos at No. 14 in the NFL. Was it simply the additions of Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler that accounts for the leap forward? Here's what Barnwell said.
14. Denver Broncos
After using the past two drafts to rebuild their weaponry, the Broncos have one of the more exciting young cores in the league. Wide receiver Courtland Sutton, a second-round pick in 2018, broke out with a 1,112-yard campaign last season, which is particularly impressive when you consider that his quarterbacks were Joe Flacco, Brandon Allen and rookie Drew Lock. First-round pick Noah Fant wasn't consistent as a rookie, but he ranked ninth in receiving yards and fourth in yards per route run among tight ends over the second half of the season. General manager John Elway then supplemented this group by using his top two draft picks on wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler. This is an exciting group of receivers, although more for the long term than in 2020 given their relative inexperience.
I'm less enthused about the Broncos moving Phillip Lindsay out of the starting lineup for free-agent signing Melvin Gordon, who wasn't effective for the Chargers last season after returning from his holdout and saw the fumble woes from his rookie year reappear. Gordon was still 15th in success rate and is a plus receiver, so he should comfortably be an upgrade on Royce Freeman's half of the Denver running back rotation.
And there you have it. The Broncos' rise on Barnwell's list mostly comes down to what Sutton and Fant showed last year and the arrival of Jeudy and Hamler.
It's interesting that Barnwell was less-than-enthused about the Melvin Gordon addition, which echoes the overall reaction we at Mile High Huddle had. What football czar in his right mind makes a move to sit a dynamic ball-carrier like Lindsay down?
John Elway, that's who. For reasons that we can only assume have to do with Gordon's receiving prowess (which isn't that great) and Lindsay's durability (5-foot-9, 190 pounds). Gordon is hailed like he's the second coming of Marshall Faulk as a receiver out of the backfield but he isn't.
Is Gordon better than Lindsay as a receiver? Yes. Is he $8 million worth of being better? There's the rub.
I would answer 'no' to that question. Elway answered 'yes'
It's going to be fun to see how it plays out, not just for Lindsay and Gordon, but for this young Broncos offense absolutely teeming with talent. It comes down to the Xs and Os and in this case, the Jimmy, not the Joes, to bring it all together.
The onus falls on OC Pat Shurmur and ultimately, on Lock to deliver. I'm not worried about either stepping up and doing what needs done in order for the Broncos offense to realize its potential.