It would appear that the son of the Denver Broncos' new GM George Paton has inherited his father’s keen eye for talent. Beau Paton's lament about leaving Minnesota for Denver? He didn’t want to leave the Vikings' Pro Bowl rookie wideout Justin Jefferson behind.
As much as Broncos Country might relish taking the record-setting receiver along as part of the Paton deal, George assured his boy that there will be plenty of pass-catching talent awaiting in his new surroundings.
“I told him, we got Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton, so now [Beau’s] back on track,” Paton told Phil Milani of the team website.
Paton’s belief in the star quality of Sutton will also have undoubtedly been boosted by the receiver's workout video posted to his social media accounts this week. Only a mere 117 days have passed since Sutton suffered his season-ending knee injury, so his recovery appears to be ahead of schedule.
The impact of Sutton’s season-long absence cannot be oversold. It thrust the rookie Jeudy prematurely into No. 1 receiver status. Without Tim Patrick’s sure-handed emergence, it’s fair to say the Broncos' offensive struggles would have been even starker and Jeudy’s own rookie ups and downs more pronounced.
The Broncos lost Sutton’s Pro Bowl production. In 2019, he caught 72 passes for 1,112 yards and six touchdowns and with Drew Lock taking over as the starter to open 2020, the absence of that production and connection to Sutton was a blow the passing offense frankly never recovered from.
The double whammy of losing both Sutton and Von Miller was just too much for the relatively thin Broncos roster to absorb.
Paton’s decision to take the GM job in Denver owes more to the young talent on the Broncos roster than it does the quality of steaks available at John Elway’s restaurant. A cursory glance at the roster made Paton aware of just how damaging those injuries were to the Broncos' hopes in 2020.
"But they do have a good core of young players and their record doesn't reflect that because they had so many injuries," Paton said of the Broncos roster. "But I do think that they do have a good core of young players, that with this coaching staff, will keep getting better."
Sticking with Vic Fangio and his coaching staff was a front-office decision that pre-dated Paton’s arrival in the Mile High City. Getting a full-strength Sutton back will help offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur enormously moving forward, and Lock, the latter of whom might face a real battle to hold onto his job.
It’s a tantalizing prospect to think of the Broncos fielding four receivers as talented as Sutton, Jeudy, Patrick and speed demon KJ Hamler in 2021. Sutton’s dedication to his recovery program bodes well in making that prospect a reality.
Sutton's encouraging workout video came on the heels of Fangio himself providing an update on his recovery and rehab as the 2020 campaign wound to a close.
“Courtland’s doing good,” Fangio said back in December. “I’ve talked to him a few times recently. He came up to see me one day, he’s where he should be at this phase of his recovery. He’s doing very, very well, and his attitude is great. He’s attacking it.”
Lock will be equally buoyed by Sutton’s progress because he'll need all his weapons in place if he's going to make the most of whatever opportunity Paton affords him in 2021. For all the criticism directed at Lock, his new GM is experienced enough to understand that losing his stud Pro Bowl receiver was always going to put the inexperienced signal-caller behind the eight-ball.
Speculation that Paton might quickly head in a different direction than Lock is just that at the moment. Whichever way you slice it, though, there will be a nice arsenal of receiving weapons to throw to in 2021 for whomever the Broncos tap to start at QB — once Sutton returns to the line-up.