Courtland Sutton: Addition of rookie WRs will transform Broncos' passing game

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- If Denver Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton is right, it might be wise to snag the team's wideouts in fantasy drafts in the coming months.

Sutton said Thursday that rookies Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler are two significant reasons the 2020 Broncos offense won't look anything like the unit that struggled through much of 2019.

The Broncos (7-9) finished 28th or worse last season in scoring, total offense, passing yards and third-down conversions. The Broncos were also tied for 17th in the NFL in pass plays of at least 30 yards.

"Now we have guys who can stretch the field vertically," Sutton said. "You take those safeties out of the box, pay respect to everyone on the field. ... You're not going to be able to cheat to one side, you're not going to be able to load the box for the run game, you're not going to be able to shade the safeties over the top in certain places, to be able to have speed and talent in all of our positions. ... They're ready to come in and work, and our room is excited this year."

The Broncos used their first-round pick last month on Jeudy and their second-round pick on Hamler. It marked the first time in franchise history the team had used its first two picks in a draft on wide receivers.

The new arrivals should provide much-needed pop in an offense that scored 16 or fewer points in nine games last season; the Broncos were 2-7 in those games. They also lost Emmanuel Sanders, who was traded in October. He was second among the team's wide receivers in catches with 30 (behind Sutton's 72).

Sutton said that after talking with the team's coaches before the draft, he knew wide receiver would be a priority and that Jeudy and Hamler were certainly on the team's radar.

Jeudy ran a 4.45-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine; 52 of his 77 catches last season for Alabama went for first downs or touchdowns. Hamler was considered one of the fastest players in the draft; 33 of his 98 career catches at Penn State went for 30 or more yards.

"I had been hearing about the possibility if the guys that we wanted were there, we were going to take them," Sutton said. "... I got to watch [Jeudy] play a little bit and I liked what I saw. ... I love the way he plays. He's going to add a lot more pressure to defenses. ... It's going to open up a lot more.

"[Hamler] is a speedster, a baller, a playmaker. ... Seeing his film, also watching how explosive, how dynamic he is with the ball in his hands, I think that he's also going to be somebody who threatens defenses."

Sutton also said of the two: "The guys coming in here are hungry."

The Broncos have now added quarterback Drew Lock, tight end Noah Fant, guard Dalton Risner, Jeudy and Hamler with either first- or second-round picks in the past two drafts.

"[Scoring] shouldn't be a concern, but it was [in 2019], and we have to face the fact that was the situation and move from that, learn from that," Sutton said. "... But we have every weapon we could possibly need to be successful at every position offensively, and it's on us to apply those weapons, use those weapons to the best or our ability."

The Broncos are in the second week of their virtual offseason. With Lock set for his first year as the starter and Pat Shurmur set to be the fourth different offensive coordinator in a four-season span, Sutton said the team is still building a chemistry with no on-field work.

The Broncos, like the rest of the NFL, do not have players or coaches meeting at the team complex because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"The biggest thing for us is taking advantage of the virtual meetings," Sutton said. "These are things you can't take for granted at all. Obviously, you take the physical aspect out of it ... but we can't look at this situation and say, 'We should be able to go out there and run routes and we can't so this time is butchered.' That's not the case at all. It's how can we manage this time that we have, this platform that we've been given. ... There's so much to learn, so much that you can add to your game that isn't just being on the field."