The Denver Broncos took Noah Fant and Drew Lock in the first two rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft, then they went out and added Melvin Gordon, Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler and Albert Okwuegbunam to that offensive group. The Denver offense under Pat Shurmur should prove to be a potent one in 2020. Can we find some good value in the Denver Broncos offense, and can we find a way to sidestep the pitfalls? Here’s the Denver Broncos sleepers, breakouts and busts for 2020.
Sleeper – Drew Lock, Quarterback (QB24, 169 overall)
We saw the best and the worst of Drew Lock last season. A broken hand landed him on IR, costing him all but five games last season. In the first two games, he paced out for about 3,500 passing yards and 40 touchdowns with 16 interceptions. In his last three games, he paced out for about 3,100 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. So, we had some real yin and yang games for Drew Lock in year one. Some people want to point out his target depth being exceptionally low, but in watching the games, that was the product of a coaching staff building some easy dump-offs into his progressions in the event of extreme pressure. A lot of those short passes were with a man in his face to Philip Lindsay or one of the tight ends dragging across the line of scrimmage; they were designed.
Now, Drew Lock gets a whole cabinet of toys to play with. Not only Lindsay, Noah Fant and Courtland Sutton, but also Melvin Gordon, first-round WR Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler, and Lock’s college teammate Albert Okwuegbunam. Everything is set up for Drew Lock to take a huge step forward in 2020, and he’s going for a steal. Even in a 2QB league, he’s barely going as a starting quarterback. You can scoop him up whenever and wherever you want in drafts. Or don’t; he gets Pittsburgh and their #3 passing DVOA defense in week two and New England’s #1 DVOA passing offense in week five, meaning you can probably scoop him up from his owner after his shaky start.
Breakout – Noah Fant, Tight End (TE12, 113 overall)
It feels like every time I write about Noah Fant, I am telling you about the same stat. But, to this point, I’ve yet to see anyone repeat this stat, and I’ve yet to find a stat that better highlights Fant’s upside. Granted, he’s in a much more crowded offense in 2020 than he was in 2019, but this stat best highlights Fant’s ability on a football field. Last year, Fant did something no other rookie tight end has ever done, and it’s not some weird thing like “get exactly 17 receptions for 83 yards in the last two games of the season.” Nothing like that.
Here it is, the thing literally no other rookie tight end has ever done: two games with over 100 yards and a touchdown. Noah Fant did that last season, marking the first time a rookie TE has ever pulled off that platonic ideal of a great game. To give a better of the rarified air that Fant occupies, only six tight ends have ever done that once in their rookie year: Rob Gronkowski, T.J. Hockenson, Jordan Reed, Dustin Keller, and Will Dissly.
Bust – Courtland Sutton, Wide Receiver (WR17, 42 overall)
This one is courtesy of Mike Valverde from the Football Absurdity Podcast. Jerry Jeudy does everything Courtland Sutton does, but better. He’s a better all-around talent, and this is more a cosigning of Jerry Jeudy than Courtland Sutton, but we have to remember Courtland Sutton’s 2019 season for what it was: one of unfulfilled expectations.
Last year, we saw Sutton ball out with Emmanuel Sanders in the lineup, averaging 5 catches for 80 yards per game with Sanders (WR7). Once the Denver Broncos traded Sanders to San Francisco, however, he got appreciably worse. Sutton ended up knocking one twenty-yard catch off his total per game, going to four receptions for about 60 yards per game without Sanders around. Now the offense gets more crowded, with Denver adding not only Jeudy but also K.J. Hamler and Albert Okwuegbunam. There should be a lot of targets to go around in the Denver offense, but anyone hoping for Sutton to build on his 124 targets from 2019 should instead see that as his ceiling. This isn’t a hard bust on Sutton, but rather, a warning of potentially rocky times ahead.