Photo via Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
The certainty is becoming more coherent.
That certainty comes from roster construction within the NFL, as general managers are beginning to see eye-to-eye on how to build a championship-caliber football team.
Teams around the NFL have begun to undertake this mindset, in part due to the explosive Kansas City Chiefs’ offense leading them to a Super Bowl championship in 2019. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers built a more well-rounded offense in the offseason with the additions of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. The Baltimore Ravens did it by taking a shot on Lamar Jackson in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Kansas City Chiefs now have a blueprint to maintain their offense with their $477 million contract extension to their gunslinging and ketchup-loving quarterback in Patrick Mahomes.
Building an offense to compete in the shootouts is becoming more of a necessity. The Denver Broncos, specifically, have also started to step onto the bandwagon.
While Denver’s offense ranked 28th in points per game (17.6 points per game) last season, the main playmakers on the squad were raw and young. Denver’s leading rusher in 25-year-old Phillip Lindsay rushed for 1,011 yards, which ranked 15th in the NFL. On the receiving end of the ball, 24-year-old wide receiver Courtland Sutton and 22-year-old tight end Noah Fant led the team in receiving yards (1,112 and 562 yards, respectively) and receiving touchdowns (six and three, respectively).
The draft position of Sutton and Fant, in particular, both came in the top two rounds of the 2018 and 2019 NFL Drafts (Sutton in the second round in 2018 and Fant in the first round in 2019). The most shocking of the trio, however, came from Lindsay’s draft position, or the lack thereof; he went undrafted and was signed by Denver as an undrafted free agent.
Then, you have the new wide receiving duo in Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler, who the Broncos plucked in the first and second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The pair brings outside and perimeter experience that should only strengthen the depth and lengthen opposing defenses on the field.
The high-round draft picks and the savvy scouting for undrafted players showed reminiscence to the 2012-14 Broncos, when those teams ranked second (30.1), first (37.9) and second (30.1) in points per game in the NFL, respectively. After all, Demaryius Thomas, their leading receiver for all three of those seasons, was drafted in the first round by the Broncos in the 2010 NFL Draft. Knowshon Moreno, their leading rusher during the 2013 season, was also drafted in the first round (2009 NFL Draft). When Moreno left for the Miami Dolphins, C.J. Anderson took over the rushing duties and led the team in rush yards during the 2014 season. While the assumption would be that he, too, was a high-round pick, that would be factually incorrect; he was undrafted.
Drafting and signing coincidences aside, the 2020 Broncos’ offense does not stop there, as they will also bring a familiar player to the fold. In fact, not just any familiar player, but a player from a rival. Melvin Gordon, who was drafted by the San Diego Chargers, begins a clean slate with Denver and looks to compete with Lindsay for primary running back touches. The pickup for Denver should not only provide top-tier depth at the running back position, but also a dynamic rusher, as Denver’s inside zone rushing scheme shows similarities to what Gordon thrived in when he was a Big Ten rusher for the Wisconsin Badgers in college.
The tools are there. Now, all that is needed is a quarterback to utilize them.
Greetings, Drew Lock.
After giving starts to Joe Flacco and Brandon Allen over halfway through the 2019 NFL season, the 2019 second-rounder out of Missouri officially took over the signal-calling reigns during Week 13. In five games started, Lock went 4-1, threw for 1,020 yards and tallied seven passing touchdowns. While he threw an interception in his first three games and had a stinker against the future Super Bowl-winning Kansas City Chiefs in the process, Lock was able to bounce back and average a 95.6 Quarterback Rating in his final two games against the Detroit Lions and the Oakland Raiders.
When rolling the names and numbers all together, the Broncos had a young and raw offense last season. With another year of seasoning, the offense brings another attempt to take a step forward in the upcoming season.
The uncertainty is whether the offense will be enough to vault Denver into a playoff position.
However, the offense will definitely take another step forward and prove to be one of the future units to keep a keen eye on as the seasons unfold.
That is the certainty.