After an abysmal 5-11 record in the 2017 season, the Denver Broncos have made monstrous strides to their roster in the offseason. The free agent signing of former Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback Case Keenum filled a much-needed void under center. Add a strong and hungry 2018 NFL Draft class, and the Broncos look as if they have the tools to become one of the NFL’s elite teams in 2018.
Keenum helped lead Minnesota to a 13-3 regular-season record this past season. A magically surreal, last-second victory over the New Orleans Saints in the divisional round had Case on the map for good. Let’s take a look back at the Minneapolis Miracle — a 61-yard touchdown pass from Keenum to Stefon Diggs. Wow.
Only a loss to the Super Bowl LII champion, Philadelphia Eagles, in the NFC Championship Game kept the Vikings from hosting the Big Game. In 15 games (starting 14 of those contests), Keenum slung the pigskin around the lot to the tune of 3,547 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, and just seven interceptions. His 98.3 passer rating a year ago could certainly help Denver’s chances to become AFC contenders in the upcoming 2018-19 season.
How about the Broncos’ draft success? In my opinion, potentially one of the best draft classes the NFL has seen in years. Let me highlight Denver’s No. 1 draft class studs on both sides of the football.
To start things off with the No. 5-overall pick, Denver jumped for joy when defensive end/outside linebacker Bradley Chubb (6-foot-4 and 269 pounds) from North Carolina State was still on the board. Chubb and six-time Pro Bowler Von Miller could easily be the league’s best pass rushing tandem this season. And with the addition of Chubb’s superb run defending ability, this duo is one word. Frightening.
Bradley was considered the primary defensive player, if not the top overall player altogether, in this year’s draft. The 2017 Bronko Nagurski Award (best defensive player in NCAA college football) went to — you guessed it, Mr. Chubb. A fitting award for the next great Bronco.
Bradley has been turning heads throughout training camp at Dove Valley in Englewood, CO. Broncos’ defensive tackle Domata Peko, Sr. says that Chubb reminds him of Denver superstar, Mr. Miller.
“He’s quick, he’s strong and he can get to the passer. He’s disruptive and he’s willing to learn,” Peko said after getting his first glimpse of the 2018 class. “He’s always talking to Von and asking, ‘Hey, what can I do?’ That’s good to see out of a rookie.”
This brings me to the offensive side of the laced pigskin. Peko happened to single out other players he’s thrilled to play alongside. One of those guys happens to be wide receiver, Courtland Sutton. Standing 6-foot-3 and weighing in at 220 pounds from Brenham, TX, Sutton snagged 68 footballs for 1,085 yards and 12 trips to the heezy for Southern Methodist University (SMU). As the No. 40 pick in Round 2, Courtland has the size, strength, toughness, and body positioning to become a gigantic compliment to All-Pro WR Demaryius Thomas on the outside.
The other All-Pro wideout, Emmanuel Sanders (also from SMU), will likely be playing the slot receiver position for Denver this season. So, don’t be surprised to see Thomas and Sutton spread to the far right and left of Sanders for a large dose of the snaps on offense. Providing highlight reel catches aplenty during training camp, expect the same from Mr. Sutton when Denver officially kicks-off the regular-season at Mile High Stadium on September 9th against the Seattle Seahawks.
Here’s a look at some dynamic plays from Sutton at SMU. He’s an imposing physical specimen, folks. From the SMU Mustangs to the Broncos. Once a horse, always a horse. A horse is a horse, of course, of course. Okay, enough with the Mr. Ed reference. This kid can flat ball.
And just like Mr. Chubb, Courtland is getting high praise from his Bronco teammates. Miller chimed in by saying, “No. 14? That guy cold, man. Courtland’s cold.”
For me, I just love the rookie’s humble confidence.
“Every time the ball’s in the air, my job is the same: I come down with that ball in my hands, no matter what,” Sutton said.
I personally think the Broncos have found themselves an absolute star, and an absolute steal in this draft with the selection of Sutton. Looking past Sutton and Chubb, the talent from Denver’s 2018 draft class looms largely in my mind. Their experience and maturity do as well. All 10 players spent four years in school. And as leaders, most of them were captains in college. You have got to love that.
With Keenum leading the troops into battle along with a bevy of young talent and veteran playmakers, look for the Broncos to flip their 5-11 script of last season toward an AFC contending 2018-19.