Broncos Have Lots of Open Competition at Wide Receiver


The wide receiver position for the Denver Broncos is widely perceived as a major area of strength with stars Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders atop the depth chart, but what about the depth?

The Broncos have a lot of really interesting competition at the receiver position this offseason, and it starts with the ascension of second year player Cody Latimer, who was taken by the Broncos in the 2014 NFL Draft. Latimer is expected to make a major leap this year, but if he’s the No. 3, where do the Broncos turn after that?

Wes Welker is an unrestricted free agent, and not expected back. Julius Thomas and Jacob Tamme each played a little receiver in the Broncos’ offense when needed, but were listed and primarily played at tight end.

Andre Caldwell is still on the roster, and under contract for another year. He is expected to be the Broncos’ fourth receiver unless a youngster beats him out, and there will be a lot of guys battling for that roster spot and the one or two others that could be available at receiver.

With the injury to Jeff Heuerman, it’s not unreasonable to expect the Broncos to keep just three tight ends on the active roster, but it’s not likely. More likely, they will keep four tight ends and five receivers, or they could keep a sixth receiver and flex a tight end as a fullback (see Joe Don Duncan, James Casey).

Last season, the Broncos kept three receivers on the practice squad in Bennie Fowler, Isaiah Burse, and Nathan Palmer. They also added a bunch of players at the position through future deals and UDFAs this offseason, bringing in Kyle Williams, Jordan Taylor, and David Porter.

They also have Jordan Norwood coming back off of injury, and they claimed perhaps his top competition at the return spots in the diminutive but talented Solomon Patton, formerly of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The guys at the bottom of the roster are relative unknowns at this point, though the Broncos appeared to have a gem on their hands with Norwood prior to his going down with an ACL injury last preseason. Norwood had the roster made as a backup receiver and return specialist before the injury, and showed some nice vertical speed.

We’ll have to wait and see if the knee injury has hindered his speed at all, but Norwood is a player that I think could take a roster spot and the team is also obviously high on Patton, who was brought in from the Bucs. The Broncos could have let him slide through waivers, but they put in a waiver claim to ensure he would be in Denver if he fell to their spot on the priority order.

Aug 28, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Solomon Patton (86) carries the ball against the Washington Redskins during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

I watched some of Patton’s college tape and pre-season snaps with the Bucs last year, and came away impressed. He’s a heck of a returner and good with the ball in his hands. He’s also a lot more physical than his size would suggest, and he does a really good job of plucking the ball away from his body.

I was also really impressed by Jordan Taylor, the 6-5 rookie out of Rice. He didn’t put up insane numbers or anything, but when the ball came his way, he made plays. Like any college receiver, he had some concentration drops, but I was incredibly impressed by his catch radius and deep speed for a longer, lanky receiver like him.

Oct 11, 2014; West Point, NY, USA; Rice Owls wide receiver Jordan Taylor (15) runs after a catch during the first half at Michie Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

He needs to add a little bulk, I think, but he could be a guy that surprises this offseason.

As with all the interesting names on this list, offseason pickup Kyle Williams — formerly of the 49ers — is also a name to watch. He was out with an injury last year and comes to the Denver with quite a reputation and history in this league. If you’ll remember, Williams was the guy who dropped a couple of punts in the playoffs for the 49ers and received some nasty messages on Twitter following that game.

He was at his best from 2011-2012 with the 49ers and was last seen on a regular season field with the Chiefs (gross) in 2013.

Not to be forgotten are the guys that have been developing and growing wit the current backup quarterbacks in Bennie Fowler, Isaiah Burse, and Nathan Palmer. It feels like Palmer has been with the team forever, and he kind of has.

Aug 7, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Nathan Palmer (13) before the preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

He joined as a practice squad player in the year the Broncos went to the Super Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks, and has been around ever since. He was on the active roster for a bit when Wes Welker was suspended last year, but outside of that, he’s been with the team on a practice squad basis.

Palmer has some giddy up. He’s also a heck of a musician.

With Osweiler entering his fourth season in Denver, you’d expect these receivers to get a really good look in camp and in the preseason. They should have plenty of competence at the QB position to be able to give them all the best look at who should be on the roster.

If Demaryius Thomas doesn’t get back soon, these guys are going to continue to get more and more reps, and that should provide the Broncos with fantastic competition all offseason at the receiver position.

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