Denver Broncos: Ranking every WR ever drafted in second round

With their second-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft, the Denver Broncos selected K.J. Hamler, a wide receiver out of Penn State. It marked the seventh time in team history the team took a wide receiver in round two.

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DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 22: Courtland Sutton #14 of the Denver Broncos holds the ball as he warms up in the bench area before the start of a game against the Detroit Lions at Empower Field on December 22, 2019, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

What made the selection of Hamler even more intriguing was the fact that the team used its first-round pick on another wide receiver, Jerry Jeudy. It's not often a team will use its first two draft choices on the same position, but it showed that the Broncos recognized a deficiency at the position.

The team also wanted to give Drew Lock some improved options to get the ball to in his first full year as the team's starting quarterback.

Prior to the draft, we took a look at the wide receivers the Broncos had taken in the first round of the draft in their history. That article was driven by the thought that the team would take a wide receiver in the first round.

But few, if any, predicted that a wide receiver would also be taken in the second round. Since that happened, it gives us a chance to look back at every wide receiver the Broncos have ever drafted in the second round in team history.

One of the players on this list is a star on the team's current roster. Has he done enough to earn the No.1 spot on this list?

Here are the other six wide receivers that the Broncos have drafted in the second round, ranked in order descending order. Who will come in at No.1 and where will Hamler someday fit on this list?

1982

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OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 06: Denver Broncos helmets sit on the bench during their game against the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum on December 6, 2012, in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

6

Orlando McDaniel

WR | LSU
Orlando McDaniel Logo

Orlando McDaniel was the first wide receiver the Broncos ever drafted in the second round, but his professional career was very quiet.

Looking at the stats he posted in college, those were not that impressive either. In four seasons at LSU, he caught a total of 64 passes. He made 41 of those receptions during his senior season in 1981, but his numbers won't blow anyone away.

His college numbers were huge compared to what he did in the NFL though. He played in just three games for the team and failed to record even one reception. He is certainly a player that could be considered a draft bust as he was taken with the No. 50 overall pick in that draft.

The Broncos were looking for a solid No. 3 wide receiver going into that draft to put behind Steve Watson and Rick Upchurch. The only other receiver on the roster was a guy named Wade Manning.

The team was clearly upbeat about the senior season that McDaniel posted. He also ran track at the school, so there was a belief that he could be the speed guy the team would use to gain separation on deep routes.

None of that ever transpired and as a result, McDaniel became a forgotten name in Broncos history, at least until recently. Sadly, he passed away on March 27 of this year due to complications developed from the coronavirus.

He was 59 years old.

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2004

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DENVER - OCTOBER 31: Wide receiver Darius Watts #17 of the Denver Broncos gets a touchdown late in the fourth quarter on October 31, 2004, at Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado. The Falcons won the game 41-28. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

5

Darius Watts

WR | Marshall
Darius Watts Logo

Darius Watts is one of the best players in the history of Marshall, a place where he is near the top of the record books in every statistical category for a wide receiver.

Watts finished his college career with 272 receptions for 4,031 yards and 47 touchdowns. He ranks third in school history in receptions and second in receiving yardage. His 47 touchdowns are the second-most ever, behind only Randy Moss.

In 2004, the Broncos had Rod Smith and a young Ashley Lelie at wide receiver, but the team was pretty thin beyond that. Those names included Triandos Luke, Nate Jackson and Charlie Adams.

So you can see why the team was looking for a wide receiver.

Watts was supposed to come in and be the No. 3 option in the passing game and be the playmaker that he was at Marshall. That didn't happen.

Watts struggled as a rookie. Though he was targeted 53 times that season, he only caught 31 passes. He had 385 yards receiving and caught just one touchdown pass. In year two, the team already seemed to cut its losses with Watts as he was hardly used and caught just two passes.

The Broncos released him prior to the start of the 2006 season and he was picked up by the New York Giants but flamed out quickly there. He then spent one season with the Philadelphia Soul of the Arena Football League before retiring from the game.

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2014

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OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 26: Cody Latimer #14 of the Denver Broncos makes a catch as TJ Carrie #38 of the Oakland Raiders defends during the fourth quarter of their NFL football game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on November 26, 2017, in Oakland, California. The Raiders defeated the Broncos 21-14. (Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images)

4

Cody Latimer

WR | Indiana
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In more recent years, Cody Latimer was a high draft pick of the Broncos that came in with so much promise.

Latimer had a big senior season at Indiana, putting him on the national map. Looking for another guy for Peyton Manning to throw the ball to and perhaps a guy who could eventually replace an aging Wes Welker.

Latimer never got off the starting blocks.

Fans should have as big a problem with this guy as anyone on this list as he wasn't working with quarterbacks like Kyle Orton and Steve DeBerg, like some guys on this list, he had Manning to learn from.

He played in just eight games as a rookie, catching two passes. In four seasons with the team, he caught 35 passes and scored three touchdowns. That's not exactly the kind of output you're looking for out of a wide receiver and frankly, he was close to being edged out by the completely forgotten Watts on this list.

Latimer was a total bust for the Broncos. The team kept him throughout his entire rookie contract even though he probably should have been dumped after year two. He just wasn't a good professional player.

Latimer is now on his third NFL team, looking to find a role with the Washington Redskins. Unless that goes a lot better than it did in Denver or the New York Giants where he went next, then his career will likely fizzle out soon and he will go down as a guy with immense potential that was never close to being fulfilled.

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2018

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INDIANAPOLIS, IN - OCTOBER 27: Courtland Sutton #14 of the Denver Broncos makes a first down catch during the second quarter of the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 27, 2019, in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images)

3

Courtland Sutton

WR | SMU
Courtland Sutton Logo

There should be an asterisk here, as the career of Courtland Sutton is still in full swing. He has only played for the team for two seasons and is already in the No. 3 slot on this list.

Sutton had an average rookie season in 2018, catching 42 passes. But he was also working behind Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders for part of that season. He emerged as the No.1 option on the team in his second year and that gave the team the confidence to trade Sanders, as it had done with Thomas the year prior.

Sutton caught 72 passes for 1,112 yards and six touchdowns last season, earning a trip to the Pro Bowl. There is all the confidence in the world that he will be the team's top option for several years to come and will end up going down as one of the best wide receivers in the team's history.

But for those saying he should be higher on this list, let's not get ahead of ourselves. This list isn't about what could be, it is about what was and what has been. It will surprise no one if Sutton ends up being the best wide receiver on this list when all is said and done, but based on what he has done in his first two seasons, No. 3 is the appropriate slot.

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2008

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DENVER, CO - JANUARY 01: Eddie Royal #19 of the Denver Broncos advances the ball against the Kansas City Chiefs at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 1, 2012, in Denver, Colorado. The Chiefs defeated the Broncos 7-3 as the Broncos advanced to the AFC playoffs. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

2

Eddie Royal

WR | Virginia Tech
Eddie Royal Logo

The Broncos took Eddie Royal with the No. 42 overall pick of the 2008 draft and he was a perfect fit for the offense. As a rookie, he caught 91 passes. To this day, that is the second-most receptions in a season by a rookie in NFL history.

If he stayed on that pace throughout his career, he would have gone down as one of the best players in Broncos history and easily be No.1 on this list. But his production never again approached what he did as a rookie.

Royal was still an effective player for the team, catching 115 passes over the next three seasons, but that wasn't enough to convince the organization to keep him around. He became an unrestricted free agent following the 2011 season and was scooped up by the rival San Diego Chargers.

He was solid for them as well and posted a career-high eight touchdown receptions in 2013.

But it's hard not to wonder how much more Royal would have done in Denver if circumstances were different. In 2008, he and Jay Cutler formed a terrific combination. It was Cutler who Royal caught 91 passes from.

But when the team hired Josh McDaniels as its coach in 2009, he moved on from Cutler by trading him to the Chicago Bears. In that exchange, the Broncos received Kyle Orton and he and Royal just didn't have the same kind of chemistry.

Royal finished his career in Chicago with Cutler.

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1985

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PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 1: Wide receiver Vance Johnson #82 of the Denver Broncos catches a pass as he is pursued by linebacker Bryan Hinkle #53 and cornerback John Swain #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during a game at Three Rivers Stadium on December 1, 1985, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Broncos defeated the Steelers 31-23. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

1

Vance Johnson

WR | Arizona
Vance Johnson Logo

The most recognizable name from the famed "Three Amigos", Vance Johnson lands at No.1 on this list.

Johnson was selected with the No. 31 overall pick of the 1985 draft, a pick that would be a first-rounder in today's draft. He still ranks sixth on the Broncos' all-time receptions list with 415 catches in his career. Here's a list of the guys ahead of him on that list:

Ed McCaffrey, Lionel Taylor, Shannon Sharpe, Demaryius Thomas and Rod Smith. That's a who's who of Broncos receivers, putting Johnson on an elite level.

Because Johnson played so long ago (he retired following the 1995 season), he was one of the better receivers in the league during his years and when I think back to John Elway dropping back and looking for his top receiver, I still think of him throwing the ball to No. 82.

Johnson finished his career with 415 receptions for 5,695 yards and 37 touchdowns. He also helped the Broncos reach three Super Bowls. He is tied with Demaryius Thomas for most 100-yard receiving games in the playoffs with three.

When compiling a list of the best wide receivers in Broncos history, Johnson should absolutely be mentioned. He played in a different era where there wasn't a premium on throwing the football like there is in today's game, but it seemed like when the team needed a play, he was there to make it.

And he's far and away the best wide receiver ever taken in the second round by the Broncos.