Denver Broncos: How many receivers can the team actually keep?

Jun 15, 2021; Englewood, Colorado, USA; Members of the wide receiver and tight ends group during an offseason workout at the UCHealth Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 15, 2021; Englewood, Colorado, USA; Members of the wide receiver and tight ends group during an offseason workout at the UCHealth Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

The Denver Broncos have 15 wide receivers on the 90-man roster coming out of OTAs. Although the team typically carries a lot of receivers at this time of year, is 15 an excessive amount? How many of these guys can actually end up making the 53-man roster?

That is a fantastic question worth exploring.

The 2020 NFL season was as unique as anyone will ever see given the fact that it was played during a global pandemic. As impactful as the pandemic was on the league as a whole last season, it opened up the NFL’s eyes to the need for adaptive roster rules both in terms of shuffling players on and off injured reserve as well as expanding practice squads to 16 players.

This means that, out of 90 players, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that 69 will ultimately “make” the Denver Broncos in 2021, and in fact, it could be more than that if guys are placed on any sort of reserve lists.

With expanded practice squads, the ability to take 55 players onto the active roster into games, and more flexibility than ever before, could we see George Paton and Vic Fangio do something as crazy as keeping, say, eight wide receivers in 2021?

It’s not out of the realm of possibility, not even in the slightest.

There are no guarantees of anything at this point, but keeping the best 53 players on the roster is obviously imperative. The Broncos will consider everything from role on offense or defense to special teams when deliberating over specific players, and special teams will always be huge for guys at the back end of the roster to make it.

The top four spots at the wide receiver position are solidified for the Denver Broncos at this point. Courtland Sutton is the leader of the group, Tim Patrick is coming off of a career year, and the top two picks in the 2020 NFL Draft (Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler) are expected to play major roles.

Behind those guys, the Broncos have promising second-year player Tyrie Cleveland, a known special teams ace who can contribute on coverage units as well as in the kickoff return department.

Seth Williams was taken in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft and could play a major role on special teams as a rookie and could be the team’s answer for potentially losing Tim Patrick in 2022 free agency.

Diontae Spencer is the team’s primary punt and kick return option, and Kendall Hinton was singled out by head coach Vic Fangio as a standout player at OTAs.

For those keeping track at home, that’s eight names already.

That doesn’t even get into the new players the Broncos have added in De’Mornay Pierson-El and Amara Darboh who won roster spots at OTA tryouts.

The Denver Broncos also added a number of undrafted free agents and have other players competing for spots like Trinity Benson and Warren Jackson.

What happens if eight of these guys end up being eight of the best 53 players on the team? That’s not out of the question, and the Broncos might be able to justify it.

Right now, the tight end position looks pretty thin behind Noah Fant and Albert Okwuegbunam. The Broncos will obviously keep three tight ends on the active roster, but it’s common for NFL teams to keep four.

Will the Denver Broncos keep three quarterbacks? A traditional fullback?

The answers to these other questions will determine whether or not the team is able to keep eight receivers. Because of the expanded practice squad rules and the ability to call guys up for gameday, the Broncos could — in theory — keep eight receivers on the active roster and still utilize other guys off of the practice squad they might otherwise have kept strictly due to the numbers game.

Finding consistent roles for eight receivers could be tough. The only way that probably happens is if one guy (Diontae Spencer or De’Mornay Pierson-El) winds up being the full-time return specialist.

Kendall Hinton‘s emergence over the offseason might dictate the Broncos keep an abnormal number of receivers on the active roster.