Which receiver will lead the Broncos in 2022?

Denver Broncos (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Denver Broncos (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) /

The Denver Broncos passing game will undoubtedly be more explosive than in recent years, but which receiver will become Russell Wilson’s go-to guy?

Wilson will have plenty of options to throw the ball to in 2022, even without a healthy Tim Patrick. Jerry Jeudy was listed as the top receiver in the Broncos’ unofficial depth chart, but with such a dynamic passer under center, will it really matter?

The Broncos’ top two receiving options bear a striking similarity to Wilson’s options with the Seahawks the last three seasons. While Courtland Sutton may not be the physical freak of nature that DK Metcalf is, he will act as the same type of target for Wilson with Jeudy filling a role similar to Tyler Lockett. The production of these Seattle receivers can provide a glimpse into what fans could see from Denver’s weapons this season.

In Wilson’s last full season in 2020, he threw for 4,212 yards and 40 touchdowns with 13 interceptions. He spread the ball around to his top two options almost identically, targeting Lockett 132 times and Metcalf 129 times. Both receivers reeled in 10 touchdowns with each also garnering 16 red zone targets on the season.

That is where the similarities end. Metcalf caught 83 of his targets for 1,303 yards compared to Lockett’s 100 catches for 1,054 yards. This disparity in yards per reception was the product of the difference in types of targets each player received.

Lockett served primarily as the underneath route runner, allowing better opportunities to bring in easier passes. He saw a catchable target rate of 81.1 percent compared to Metcalf’s 76 percent. Lockett’s average depth of target was significantly lower at 9.7 yards, with Metcalf’s sitting at 13.8 yards.

While Metcalf caught fewer passes, his yardage difference was the result of more consistent chunk plays with deeper routes being run. Sutton doesn’t possess the same type of speed, but his physicality and jump ball ability make him a threat outside and over the top of defenses.

Jeudy’s agility and elusiveness in the open field could allow him to excel underneath in a similar role to Lockett, granted he is able to clean up his drops. Fans have been anxiously waiting to see his untapped potential be realized with quality quarterback play, and 2022 will be the season for him to make it happen.

Wilson’s targets likely won’t be split as evenly as in 2020 given Denver’s depth of weapons on offense. The speedy KJ Hamler should see his fair share of deep targets, and tight end Albert Okwuegbunam could be utilized well in the red zone. Running back Javonte Williams could also see targets out of the backfield.

With that in consideration, Jeudy will likely lead the Broncos in receptions and yardage in 2022. Sutton should follow as a solid second option while seeing more red zone targets and touchdowns, but he has not proven to this point in his career that he can be as dynamic of a playmaker as Metcalf.

Regardless of which receiver garners more targets or yardage, both of the top two options will see heavy improvements to their numbers thanks to a real answer finally being figured out at quarterback.

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