Dark Horse Offensive MVP in Denver

Last season was a strange one for the Denver Broncos offense. They seemed to be on the right path in the second year of the Vance Joseph era. Undrafted star Phillip Lindsay was proving all 32 teams in the NFL wrong for letting him go undrafted. Royce Freeman was eating up yards and delivering punishing blows late in games. The trio of Emmanuel Sanders and rookies Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton were exceeding expectations, even if Case Keenum was a sub-par quarterback.

Somewhere, it all fell apart.

That was then, this is now.

The Broncos have moved on from Joseph and Bill Musgrave and hired defensive “evil” genius Vic Fangio as head coach and pried Rich Scangarello from the Niners. Keenum is gone, with (Super Bowl MVP) Joe Flacco replacing him. Most of the offensive personnel stays the same as last season, with the most changes coming from the offensive line.

With all these changes being made, it’s interesting to think about who will make the biggest impact on this offense. Rather, who is the one player we would least expect to have the biggest impact on this offense?

Could it be Lindsay, providing an increased role in the passing game? Maybe Flacco, making it a point to show his worth after being traded? Could it be Freeman, with the team reverting to a more traditional zone blocking scheme that he was successful in?

Denver’s dark horse offensive MVP is:

Courtland Sutton

Courtland Sutton scoring against the Jets

That’s right. Courtland Sutton, even though he will most likely be the Broncos top receiving target come Week 1, is my biggest candidate for offensive MVP. Sutton had a relatively “quiet” rookie season with 42 catches, 704 yards, and 4 touchdowns. With more reps, a new coaching staff, and a new quarterback, we can honestly look at Sutton and expect that he makes an improvement from last season.

A number that needs to improve for Sutton is his catch rate. With 84 targets last season and only 42 catches, his catch rate sat at a below-average 50%. When comparing him to former Bronco Demaryius Thomas, who Sutton is fairly similar to in terms of size, Sutton’s rookie season is quite comparable to Thomas’ sophomore season in Denver. Thomas, however, didn’t start many games as a rookie (2) as Sutton (9) and made a more significant jump from years 2-3, rather than 1-2. This jump was mainly due to Peyton Manning and the change from Tim Tebow.

If Sutton can make the same type of improvement that Thomas did with a new quarterback, the Broncos offense is right in line to shock the league.

Sutton has an incredible ability to haul in 50/50 balls and make acrobatic catches. His fluidity and catch radius make him an ideal deep threat and red zone target for Joe Flacco, something the Broncos have desperately been trying to improve the last few years.

Receiving aside, the biggest standout from his rookie season that we hope to see continue is his downfield blocking. His ability to take out defenders on the outside is what helped Lindsay break off big runs from time to time. Sutton’s size and versatility allows him to use his leverage extremely well and was one of Denver’s better downfield blockers. If this continues to improve, the backs are sure to have great luck with outside runs.

With this new look offense and new quarterback, Sutton could be in for a big year. The sophomore slump is a real thing, but John Elway has put Sutton in a fairly good spot to be a second year success. We’ve seen it happen before with Thomas, so it isn’t out of the realm of possibilities.

Biggest Aspects Sutton Needs to Improve Upon:

  • Catch Rate: Sitting at 50% last season, if Sutton can get anywhere close to 70% it will be a strong improvement.
  • Route Running: At times last season, Sutton was limited in his route tree, mainly running deep go routes, but when he was tasked with running short slants, he would sometimes run himself into coverage. He needs to continue to work on getting quick separation.

If Sutton can improve these parts of his game, there’s no reason he can’t be considered one of the young elite wide receivers in the league. He has the potential to be an extremely dangerous target, but the drops are what is killing him in his game. Look for this new coaching staff to work hard on improving that.

Realistic Expectations and Projected Offense Stats for 2019-20

If Sutton stays healthy and plays in all 16 regular season match-ups, he should have a fairly sizable uptick in production. With the upgraded offense, he’ll get more looks and more red zone targets.

2019 Projected Offense Stats (2018 Stats)

  • Targets – 115 (84)
  • Receptions/Catch % – 78/.675% (42/50%)
  • Receiving Yards/Yards per Catch – 1,170/15 (704/16.8)
  • Touchdowns – 7 (4)

Let me know who you think Denver’s potential offensive MVP for this upcoming season will be below!

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