Coming off his first Pro Bowl campaign, Courtland Sutton entered the 2020 NFL season as one of the NFL’s most exciting young stars. Unfortunately for the Denver Broncos receiver, he won’t earn a second Pro Bowl selection. At least, not this year.
Instead, Sutton will spend the rest of the season sidelined with a torn ACL. Robbed of their star wideout, the Broncos must find a way to replace Sutton’s production if the team has any shot at making a push for a playoff spot.
Courtland Sutton’s rise to stardom
Just two years ago, the Broncos made Courtland Sutton the 40th overall pick. The 6-foot-4, 216-pound wideout entered the NFL draft after a highly impressive career at Southern Methodist University. Sutton totaled 195 catches for 3,220 yards and 31 touchdowns as a three-year starter.
After signing his four-year, $6.8 million rookie contract, Sutton made an immediate impact on the field. The physically gifted receiver caught 42 passes for 704 yards and four touchdowns while playing all 16 games (nine starts). Though he hauled in only 50% of his targets, Sutton showed dynamic ability as a downfield threat.
Following his excellent rookie year, Sutton broke out in a big way in 2019. Taking over as Denver’s top weapon, he racked up 72/1,112/6. The Texas native earned Pro Bowl honors after becoming one of the league’s breakout stars.
Broncos lose their star receiver for the season
Heading into this season, the Broncos expected Courtland Sutton to make another leap in his development. Plus, Denver added Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler via the 2020 NFL draft. On paper, the team boasted terrifying potential with its trio of young wideouts.
However, Sutton suffered a significant setback in his quest to become a true superstar. After missing the Broncos’ season opener, the third-year wideout returned to the lineup in Week 2. Against the Steelers, Sutton caught three of six targets for 66 yards before going down with a knee injury.
On Monday, Broncos fans got bad news about their $6.8 million star. Ian Rapoport reported via Twitter that Sutton tore his ACL. The injury will sideline the talented receiver for the remainder of the season. And now, the Broncos must find a new way to generate points without their top weapon.
How will Denver replace Sutton’s production?
With Courtland Sutton done for the year, Denver has to adapt quickly in order to avoid falling completely out of the playoff hunt. Ultimately, the pressure falls on Jeudy to make a quick transition from college to the NFL.
The former University of Alabama standout certainly has the physical skills to do the job. At the combine, Jeudy ran a 4.45 40-yard dash. He also showcased solid explosion in the vertical jump (35 inches) and broad jump (10 feet).
So far, the 6-foot-1, 193-pound pass-catcher has lived up to his first-round pedigree. Jeudy caught four passes for 56 yards in Denver’s Week 1 loss to the Tennessee Titans. On Sunday, he hauled in four of seven targets for 62 yards in the Broncos’ 26-21 loss to the Steelers. Moving forward, expect Denver to rely on the gifted rookie to move the chains as its No. 1 option in the passing game.
The loss of Courtland Sutton will also force DaSean Hamilton to prove whether the Broncos made the right call to select him 113th overall just two years ago. To this point, the former Penn State star has underwhelmed. Hamilton entered the season with just 58 catches for 540 yards and three touchdowns on his NFL resume. Can he provide more production in a more prominent role? Or will the 2018 fourth-round pick fail to deliver?
Ultimately, this season will be a big test of just how good John Elway is at drafting receivers. He clearly found a star in Courtland Sutton. But with the third-year pro out of the lineup, the Broncos will learn a lot more about Jeudy, Hamler, and Hamilton.