NFL Predictions: How the Denver Broncos Receiving Corps Will Look in 2012
Despite his heroics during the 2011 season, the Broncos signal-caller often threw completely erratic balls, behind his receivers and away when targets were wide open.
With the midseason trade of Brandon Lloyd, the Broncos spread themselves somewhat thin at wide receiver. This left Denver with wideouts who were young, inexperienced and without ample time to prepare for the roles that they found themselves.
Though these young receivers rose to the challenge and performed well, particularly Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, Denver still ranked near the bottom of the league in almost every receiving category.
The Broncos were dead last in total receptions, 31st in total receiving yards and 18th in receiving touchdowns. Not to be outdone, the Broncos did rank third in one receiving category: fumbles.
Now obviously we need to lay a huge portion of the blame for this at the feet of Tebow, and it's worth mentioning that the Broncos were fairly middle of the road when it came to dropped passes with 28.
Regardless of who you blame, the Broncos might have done well to hang onto Brandon Lloyd.
If they're looking at the same stats we are, it's likely that we'll see a bit of a different-looking receiving corps for the Broncos next year. Including tight ends, this is a list of every current receiver in Denver and where they may end up next year, leaving us with a blue print for the 2012 receiving depth chart.
Eric Decker was Tebow's favorite target during the team's storied six-game winning streak and led the team in every receiving category, including eight touchdown catches, last season.
As the team's leading receiver and someone who has shown obvious chemistry with Tebow, Decker will play a significant role in 2012.
He'll likely play more often as a slot receiver, lining up on the inside. This would necessitate a demotion to being the second or third receiver, though if Decker was in over his head, this could be helpful in giving him time to develop.
2012 Depth Chart: No. 3 receiver
Statistically Demaryius Thomas was Denver's No. 2 receiver during the 2011 season. However his late-season surge and playoff heroics have likely earned him the clear No. 1 spot in 2012.
On top of a season that included over 500 yards receiving and four touchdowns, Thomas hauled in a record-setting 80-yard touchdown catch to win Denver its first playoff game since 2005.
Though free agency could land Denver someone more experienced, the familiarity Thomas now has with Tebow and the Broncos system, combined with last year's late-season success, will make him a clear-cut No. 1 in Denver.
2012 Depth Chart: No. 1 receiver
Daniel Fells is the other Bronco of 2011 to have caught more than one touchdown pass. He hauled in three to be precise, racking up 256 yards on 19 receptions.
While Denver was weak at the tight end position, Fells was valuable due to his size and pass-catching ability.
He's a free agent at the end of the season, and whether or not he stays in Denver probably depends on his willingness to play behind another tight end, as the odds of the Broncos addressing this position via free agency are fairly high.
2012 Depth Chart: Free Agency
Like Fells, Eddie Royal caught 19 passes during the 2011 season, though for far less yardage (155) and only one touchdown.
The question of whether or not Royal stays in Denver is up for debate, as he is an unrestricted free agent.
If the Broncos do decide to bring in another receiver, Royal could be the one to walk. Denver will certainly want to try and keep him for his kick-return abilities; however his productivity as a wide receiver in 2011 was extremely low compared to years past.
2012 Depth Chart: Free Agency
Matt Willis had a career year in Denver with 18 receptions for 267 yards.
He's a restricted free agent and should just be getting started in Denver. He'll be one of the few wideouts to retain his position as the No. 4 wide receiver.
It may be to his advantage, as a No. 4 spot will have him lined up as a slot receiver and closer to where Tebow likes to throw.
2012 Depth Chart: No. 4 receiver
Though both Fells and Dante Rosario are free agents, Rosario is probably the more likely of the two to stay in Denver.
Rosario has ties to John Fox from his time in Carolina and is a very capable pass-catching tight end. Like many on Denver's offense, he suffered a far worse statistical season in a run-first offense.
Rosario would be a nice compliment to whomever the Broncos bring in during the offseason, as he is used to 20-30 reception seasons, unlike his 2011 tally of only seven. If Tebow throws more in 2012, Rosario will definitely be a beneficiary of such change.
2012 Depth Chart: No. 2 tight end
One way or another, Denver's receiving corps will look different in 2012. The best way the Broncos can give Tebow a chance to succeed through the air is to create a balance between receivers he is familiar with and newly signed players. These signings will have an established reputation of being great pass-catchers and possessing an ability to make plays after the catch.
How exactly this will look is mostly conjecture at this point and is certainly up for debate. Comments and criticism are always welcome and my complete list is here for easy targeting.
Complete 2012 List
Right Wide Receiver: First Team - Demaryius Thomas
Left Wide Receiver: First Team (2nd) - Free-agent signing
Right Wide Receiver: Second Team (3rd) - Eric Decker
Left Wide Receiver: Second Team (4th) - Matt Willis
Tight End: First Team - Free-agent signing
Tight End: Second Team - Dante Rosario