Denver Broncos: Breaking Down the Wide Receiver Position
The first round of Denver Broncos OTAs have commenced as we inch closer to the regular season. As training camp and preseason approaches, fans will be interested in many position battles within this new look team.
Here, we will take a look at the Broncos wide receiver position and try to imagine how the depth chart will look come opening day.
Wide receiver will be a key position for this team this year as the Broncos transition into a new style of offense led by new quarterback Peyton Manning. If history is any indicator, Manning will depend on a variety of players to be able to step up and make plays for him.
Wide Receiver No. 1: Demaryius Thomas
Thomas is almost sure to be the number one receiver this year. After showing flashes of what made him a first round draft pick towards the end of last season, the team has to be very encouraged.
He finished the 2011 season with 32 catches for 551 yards and 4 TDs while playing in only 11 games. Injuries have always been the biggest concern with him, but if he stays on the field, he could become a star catching balls from Manning, who helped make another No. 88 one of the best receivers in NFL history.
I would look for Thomas to have a breakout season in 2012 with numbers that easily double his 2011 output.
Wide Receiver No. 2: Eric Decker
Eric Decker seems to be as happy as anyone that the Broncos signed Manning and the two have worked together very often this offseason.
Decker is another player who is primed to become a star in the league. Decker had 44 catches for 612 yards and a very impressive 8 TDs in 2011 but he was injured during the team's playoff run and his season, along with the team's, ended in disappointing fashion.
With Manning at QB, we will see the best of Eric Decker who is a sure handed receiver who is good at getting open.
Wide Receiver No. 3: Andre Caldwell
One of the Broncos main free agent moves was to acquire Caldwell from the Cincinnati Bengals.
Caldwell seemed to be lost in the shuffle with the Bengals, averaging just 31 receptions a season in his 4 years there. In Denver, he will fit right into the slot position and will become one of Manning's main targets, especially when the team runs a no-huddle offense which under Manning, they are sure to do.
Caldwell's career high of 51 receptions in a season in Cincinnati will likely be surpassed this year and Caldwell has a chance to become a very productive player in Denver.
Wide Receiver No. 4: Brandon Stokley
Stokley will likely be used primarily as a mentor to the younger players but his familiarity with Manning makes him invaluable and as the fourth receiver on the depth chart, he'll still be inserted into the game to make those big plays when the team really needs it.
Stokley has 34 career TD catches and he's approaching 5,000 yards receiving. He and Manning combined for 139 catches and 15 TDs in their four seasons together in Indianapolis and even at 35 years old (36 when the season starts), Stokley still has some football left in him.
Wide Receiver No. 5: Matthew Willis
The Broncos decided to re-sign Willis, who was a restricted free agent, in the offseason and that shows some confidence in a player who has shown he can make plays when called upon.
Willis saw the most work of his career in the 2011 season and responded with 18 receptions for 267 yards and 1 TD. Willis can also help out in the return game.
He will likely be pushed for a roster spot by some of the other young wideouts, but his experience should allow him to make the team.
Wide Receiver No. 6: Gerell Robinson
I believe the Broncos will keep 6 wide receivers on the roster and Gerell Robinson is a diamond in the rough with a tremendous upside.
At 6'3" and 227 pounds, he has great size and a lot of big play ability. As a senior in college, he recorded 77 receptions for 1,397 yards and 7 TDs. Still, he went undrafted.
But the Broncos, who drafted Brock Osweiler out of the same school, Arizona State, wasted no time in bringing Robinson in.
Look for Robinson to beat out Jason Hill for the final wide receiver spot and make the team. This is a name to remember for the future.
The Broncos currently have 6 other receivers on the roster, led by free agent acquisition Jason Hill. All 6 of them will either be relegated to the practice squad or cut, in my opinion.
Jason Hill: Hill has had some semi-productive seasons in his NFL career for both the 49ers and Jaguars. The Broncos signed him in February but later signed both Caldwell and Stokley, two players who will be ahead of him on the depth chart.
Mark Dell: Dell was in training camp with the Broncos last year and will receive another look. He is a former Michigan State Spartan who had 133 catches in his time there.
Greg Orton: Another player who was in camp last year, Orton finished the year on the Broncos practice squad after a stint in the Arena league.
Eric Page: Page is an undrafted free agent out of Toledo. At 5'9" and 185 pounds, Page is a small receiver but he actually stands a chance to make the team due to his return skills. Remember, the Broncos did lose Eddie Royal this offseason and this may be the guy who replaces him.
D'Andre Goodwin: Goodwin was on the Broncos practice squad last year and actually got promoted to the main roster following Decker's injury in the Wild Card round win over Pittsburgh. Goodwin will be on the practice squad again, or released altogether.
Tyler Grisham: Grisham has spent most of his NFL career as a practice squad player for the Steelers. He would be considered an extreme long shot to make this team.