Broncos Wide Receiver Breakdown: Complete Position and Depth Chart Analysis
The team opted against retaining either Brandon Stokley or Matthew Willis, opening the door for some young players to compete for a spot along with Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker.
The Broncos currently have 11 players listed at wide receiver on the depth chart, and last year they only kept five on their final roster. With that said, the wide receiver spot promises to be one of the most hotly-contested position battles heading into training camp this summer.
It's hard to say what the Broncos have in undrafted free agent Lamaar Thomas, especially if you only look at his college career.
Thomas started at Ohio State but was used sparingly due to the fact that he played running back in high school and didn't convert to a wide receiver very well.
He chose to transfer to New Mexico, but again he didn't get to show much of his skills as a receiver since the Lobos were a very run-heavy offense.
What is known is that Thomas is an incredibly fast player, running a 4.40 40-yard dash at his pro day. It may be tough for Thomas to move up the depth chart in Denver, but he could be used on special teams in some capacity.
Quincy McDuffie was a very versatile player at the University of Central Florida, leading the Broncos to bring him in as an undrafted free agent.
McDuffie caught 92 passes at UCF but also left as the school's all-time leader in kickoff return yardage with 2,501 and kickoff return touchdowns with six.
McDuffie is another fast player who is a serious threat with the ball in his hands. A creative coordinator could use him as a player similar to Randall Cobb of the Green Bay Packers. He's someone who you go out of your way to get the ball to because of his big-play ability.
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Kemonte' Bateman will be a long shot to make the roster, but the Broncos have had an undrafted free agent make the final squad in each of the last nine seasons.
Bateman had a solid senior season for New Mexico State in 2012 by catching 50 passes for 707 yards with five touchdowns. He is a good route-runner and does well as a blocker.
Bateman will have his work cut out for him to catch the eye of the coaching staff, but the fourth and fifth wide receiver spots are available and Bateman may just be the guy who comes out of nowhere this year.
Trindon Holliday is technically listed as a wide receiver, but let's be honest, he is a kick returner and will be used almost exclusively in that role.
Sure, the Broncos may line him up as a wide receiver for some sort of gadget play or so Peyton Manning can hit him with a bubble screen to see if they can get a big play out of it, but Holliday is on this team for one reason.
He is one of the most dynamic return men in the league, and if not for his efforts in the divisional round playoff loss to Baltimore, fans may never have had the chance to come down so hard on Rahim Moore as the game wouldn't have been close.
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Greg Orton is a player that must step up in camp and it may be his last chance to do so.
Orton has played in the NFL since 2009 with both the Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals, but has been nothing more than a practice squad player.
Orton has the size (6'3", 199 pounds) to be a force in the league and he must seize the opportunity he has now.
He has 138 career catches in the Arena league but zero in the NFL.
Andre Caldwell was easily one of the most disappointing aspects of the Broncos' 2012 season.
After he signed with the Broncos, it was almost assumed he would be the third receiver along with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, but that never happened.
In his first four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, Caldwell caught 124 total passes. Last year in Denver, he caught just one.
Caldwell can still make this year's team, but he will have to have undergone a complete transformation from last season.
The Broncos used their fifth-round pick to select Tavarres King out of Georgia. Though he was a good player for them, he never put up massive stat lines.
To earn a spot in the Denver rotation, King will have to gain the trust of Peyton Manning by being both consistent and durable.
King is a very good runner once he has the ball in his hands, but needs to show he can avoid making costly drops.
If you're looking for a relatively unknown player to rise up in training camp this summer, here he is.
Gerell Robinson nearly made the team a year ago but was part of the last round of cuts. He spent the season on the practice squad of the Arizona Cardinals before Denver signed him to a futures contract at the end of the year.
Robinson is a big receiver at 6'3" and 227 pounds and is very good at using his size to his advantage. He can go up and make a catch in traffic or take advantage of smaller defensive backs.
Robinson is even more dangerous with the ball in his hands as he is very tough to bring down. Hopefully, he has retained what he learned with the team last year and because of that, he should have an advantage over some of the other players who will be his direct competition.
Eric Decker caught a total of just 50 passes during his first two years in Denver. In 2012, he exploded with 85 catches for 1,064 yards and 13 touchdowns. Only one player (James Jones) in the entire league had more receiving touchdowns.
Decker has obviously created a great rapport with Peyton Manning and with all the other threats the team has in the passing game, he could be even more dangerous this season.
Decker had Brandon Stokley in the slot most of last season and will have Wes Welker this year. Defenses are going to be up late at night trying to figure out how to defend all of these guys,
The signing of Wes Welker by the Denver Broncos this offseason was easily one of the most important that the league saw.
Not only is Peyton Manning getting another solid weapon to throw to, it took away one of the main threats of the New England Patriots, one of the teams Denver figures to compete with for an AFC crown.
Whether this is a bigger loss for New England or a bigger gain for Denver remains to be seen, but you can bank on Welker's production. He has caught 100 passes or more in a season five times in his career.
Welker has completely redefined what the slot receiver position means to an offense and in Denver, with Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas on the outside, Welker should give opponents fits.
Much like Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas had a 2012 season to remember, catching 94 passes for 1,434 yards and 10 touchdowns. In his first two seasons, he had a total of 54 catches.
Thomas was able to show the organization and the fans that he was worthy of the first-round pick they used on him in 2010, taking him ahead of another receiver in Dez Bryant.
The connection Thomas had with Peyton Manning was reminiscent of Manning's days in Indianapolis where he helped make Marvin Harrison one of the best receivers in the league year in and year out.
That is what will be expected of Thomas now. Can he have the same type of season or perhaps even better?
Expect Thomas to become one of the league's most dominant receivers.
With the team still in OTAs, it is hard to speculate what roles each of the aforementioned wide receivers will have on the team this year. However, here are some early predictions:
Releases: Lamaar Thomas, Greg Orton and Andre Caldwell
All of these players will certainly be given their chances, there is just too much talent in front of them. Thomas may be a serviceable return man, but the team has Holliday locked into that role.
Orton and Caldwell will both succumb to the numbers game. It's hard to hold the 2012 season against Caldwell, but he never really has seemed like he is part of the team. Unless he has an amazing camp, he'll be gone.
Practice Squad: Kemonte' Bateman and Quincy McDuffie
Both of these players have special talent and, much like Gerell Robinson a year ago, deserve a chance to be developed. They will each find a home on the practice squad and have a legitimate chance to make the final roster next season.
Players That Will Make Final Roster: Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker, Tavarres King, Trindon Holliday and Gerell Robinson
Thomas, Welker and Decker are all virtual locks to be on the roster as is Holliday due to his kick return abilities. That leaves King and Robinson to fend off the rest for spots on the roster.
The Broncos used a draft pick on King which doesn't guarantee him a roster spot, but they did see something in him in order to select him. He has the tools to be a very productive fourth receiver.
Robinson is the player to watch in camp this year. He knows what to expect because he was in camp last year. That, combined with his impressive physical tools and size will be enough to hold off players like Orton and Caldwell.