LOOKS LIKE LLOYD AND MCCOY WILL BE HIGH FIVING IT AGAIN NEXT SEASON
Having already looked at who may be the QBs and the RBs next year, let's look at who will be lining up to catch the rock, shall we?
As poorly as the Broncos running game was last season, the passing game was the only bright spot on a terrible football team.
Being dead last in rushing, the Broncos actually were 13th in the NFL in total yardage and 19th in scoring with 21.2 points per game, actually beating out two playoff teams in the scoring category (Bears and Seahawks).
And the only reason Denver wasn't even further down that list was due to their prolific passing game. They finished seventh in the league with 4,038 yards and a 252.8 yards per game average—not bad numbers and the main reason they could score, as 25 of their 40 TDs came through the air.
Orton was on his way to over 4,000 yards passing until he was hurt and didn't play in the last three meaningless games. But he still finished with 3,653 yards, 20 TDs and nine INTs for a final QB rating of 87.5. This ranked him 15th out of the top 32—not bad but not great.
Tebow had 654 yards, five TDs and three INTs for a QB rating of 82.1—not bad but not great. And in his short stint, he beat out fellow rookie Sam Bradford, who finished with a 76.5 rating.
But what this article is really about are the guys who made the catches and made both of the Bronco QBs look as good as they did.
Brandon Lloyd was the freshest breath of air in a rather stale season.
In his eighth year and with his fourth team in eight years, he had a monster breakout year. His 1,448 yards led the NFL and his 11 TDs was tied for fourth in that category.
He is also the lone Pro Bowl representative from the 2010 Broncos.
Lloyd made some of the most acrobatic catches this season and has maybe the best body control in the NFL. He truly makes the difficult look easy.
He also made both Orton and Tebow look better than they sometimes were, as he took sure INTs away from defenders on under thrown or poorly thrown balls into double and triple coverage.
Lloyd also knew where the end-line and the sidelines were, making ballet catches with the subtle toe taps and almost NEVER dropped a pass all season.
The season was a great one for Brandon, and he deserves all the recognition he is getting. But with the shift to the running game next season, look for Mr. Lloyd to fall back a few notches on both yardage and catches as well as TDs.
Bay Bay, as he is knicknamed had an up-and-down season this past year—mainly due to being a rookie but also coming into the NFL as damaged goods with a foot injury that seemed to come and go much of the season.
But for the Brandon Marshall replacement, his size (6'3", 230 pounds) and his speed was what caused McDaniels to draft him with the first of two first-round picks.
Thomas finished with 22 catches for 283 yards and two TDs. But he also fumbled three times, losing two. An area he will have to improve on if he wants to play in Fox's system next season.
There is no doubt he has the physical skills to give CBs and safeties fits, but he will also have to work on his route running and staying healthy and on the field.
But with his size and the move to the running game, his ability to be a checkdown option as well as the ability to stretch the field with his speed should allow him a very good sophomore season.
Eric Decker was maybe the steal of the 2010 draft, coming to the Broncos in the third round from the University of Minnesota.
But like Thomas, he also was coming to Denver with a foot injury that hampered him in the beginning of the season. He came on strong towards the end and showed some speed and moves both as a WR and as a kick returner.
Like Thomas, Decker has great size (6'3", 220 pounds) and deceptive speed. He also has great hands and will continue to develop next year, assuming he will stay healthy.
His stats line isn't impressive—six RECs for 106 yards and one TD—but he did show the aforementioned ability to return kicks, so his versatility will go a long way in him staying on the roster next season.
As I have said back when he was still at Minnesota, he reminded me of a faster version of Eddie MacCaffrey, even to wearing his number.
If Mr. Decker can have half the career of Eddie Mac, he will be a great pick up and maybe one of the best of the short McDaniels regime.
As the picture shows, Eddie Royal brings some serious speed to the WR and the KR positions. He was drafted in the second round out of Virginia Tech and just finished his third season as a Bronco.
He was a 2008 rookie sensation, having caught 91 balls for 980 yards and five TDs. He also had 109 yards rushing.
Unfortunately, his numbers fell off the past two years under McDaniels as he had a combined 972 yards and three TDs in those two years.
But he did have some great return games—becoming only the second Bronco to score TD returns on a kickoff and a punt in the same game against the San Diego Chargers in 2009.
His size—5'10", 180 pounds—and his speed makes him the potential perfect slot receiver as it allows him to get off the line of scrimmage with less contact, and with his speed, he can turn a routine 10-yard catch across the middle into a 40-yard gain.
But this past year, even though he played a lot of slot, he was almost a non-entity in the offense. He continued to have a very good season as a punt returner, showing the surest hands on the team.
My sense is he could become trade bait, possibly to the Redskins, where he would reunite with the guy who drafted him, Mike Shanahan.
If that happens, I would be sad as he still offers a lot of upside for the Broncos.
Jabar Gaffney is another player, like Lloyd, who has started to come into his own in the later years of his career.
He finished his ninth season and has made some great catches over the past two years, coming with McDaniels from New England as a free-agent signing.
He is a 6'2", 200-pound WR with decent speed but has very good hands, especially on the low balls and fighting in traffic.
He had his best statistical season this past year, with 65 catches for 875 yards and two TDs. A very good season for most WRs but paled in comparison to Lloyd.
Whether he is or isn't on the roster next season will depend on who the Broncos may or may not pick up in the draft or in free agency.
I don't see a lot of talent in the later rounds for this year's draft, but you never know what will happen. He has a better than 50/50 chance of being here next season.
Hear me out. I know Riley was only on the Bronco practice squad this season and didn't see any action.
But he had good size at 6'3" and 210 pounds. This makes him a good possession receiver, and he's young enough, at 23, to be considered a coachable player.
But maybe the best thing he has going for him is he was on the Carolina Panthers roster part of this year, so Fox knows him, at least by name.
Will that be enough? That will be played out in the offseason.
Riley has maybe a 20 percent chance of making the final roster this coming season.
Another unknown player but one who actually finished the season on the Bronco active roster. He was an undrafted free-agent signing out of Northern Illinois.
Davis is also blessed with decent size at 6'3" and 205 pounds. Whether he will stick or not will be determined by one, will he be invited to the OTAs and how he looks relative to the other WRs in attendance.
Chances to stick: less than 20 percent
Mr. Willis was a preseason sensation in training camp and in a few games.
He caught everything in sight and was tough as nails, as proven by this picture, where he used his head for a landing gear.
He came out of a great pro-style system at UCLA. Having spent time on Baltimore's and Denver's practice squad with one start for each team, he had a terrific preseason with Denver in 2010.
He had 13 catches for 263 yards and looked to be moving up the depth chart this season. But he was limited in his playing time and finished the season on Denver's injured reserve roster with a broken foot.
If he heals properly, he will most likely make another splash in OTAs and in the preseason and challenge for a roster spot.
I say maybe 35 percent to be on the opening day roster.
Mr. Brown is a man-child, in that he stands 6'6" and weighs 239 pounds. With a wingspan of about 25 feet, he can catch anything thrown into his area code.
He also can put some weight on that frame and maybe be a pass catching TE/H back as well.
He came off a broken leg so missing almost half of this past season but still showed serious flashes of greatness.
He also was on the Athletic department's academic honor roll, so he has a head on his broad shoulders.
Due to his injury-shortened season, I see him going in the fifth or sixth round and would be a good gamble for the Broncos.
Odds: 20 percent
Paul is another potential later round pick. He has good size for a WR, at 6'1" and 220 pounds. He can break tackles and gain those secondary yards after the catch.
He had a very good career at Nebraska, with 64 catches for 1,016 yards and four TDs. But he also had a TD rushing and two TDs on kick returns, which shows his versatility.
Paul is a Big 12 Academic All-American which speaks to his intelligence and ability to pick up a new system.
Another late-round WR that could end up in a Denver uniform in the fifth or sixth round, if he falls that far.
Odds: 20 percent
Scared you, didn't I?
Mr. Owens brings maybe the best physical tools to the position of WR. Unfortunately, his head is a few steps below those physical skills.
At 6'3' and 230 pounds, he is a BEAST. But he is 37-years-old but acts like he is seven.
A locker room cancer that Denver doesn't need at this time—or any time.
ODDS: -0 percent
Whatever else happens and whoever makes the final roster next season, a few things will be certain.
Any WR on this team better be able to block as well as catch because there will be some running going on here.
And any WR better be smart and know the plays, the routes, the reads to open up for the QB and not drop the ball in traffic.
Mistakes will not be tolerated.
So here is my final WR roster for the Broncos, version 2011:
WR Brandon Lloyd
WR Demaryius Thomas
WR Eric Decker
WR/KR Eddie Royal
WR Matt Willis
WR/TE DeAndre Brown
WR Eron Riley
Just one Bronco fan(atic)'s opinion...