Broncos bolster offense with SMU receiver Courtland Sutton, Oregon RB Royce Freeman
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — On Day 2 of the NFL draft, Denver Broncos general manager John Elway began fixing the mess on offense, selecting two big bangers in SMU wide receiver Courtland Sutton in the second round and Oregon running back Royce Freeman in the third.
“Well, we got better on the offensive side, no question,” Elway said Friday night after adding Sutton (6-foot-4, 218 pounds) and Freeman (6-foot, 238 pounds).
Also in the third round, the Broncos selected Isaac Yiadom, a lean, long-armed cornerback from Boston College who impressed the Broncos at the Senior Bowl and is expected to be a special teams stud in Denver.
Mix Demaryius Thomas’ size and strength with Emmanuel Sanders’ pedigree and athleticism and you’ve got Sutton, whom the Broncos project as a future featured receiver.
“He’s big and he can really run,” Elway said. “He can make the very difficult catch and make great catches. We also think he’s very raw and has lots of upside.”
Thomas and Sanders “are going to be great role models for him,” Elway added.
Sanders tweeted a video of the two of them working out together last month in Dallas, saying the he and Sutton “joked about how lethal we’d be together.”
Now, the laugh is on Denver’s opponents.
With the first of two third-round picks, the Broncos added Oregon’s all-time leading rusher in Freeman, a big back who ran for a Pac-12-record 60 career touchdowns but carried 947 times in four seasons in Eugene, putting plenty of miles on his football odometer.
“What it shows to us is durable,” Elway said. “He played a lot, so obviously he can take that. And it’s probably nearer at the end of his career, but who knows how much that will shorten it? But it wasn’t a concern when we took him.”
The Broncos needed a top-tier running back after releasing C.J. Anderson in a cost-cutting move, and in Sutton they added the big playmaker their anemic offense has sorely lacked of late.
Sutton gives quarterback Case Keenum another big, physical red-zone target who will initially be the third receiver but “has No. 1” receiver traits, according to coach Vance Joseph.
“John said it, in the future he could be our No. 1 guy,” Joseph said.
Freeman could be the starting running back right away.
Elway called him a “big banger that we haven’t had for a while.”
Freeman is big like Anderson but faster.
“With Freeman, he is a big back with speed, so when you’re down in the red zone running the football, he’s definitely a nice option,” Joseph said. “When you’re in third-and-1, fourth-and-1, he’s a great option.”
Like Sanders, Sutton went to SMU, and over the years he sought his advice.
“It wasn’t an everyday thing but we would talk a few times about how I get to that level and how I continue to climb to be the best that I can be, even with that big fight against me coming from a smaller school,” Sutton said.
The versatile Sutton prides himself on garnering attention no matter where he lines up, but he’s admittedly still a work in progress and eager for mentoring by Thomas and Sanders.
“I am very new to the position. I am learning as I go,” Sutton said.
Recruited out of high school as a safety, Sutton was moved to wide receiver by former Mustangs head coach June Jones.
“I loved playing safety, but I feel like in my heart I was a true receiver,” Sutton said. “They played me at safety but Coach Jones saw that I had the ball skills and they needed some grit on that other side of the ball.”
After a medical redshirt in 2014, Sutton caught 194 passes for 3,193 yards and 31 touchdowns in three seasons at SMU.
The Broncos turned to offense on Day 2 after Bradley Chubb , the top-ranked defensive player in the draft, fell to them at No. 5 on Thursday night.
Elway insisted he was also surprised to see Sutton there at No. 40 on Friday.
“We feel very fortunate,” Elway said. “We had a first-round grade on him.”
Chubb, a defensive end at North Carolina State, will play outside linebacker in Denver, where the Broncos believe his dogged determination and relentless motor will help their defense return to dominance.
“That is really what we’re excited about because I think it’s contagious,” Elway said Friday.
“That motor came from always wanting to make plays,” Chubb said. “I always wanted to be around the ball. It was just something I was raised with. If I am going to do something, I am going to do it at 100 percent. That is my mindset every time I step on the field. I feel like I bring that to the pass-rush game.”AlertMe