While the offseason is in the ‘sleepy’ lull on the NFL calendar, where the news cycle screeches to a halt between the NFL Draft and the beginning of training camps, there is still plenty of interesting content around the league to be analyzed and discussed in anticipation for the 2020 season.
One of my personal favorite annual activities are the lists the make up some of the best up and coming talents in the NFL. These lists often serve as harbingers for many of the young players poised to become stars over the ensuing decade.
Earlier this week, NFL.com’s Marc Sessler unveiled his All-Under-25 team in today’s league. Despite GM John Elway and VP of Player Personnel Matt Russell putting together what seems to be back-to-back-to-back good draft hauls, the Broncos only walked away with one player under 25 years old to make Sessler’s list.
The future at receiver appears bright with A.J. Brown, D.J. Moore, Terry McLaurin and D.K. Metcalf in the mix. I’ll take the underrated Sutton over all of them after seeing him thrive as a bona fide No. 1 option in a Denver offense that suddenly looks spicy. With Emmanuel Sanders traded at midseason, the sophomore Sutton spent many Sundays tangling with top-flight cover men, yet still racked up 1,112 yards and six touchdowns on 72 catches. After a rookie campaign stunted by drops, the Broncos wideout registered just three flubs off 115 targets in an offense weighed down for much of the year by stone-age pony Joe Flacco.
Why the NFL is Buzzing About Sutton
The other wide receiver to get a nod on the coveted list was Tampa Bay’s Chris Godwin. While Godwin has undoubtedly been a great weapon for the Buccaneers’ offense, he does have the added benefit of having arguable top-five complement in Mike Evans drawing coverage away from him.
Perhaps in the future, Broncos’ rookie first-rounder Jerry Jeudy can make a list like this and someone can point towards Sutton drawing attention away as a reason for Jeudy’s success.
It is a true nod to just how good Sutton has been over his first two years to have made this list. Playing with such cringe-worthy quarterbacks such as Case Keenum, Joe Flacco, and Brandon Allen, the future is bright for the Broncos’ X-receiver with Drew Lock now throwing him the football.
Yes, Sutton may have fewer targets due to the number of deserving mouths to feed around him in 2020 and beyond, but he is still the de facto WR1 in the Broncos’ offense. He has been too good despite a rather poor situation to be anything less than the WR1.
Sutton also being named over the likes of Carolina’s DJ Moore — who has been really good despite rather poor offensive play around him — and a rookie quartet of receivers in Seattle’s DK Metcalf, Washington’s Terry McLaurin, San Francisco’s Deebo Samuel, and Tennessee’s A.J. Brown, all entering the league as Day 2 draft picks in 2019.
The sky’s the limit for Sutton who’s now surrounded by better complementary weaponry and a potential franchise quarterback. The Sutton Show is just getting started. Also just for the fun of it, here’s a phenomenal breakdown of just how good Courtland Sutton was in 2020.
Don’t Forget Risner
Dalton Risner maybe wasn’t a snub on the under 25 list but he at least deserved a mention. Given how the team was set up, there really was only one player that I believe was fully snubbed — Risner, a 2019 second-round pick.
After an injury approximately midway through the season, Risner’s play did dip a bit, but overall, the rookie was as plug-and-play starter and played like a 10-year veteran as any unlike any rookie the Broncos’ have boasted in some time. Risner did not deserve to be listed above, say, Indianapolis’ Quenton Nelson, but with Green Bay’s Elgton Jenkins getting the nod without even a mention of Rinser feels a bit biased towards the team with the more established offense and quarterback overall.
In a re-do of the entire 2019 draft, I do believe Risner would be picked before Jenkins as a more athletic and versatile blocker. Jenkins is good, but Risner should have at least been mentioned.
While offensive guard is a less-valuable position than offensive tackle, having a solid guard in place for the foreseeable future is a good O-line building block for a Denver unit in desperate of some stability.
Honorable Mentions: Chubb & Fant
The two edge rushers of choice in Sessler’s under 25 piece ended up being two of the highest-drafted and profiled pass rushers in the past few drafts in Cleveland’s Myles Garrett and San Francisco’s Nick Bosa. Both were deserving of the nod not only because of how great both have been in the league already, but also because both have lived up to their draft hype in their short careers.
Some may argue Bosa doesn’t deserve it after just one year, but he would have been my pick for Super Bowl MVP after tallying 12 pressures and beating the pulp out of Kansas City left tackle Eric Fisher.
Bradley Chubb could have been on this list, but unfortunately, he suffered an ACL injury early last season that cost him the ensuing 12 games. Chubb, at just 23 years old, could still make this list next year but checking in behind Garrett and Bosa isn’t the worst thing, given the immense talent both have displayed.
Chubb’s rehab is reportedly on schedule so even if many of the talking heads are sleeping on the former No. 5 overall pick, opposing offenses should do so only at their own peril.
The other player worthy of an honorable mention for the under 25 team is Broncos’ TE Noah Fant. Fant should not have been chosen over the sophomore campaign of Baltimore’s Mark Andrews, but it would be zero-percent surprising to see Fant overtake the spot as the young, emerging star tight end in the NFL.
Fant’s overall combination of size and athleticism is rare and he is just scratching the surface. At just 22, Fant is still one of the youngest players in the league and could be the darkhorse player for the Broncos to break out in 2020 and take the NFL by storm.
The Silver Lining
It’s great news for Broncos’ Country that Sutton is beginning to garner national respect and attention. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound receiver is emerging as Denver’s own version Terrell Owens (with less theatrics on and off the field).
Sutton would have been the ultimate snub if he had not made this list, but there is a strong argument to be made for Risner to have made it as well. Jenkins was fine last year for Green Bay, but to not even mention Risner was an oversight.
Chubb and Fant might not have deserved inclusion given the players selected above them, but watch for them to emerge and make a push this season. Overall, while Denver only had one player listed here, the Broncos have a solid young core thanks in part to some really solid draft classes over the last few seasons.
The youth of this Broncos’ roster will likely lead to some erratic play in 2020, but the highs will be quite promising and a lot of fun to experience. A team can never have too many good young players, and the Broncos appear to be in as good of shape in that department as any team in the league.
Elway’s rebuild has been quiet, but it may be already complete in Denver. Now is the time for these young studs to take over and emerge as true stars in the NFL for the next decade.