As a Broncos fan, this is one of the first fantasy football pieces I wanted to write for the 2020 season. Since being drafted by Denver in the second round of the 2018 draft, Courtland Sutton has flashed elite talent at the wide receiver position. The team now figures to have its starting quarterback in place with Drew Lock, and I believe we will see a massive breakout from Sutton this year as he becomes a top tier NFL wideout.
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The Broncos had three different quarterbacks – Lock, Brandon Allen, and Joe Flacco – see significant playing time in 2019, which couldn’t have helped Sutton establish a semblance of consistency in play. Still, he came through with somewhat of a breakthrough. Sutton’s best games came early in the season, outside of a two-touchdown performance in Lock’s first start. In Lock’s five starts, Sutton only produced 22 catches for 280 yards and two touchdowns – these numbers are not impressive at first glance. Still, the duo should benefit from a (hopefully) full training camp and preseason together to develop chemistry and confidence in each other’s play. Sutton only caught 58% of his targets in 2019, which should improve as Lock gains confidence and becomes more accurate in due time.
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Sutton still produced a borderline WR2 season with a myriad of inexperienced/mediocre quarterback play and new coaching staff. With confidence in the offensive system and a full offseason to prepare with Drew Lock as the starter, Sutton could put together even better numbers in 2020. He just turned 24 in December and figures to be entering the prime of his career. Sutton has always had elite size at the receiver position, and as he becomes more of a refined route-runner, the sky is the limit for him.
Most targets without a drop🏈
Austin Ekeler 51
Larry Fitzgerald 51
Courtland Sutton 48
James White 45https://t.co/6wthN4jIed
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) October 24, 2019
Average Draft Position
Auction Value: $26
Sutton figures to be drafted around guys like A.J. Brown, Calvin Ridley, Cooper Kupp, and Adam Thielen as a higher-end wide receiver two in 12-team leagues. I believe in his WR1 upside, though, given his production from last season and the expected improvement in the Broncos’ offense in 2020. He could end up being a steal at this draft price.
We haven’t seen a bad season from Sutton, per se – just his rookie year and mild breakout in his sophomore campaign. If Drew Lock doesn’t pan out the way I hope and believe he will, Sutton could struggle to produce in a low-octane offense. Even as a rookie in 2018, Sutton put together a 42-704-4 line, and I can’t imagine him dipping back down to that level of production in 2020. The SMU product has been remarkably durable throughout his career, as well, and as the number one option in the Broncos offense, his floor is pretty safe this season. One concern is the level of attention defenders will pay to Sutton as the level of talent past him in the receiving room is not great – some of his worst games came after the team traded Emmanuel Sanders last year. After drafting Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler, that concern should be significantly diminished.
The stats I projected for him are relatively close to his ceiling. Ten touchdowns may not be out of the question, but much more than 1,200 receiving yards would be pretty outlandish. The level of receiving talent in the NFL seems to continue to increase, and even if Sutton reaches his ceiling this season, there is a chance that isn’t good enough to place him in the top ten in terms of fantasy. Still, as the number one option in an offense that figures to be much-improved in 2020, the sky is the limit for Sutton’s fantasy output this year.
“That was for all of you.” -Courtland Sutton to his fantasy players, probablypic.twitter.com/yL64fUOQjf
— Rotoworld Football (@Rotoworld_FB) November 3, 2019
Denver Broncos Offense
Pat Shurmur is the new offensive coordinator in 2020, and he brings a level of experience and conviction to the locker room. While his Giants did not perform well during his time as the head coach, he helped Daniel Jones make the most of his rookie season and turned Saquon Barkley into the offensive rookie of the year in 2018. Shurmur has already spoken about how much potential he sees in the Broncos’ young core, and I trust him to get the most out of guys like Lock, Sutton, Philip Lindsay, Noah Fant, and whoever the team adds in this year’s draft. Lock has a huge arm and should gain more consistency in 2020, lending itself to Sutton being able to take advantage of his immense downfield receiving ability with another breakthrough campaign. It’s difficult to project 2020 numbers from the Broncos’ 2019 attack with their multiple starting quarterbacks, but in any case, it’s not hard to see the path to improved success this season – Sutton will be at the center of that.
Strength Of Schedule
In the AFC West, the Broncos will face a varying level of secondary talent. The Chargers showcase Casey Hayward, Derwin James, Desmond King, and former Bronco Chris Harris Jr. in stacked pass defense. The Chiefs and Raiders, meanwhile, couldn’t defend any receivers in 2019. Denver faces the NFC South in 2020, a division that is lacking in elite cornerback play and has high-powered offense to support shootouts. The Buccaneers, Saints, and Falcons all figure to have high-end offensive production this year, and those games could produce some excellent game script for Sutton to showcase his abilities. In the AFC, tough matchups do show up with the Patriots, Steelers, and Bills (three top-six pass defenses in 2019, per Football Outsiders). Still, the volume Sutton will receive as the go-to passing target should help him maintain solid production even against those more robust opponents.
Courtland Sutton is primed for a classic third-year breakout, and while it might be tough to outdo his production from 2019, he seems like a lock for at least 100 targets and should benefit from improved quarterback play from second-year player Drew Lock. Sutton proved that he was borderline quarterback-proof during his 2019 campaign, as the Broncos’ starters didn’t do him any favors. It will be hard for the offensive situation to be much worse than it was last year, and Sutton was still able to produce solid WR2 numbers. The sky is the limit for Sutton now, and I wouldn’t be opposed to taking him in the late third or early fourth round in 12-team leagues.
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