By KYLE NEWMAN
Drew Lock hasn’t been slinging the ball to Courtland Sutton for long. But, it’s been long enough for the rookie Lock to make a bold declaration a few days after Sutton secured his first 1,000-yard receiving season.
“With the style of offense we run, the weapons that we’re going to have around him and with hopefully me delivering the ball to him for a long time — I think he can be one of the best to ever play,” Lock said.
Sutton is tied for fourth in the AFC with 1,019 receiving yards. The second-year wideout is also tied for first in the NFL with 16 “big-play” catches (25 yards or more), and is first in the conference with 16.2 yards per reception. He has scored six touchdowns.
Add in an abundance of highlight-reel grabs, and his presence as a leadership pillar in an evolving Denver locker room, and he has emerged as an NFL force. The consistent double teams he’s seen is evidence of that.
“He just has that ‘it’ quality,” offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello said. “Every team has a couple of guys on it that you always think about as your bell cows, and your guys that are just made of the right stuff, and he has all that. He has everything it takes to be great.”
Size? At 6-foot-4, 216 pounds, Sutton is a mismatch for just about every cornerback that lines up across from him.
Speed? He ran his 40-yard dash in 4.54 seconds at the NFL Combine but appears to play faster than that, with route-running ability that’s become more refined since being selected No. 40 overall in 2018 out of SMU.
That second-round selection is now looking like a steal for the Broncos as Sutton put up Pro Bowl-type numbers this season, though he was not selected for the game. Running back Phillip Lindsay called that “a shock”.
“You go out there and dominate, you get double-coverage and you get 1,000 yards like that man did, you’re a Pro Bowler,” Lindsay said.
For his part, Sutton wouldn’t complain about the Pro Bowl snub — “It is what it is,” he said — amid his belief that his performance this season is only a preview of what’s to come. Sutton is under contract with Denver through 2021.
“Growing every year is the ultimate goal, and I like to push myself to different limits every day,” he said. “If that continues to be the case, and I’m growing and bettering myself every day, then we’ll see what happens next year.”
Catalyzing Sutton’s explosive growth in confidence and performance — in addition to an ability to high-point passes — is the wideout’s film study. Sutton has made a habit of dissecting other top wideouts in the league such as the Falcons’ Julio Jones and the Texans’ DeAndre Hopkins.
“There are a lot of receivers who play this game at a high level and do it well,” Sutton said. “Watching the film, taking stuff from them and kind of incorporating it into your game, I feel like that’s the best way for anybody at any level to grow their game.”
The trades of Demaryius Thomas (to the Texans in 2018) and Emmanuel Sanders (to the 49ers this year) opened the door for Sutton to ascend to No. 1 in Denver. The 24-year-old has seized the opportunity and now Lock hopes Sutton can help the quarterback develop a well-known scoring connection, too.
With time, the duo could eventually be up there in that conversation.
“We’re just starting to dip the toes in the water a little bit and feel each other out,” Lock said. “There’s a lot of potential for us to be super good together.”
Opening two-year production, part I
Top five 2018 drafted receivers in career receptions through Week 15:
Player, team Receptions Draft position
1. D.J. Moore, Carolina 141 Round 1-No. 24
2. Calvin Ridley, Atlanta 127 Round 1-No. 26
3. Courtland Sutton, Broncos 105 Round 2-No. 40
4. Christian Kirk, Arizona 104 Round 2, No. 47
5. Michael Gallup, Dallas 89 Round 3, No. 81
Opening two-year production
The top five drafted Broncos receivers in catches through their first two years:
Player Years Catches Yards TD
1. Eddie Royal 2008-09 128 1,325 5
2. Brandon Marshall 2006-07 122 1,634 9
3. Courtland Sutton 2018-19 105 1,723 10
4. Vance Johnson 1985-86 82 1,084 5
5. Ricky Nattiel 1987-88 77 1,204 3
The league leaders in catches of at least 20 yards through Week 15 (all positions):
Receiver, team No.
1. Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay 25
2. Kenny Golladay, Detroit 20
T3. Courtland Sutton, Broncos 18
T3. Cooper Kupp, Rams 18
T3. Stefon Diggs, Minnesota 18
*Sutton had 16 catches of at least 20 yards last year (19th in the NFL).
The list of league-leading receivers in third-down catches through Week 15 (receivers only):
Receiver, team No.
1. Cooper Kupp, Rams 32
2. Michael Thomas, New Orleans 25
T3. Keenan Allen, Chargers 24
T3. Julio Jones, Atlanta 24
T5. Jamison Crowder, Jets 23
T5. D.J. Moore, Carolina 23
T7. Courtland Sutton, Broncos 21
T7. Cole Beasley, Buffalo 21
T7. DeAndre Hopkins, Houston 21
T7. Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay 21
*Sutton’s 21 third-down catches have totaled 308 yards (14.7 average) and two touchdowns.
Sources: STATS, Inc., Pro Football Reference.