There were many reasons for the Denver Broncos‘ struggles on offense in 2016. Poor blocking, bad running back play and a lack of a pass catching tight end were the main reasons highlighted throughout the season. While those are issues that need to be addressed, the one area of need that consistently gets overlooked is at wide receiver.
On paper, wide receiver looks like the team’s greatest strength on offense. Denver has two stud wide receivers on the outside in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, but there’s a serious lack of depth behind the two. To put it in perspective, the third leading receiver on the Broncos in 2016 was running back Devontae Booker and he had 265 yards receiving.
— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) January 26, 2017
The lack of production outside of Sanders and Thomas is alarming, and if the Broncos want to fix their offense, they need to put wide receiver at the top of their offseason priorities list.
The Broncos have several options to address this area of need through free agency and the draft. Right now, the most ideal free agent pick up would be Pierre Garcon. Garcon averaged 910 yards receiving in his five years with the Washington Redskins and has plenty of experience working out of the slot.
The only drawback is that Garcon is drawing interest from several teams around the league, and considering he’s in his thirties, he’s going to be looking for a deal that will give him financial security for the next few years. The Broncos do have the cap space to give him what he’ll most likely demand, but that money would be better off spent beefing up the offensive line.
If the Broncos decide not to pursue a fix in free agency, Denver will need to spend an early round pick on a receiver this spring, and they should have plenty of options available. Game-changers like Dede Westbrook and Curtis Samuel are realistic options in the second or third frame of the draft, and both would have an immediate impact.
Westbrook profiles well as a slot receiver in the NFL. The Oklahoma product has the lateral quickness and great speed to get separation from defensive backs, and has the ability to stretch the field over the middle.
Samuel, on the other hand, has serious upside and could become one of the next great play-makers in the NFL. Samuel displayed great versatility in college, playing both running back and slot receiver at Ohio State, and his style of play has drawn comparisons to Percy Harvin.
The Broncos lacked a threat over the middle of the field, and adding a quality slot receiver should be a top priority if the Broncos want to make it back to the postseason in 2017. If they don’t find a quality third option this offseason, the offense will most likely struggle again next year, and the defense can only carry the team so far.
Mike Esposito is the Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos Staff Writer at Endzonescore.com. Follow him on Twitter @espo6891