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#BroncosCamp preview: Evaluating a revamped wide receiving corps

The Broncos' 2020 season is almost here, and as training camp approaches, we're taking a look at each of the Broncos' position groups. In this set of previews, we'll take a deep dive into what we know about the given position group and what we still need to learn. We'll also identify a player to watch and choose a battle that bears watching. At the end of the series, we'll provide an overarching look at the best training camp battles and which players have the most to prove. 

We continue the series with a look at the wide receiver position.

What we know:

No position group underwent a bigger transformation this offseason than the Broncos' wide receiving corps. A year ago, Courtland Sutton was the only Broncos receiver to post more than 400 receiving yards as he finished with 1,112 and six touchdowns to earn his first Pro Bowl appearance. Emmanuel Sanders, whom the Broncos dealt to San Francisco before the trade deadline caught 30 passes for 367 yards in seven games. Behind him, though, no one cracked the 300-yard mark. DaeSean Hamilton (28 catches, 297 yards) and Tim Patrick (16 catches, 218 yards) were the only other receivers to catch more than six passes.

The group will look drastically different this season. Denver opted not to sign a receiver in free agency, but the team added an influx of talent to the group in April's 2020 NFL Draft by selecting Alabama's Jerry Jeudy with the 15th-overall pick and Penn State's KJ Hamler with the 46th-overall selection. The Broncos also added Florida's Tyrie Cleveland late in the seventh round.

Sutton is poised to enter training camp as the team's unquestioned No. 1 wide receiver and will attempt to add another Pro Bowl to his resume in 2020. Behind him, Jeudy's pro-ready game should make him the team's instant No. 2 receiver. Hamler, a threat from the slot, should earn snaps as the third wide receiver, but he will face competition from a number of players, including Hamilton, Patrick, Cleveland, Diontae Spencer and Juwann Winfree.

Trinity Benson, Fred Brown and Kelvin McKnight also all return to Denver after spending time on the team's active roster in 2019, and undrafted players Kendall Hinton and Zimari Manning will aim to leave an impression on the coaching staff.

What we need to learn:

The Broncos now have plenty of dynamic pieces in their wide receiving corps, but we don't yet have a solid idea of how they'll come together. In three-wide-receiver sets — a Pat Shurmur staple — will Sutton and Jeudy play the outside receiver positions with Hamler in the slot? Or will Sutton and Patrick assume the outside roles with Jeudy in the slot? In the red zone, how will Shurmur rotate the Broncos' receivers to give Drew Lock and the offense an edge? And speaking of Lock, how quickly will he develop chemistry with Jeudy and Hamler after missing the offseason program?

On paper, this group has potential to be among the league's best receiving corps. Now, we have to see it on the field.

Player to watch:

Jerry Jeudy

Let's see what the kid can do. For three months, we've heard about Jeudy's flawless route-running and his pro-ready game and seen videos of him executing seemingly impossible cuts. Soon, though, we'll get the chance to see how Jeudy's Biletnikoff Award-winning skill set translates to the practice field.

Jeudy should draw attention from cornerback Bryce Callahan, who was among the NFL's best slot cornerbacks in 2018. That's where Jeudy excels, and it will be a promising early sign if Jeudy can hold his own against Callahan.

If the 15th-overall pick is going to live up to the high expectations surrounding his rookie season, he may need to post north of 55 catches and 800 yards in Year 1. Training camp will set the stage for whether he's on pace to meet those goals.

Battle to watch:

This new-look position group may also be the most competitive during training camp. Sutton, Jeudy and Hamler are all locks to make the roster, and Head Coach Vic Fangio has spoken highly enough about Spencer's punt-return ability that I expect him to make the roster, as well.

That means — assuming the Broncos keep six wide receivers on the roster — nine players will battle for just two roster spots.

I would presume that Hamilton and Patrick hold an advantage entering camp because of their experience, but it's quite possible that Tyrie Cleveland or one of the other talented young players could push one of the veterans off the roster bubble.

Patrick and Cleveland are both bigger-bodied players who also contribute on special teams, so I'd be surprised if Denver kept both on the active roster. Hamilton, meanwhile, must prove that his end-of-year chemistry with Lock has continued into training camp.

Previous articles in the series:

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