ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — It’s hard to ignore the similarities.
A big-bodied receiver who can thrive in the red zone. A quick and agile threat who can take a slant the length of the field.
It should. But if two of the Broncos’ draft choices pan out, there could be another Denver receiving duo rising up the ranks in the league.
Call them Thunder and Lighting Lite.
SMU’s Courtland Sutton and Penn State’s DaeSean Hamilton, who were drafted in the second and fourth rounds, respectively, could be the next generation of prolific Broncos receivers.
After Sutton was drafted, Head Coach Vance Joseph said he showed traits of a No. 1 wideout.
That potential portends a bright future for the Broncos on the outside.
During his opening press conference, Sutton praised Sanders’ work ethic and pledged to learn from the ninth-year veteran wide receiver. Both he and Hamilton seem eager to learn from the veteran pair of Thomas and Sanders, and while confident, the rookies aren’t thinking about the years ahead.
“I’m going to come in, I’m going to find out what E-Man does [and] what Demaryius does,” Sutton said. “What do they do to make them All-Pros and to make them dominant people at their position? I’m going to follow them and figure out what it is that’s going to get me to that level so I can be able to perform day in and day out at a very high level.”
They are, however, willing to consider what it may be like to line up with each other. Sutton, who coincidentally trained with Hamilton before the NFL Draft, already speaks about his teammate the way Thomas and Sanders talk about each other.
“DaeSean is a guy that can play the position very well,” Sutton said. “He has unique talent trait when it comes to playing the wide receiver position. He and I are going to be able to come in and learn. I think he is more so like ‘E-man’ (Sanders). I am more like Demaryius.”
Sanders, who weeks ago expressed disbelief that Sutton would fall to the Broncos in the second round, seems ready to start the process.
“I’m going to teach those guys everything that I know,” Sanders said. “That’s my job. You see a lot of these cats, when they get up in age, they kind of shy away from the rookies. I will never, ever be that type of receiver that says, ‘No, I’m [not] going to teach this guy.’ I’m going to teach you everything that I [possibly can].
“Regardless of if [Sutton] is from SMU or not, I want to see everybody successful. I want to see him making plays and going to the Pro Bowls and winning Super Bowls. I’m going [to help] him as much as I can.”
One day, Sutton and Hamilton may well replace the two players who they’ll lean on now for advice and tutelage.
And perhaps the best part about the entire situation is that Sanders won’t run from that fact.
Instead, he’ll embrace the cyclical nature of the league and aim to help both Sutton and Hamilton their potential.
In the short term, that increases Sanders’ chances at another world championship. A well-rounded receiving corps that exists as more than just Sanders and Thomas will help quarterback Case Keenum and the rest of the offense thrive.
From a long-term perspective, Sanders is eager to — as he so plainly put it — make sure everyone gets paid.
“That is going to happen anyway,” Sanders said. “Once you get up in this league, you start making too much money and they say…Look, I understand the business of it. My deal is this, I still want to see everybody’s family making a ton of money. I can’t avoid that. All I can do is make plays every single day and show that if I become expendable here, I’ll just show some other team, ‘Hey, look, I still got it. I still got the juice.' Maybe they want to pay me. That would be selfish for me to say, ‘I’m not going to teach you everything that I know because you’re going to beat me.’ At the end of the day, if he’s going to do it, he’s going to do it. I can’t avoid that. All I can do is go out, work my butt my off and continue to be me.”
And if there’s one area in which Sutton may resemble Sanders more than the Thomas, it may be in his bravado. Much like Sanders, Sutton doesn’t come off as arrogant.
Rather, he expresses a confidence about his ability even as a young player.
“We are going to be able to take from them what they do at a high level,” Sutton said, “and add that to our games so that whenever they need a break or whatever the situation is on the field, we can come on the field and there won’t be any drop off at all. It is going to be the same talent level on the field whatever [the situation] is.”