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'He has nowhere to go but up': Courtland Sutton wowing AFC teammates at first Pro Bowl

ORLANDO, Fla. — Courtland Sutton knew he belonged in this kind of company.

His numbers from an outstanding second season — 1,112 receiving yards and six touchdowns — showed as much, but Sutton was overlooked when the Pro Bowl's initial roster was announced. Only after DeAndre Hopkins dropped out of the game did Sutton get the call-up to the Pro Bowl.

Throughout the week of Pro Bowl practices in Orlando, though, his teammates have validated his perception of his standing in the league and have recognized that he's as deserving of this honor as anyone.

"He kind of reminds me of [Bengals receiver] A.J. Green," Steelers cornerback Joe Haden said. "They're kinda very similar in size [and] build. He can go deep, he can jump and catch the ball in the red zone. I think he's a very, very special player."

In three practices, Sutton has not seen many passes thrown his way, but in the few targets he's gotten, he's shown his talent. On the first day, he made a pair of one-handed touchdown catches in the end zone. On the final day, he caught two deep passes to finish strong.

Though no one is going full speed in these practices, Sutton's hands have been reliable and drawn praise from AFC defenders.

"He's a good player," Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick said. "He's a big body. He's fast. He has great hands. And he's here for a reason just like everybody else. Courtland, you know, he's in my [draft] class. I've seen a whole lot of him in college and in the NFL. He's a great player and like I said, a big body, fast, can do it all."

Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White already knew these things from his preparation to face Sutton during a Week 12 matchup between Buffalo and Denver.

"He's a guy that I stayed up late [for] and I had to prepare well for, just watching on film and seeing how he attacks the ball and seeing how he goes [and] gets the ball in the air, his body control and the way he gets off press [coverage]," White said. "And he can run, too. He's on his way. He can be that complete receiver. He's big, fast, physical, so he definitely was a tough match for me."

They also said they believe Sutton hasn't even scratched the surface of the kind of player he can become.

"No, not yet," Haden said. "He's just warming up. I think he's just coming into his own. He has nowhere to go but up."

Fitzpatrick agreed, adding, "He's a great player like I said, but he still has a whole bunch more of potential."

To receive so much respect over the course of the week and to realize his place next to so many of the NFL's top players has been a humbling and heartening experience for the Broncos' rising star receiver.

"[T]he guys who study this game and play it at a high level, they respect what we do week in and week out, the same way we watch film on each other, somebody on another team watches film on us," Sutton said. "It's cool to know that our peers recognize the work that we put in week in and week out.

"… It's been fun. It's been awesome to be around everybody and enjoying this experience of being amongst the guys who perform the best of the best this year. It's been a lot of fun making these relationships and building bonds with these dudes that play this game at a high, high level."

Go inside the week of practice at the 2020 Pro Bowl with our photos focusing on Courtland Sutton and Von Miller and AFC Pro Bowl Legends Captain Terrell Davis.

Off the practice field, Sutton has been busy living it up in Orlando. As of Saturday, he said he had made five visits to theme parks.

"Shoot, I went to … dang," Sutton said, as he had to mentally recollect his travels. "I went to three different Disney parks, and I went to Universal [Studios] twice. Man, I rode all types of rides. I think I'm going back to one Disney park — Epcot today, I think."

Joining Sutton in Orlando are some of his closest friends: his girlfriend, her family, his family, one of his best friends — and his dog, Brodie.

"Pro Bowl Brodie," Sutton said. "It's not even about me, it's about him honestly."

Sutton is also appreciative to have Broncos teammate Von Miller by his side at the Pro Bowl.

"It's dope — especially having someone who's been here eight times," Sutton said. "He knows. He's a vet to this stuff. Eight years in the league is a blessing upon itself, but to make the Pro Bowl eight years, that's huge. So to be able to have him here makes me a little more comfortable, having somebody that I know who is going to take care of me and make sure that I'm good while I'm here and make sure I know the events to go to and make sure that myself and my family are taken care of while I'm here."

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