ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — If you're asking where first-round pick Jerry Jeudy fits on the Broncos' offense, you're asking the wrong question.
The better question, as the former Alabama wide receiver prepares for his first season, is where doesn't he fit?
As a member of the Crimson Tide, Jeudy excelled as both an outside receiver and a slot receiver. During his final season, he recorded 77 catches for 1,163 yards and 10 touchdowns as he averaged 15.1 yards per catch.
Jeudy's positional versatility means Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur can use the 6-foot-1, 193-pound player wherever he gives the Broncos a mismatch.
In normal three-wide receiver sets and two-tight-end, two-receiver sets, Jeudy could play as the receiver opposite Courtland Sutton. He showed excellent press-breaking ability in his limited experience against press coverage in college, and he should be able to transfer that to the next level.
Once he gets initial separation, Jeudy's polished route-running ability should help him stay open and gain even more space. With the ability to stop and change direction with little wasted movement, Jeudy should be a reliable option to get open on third downs and when the Broncos need key yards. He also showed good understanding in college of where to settle against zone defenses.
At Alabama, Tua Tagovailoa routinely looked toward Jeudy on third down and when the other team blitzed.
With Sutton expected to garner the attention of the opponent's No. 1 cornerback, Jeudy should have a decent chance to become a go-to target and get the ball in space. As a sophomore at Alabama — the year he won the 2018 Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver — Jeudy caught 52 passes that resulted in either a first down or touchdown. His 1,315 receiving yards that season marked the second-highest total in Alabama history.
Jeudy's route-running prowess could be even more evident when he plays in the slot, either when the Broncos run four-receiver sets or in a trips or bunch formation. The Broncos could also often bring Jeudy in motion to give the offense an upper hand.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban said he believes Jeudy "really does his damage" in the slot, as the space only increases. And against typically smaller nickel cornerbacks, Jeudy may have a noticeable advantage. And while he's not a physically imposing player, he plays tough. In college, he would at times lower his shoulder at the end of plays to pick up extra yards.
His physical traits are only part of the equation. A hard-working, intelligent player, Jeudy thrived in option-route scenarios where he and the quarterback were required to read the defense after the snap. And once he makes his decision, his 4.45-second 40-yard dash speed allows him to separate from defenders. It may not match up with KJ Hamler's speed, but it's more than good enough.
"He's smart," Saban said. "He's very instinctive playing the position. Great option-route runner. I think his greatest strength is he can drop his weight, get in and out of a break and accelerate. But he's also fast. There's a lot of guys that can do that but then maybe they're quicker than fast. He's quick but he's fast, and I think that's a lethal combination."
On the occasion that Jeudy breaks free, he's hard to stop. And while his teammate Henry Ruggs III possessed the blazing speed, Jeudy found plenty of open space. He had 29 receptions of 16-plus yards in his final season and posted a 200-yard performance against Michigan in the Citrus Bowl.
He also recorded double-digit touchdowns in back-to-back seasons and has the second-most receiving touchdowns in school history behind only Amari Cooper.
The best news? He should be able to make this impact almost right away.
"I think when you've got a receiver that is that seasoned at the college level, they can just be that much more impactful, that much quicker at the NFL level," Broncos Director of Player Personnel Matt Russell said. "You eliminate maybe the year of developing and learning how to run routes, learning how to stick the brakes on and separate, getting away from coverage, those kind of things. That takes time for those guys to learn, and he's already way ahead of the game when it comes to that.
"I think when you watch him run routes and you watch guys like Calvin Ridley run routes, there is some similarities in their play. I think that's probably because of the influence that comes down from some of these older guys to guys like Jeudy, which he'll pass on to guys below him at Alabama."
Ridley, for what it's worth, caught 64 passes for 821 yards and 10 touchdowns in his first NFL season.
With Sutton on the other side to draw attention and Noah Fant taking up the middle of the field, it wouldn't be shocking to see Jeudy post similar numbers.
And if they're anywhere close, the Broncos should be more than pleased with their first-round selection.