ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Four seasons ago, Tim Patrick was struggling to even find a roster spot.
In 2017, he was waived by both the Ravens and the 49ers before being signed to Broncos' practice squad. Midway through that year, he was let go from Denver, too.
Now, the Broncos will struggle to keep Patrick off the field.
The former undrafted player's rise has been well-documented. He appeared in 16 games in 2018 as he caught 23 passes for 315 yards, and he seemed poised to take a step in 2019 before he suffered a hand injury in Week 1 against the Raiders. He returned midseason but was only somewhat effective, catching 16 passes for 218 yards.
But when Courtland Sutton suffered a season-ending injury in Week 2 last season, Patrick met the moment. He led the Broncos in touchdown catches as he caught 51 passes for 742 yards and six scores in 15 games, and he was a reliable target as he didn't drop a pass all season. Patrick posted three 100-yard games, all of which were Broncos wins.
This offseason, the Broncos tendered Patrick at a second-round level, and that status has Patrick focusing less on his past and more on what he could become in Denver.
"It's something that's in the past," Patrick said of his undrafted pedigree on Wednesday. "I got a second-round tender this year, so I feel like a second-round pick now."
While Patrick is still willing to share his story and advice with undrafted players, he's also bringing a new approach to the 2021 season. Patrick said he now knows he's capable of "doing anything" on the field, which has altered his mindset.
As long as the team is successful, though, Patrick said he won't be concerned with his number of targets.
"We have a lot of weapons," Patrick said. "If we all eat, that means we're going to be winning. I'm not going to complain at all. As long as we're winning, I don't care."
Patrick should be one of the team's top receivers alongside Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy, and he'll look to build on a season in which he was one of the most reliable deep threats in the league. Patrick made a slew of contested catches last year, including a highlight-reel play against the Chiefs in Kansas City.
"I don't like people touching me," Patrick said of his success rate on tough catches. "I get people's hands off and I have a big body. I don't know how to say it. I just make a play. I don't let people touch me, and I'm a big body. It's hard for them to fight through and make a play. It's just good technique. Our coach [Wide Receivers Coach Zach Azzanni] harps on being a technician. I bought in and it worked out for me."
If Patrick can make the same number of plays in 2021, it could lead to the first long-term deal of his career. Patrick is slated to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and while he said he tries not to think about it, he acknowledged that a long-term deal is "every kid's dream."
He should still have plenty to motivate himself, as he tries to avoid being a one-year wonder for the Broncos.
"To say 'I made it,' you have to do something special," Patrick said. "The most special thing you can do in this league is win a Super Bowl. I don't want to say I'm special because I feel like I don't get the respect. I wish I could have gotten a first-round tender, or I wish I could have gotten an extension.
No, I don't feel good. I don't talk to you guys [the media] enough, so I need to do more. I'm not talked about on TV enough, so I need to do more. There are so many things I need to do. I have to be more consistent.
"It's one good year. I have to stack them, because a lot of people have one good year and they go quiet the next year. My job is not to fall in that statistic."
In 2021, the player who once couldn't find a spot on the field will try to prove to the Broncos he's a guy they cannot replace.