Heading into the 2020 season, the talk around the Broncos centered around the collection of young talent on offense.
Courtland Sutton was coming off a breakout Pro Bowl season, and Denver would add a first- and second-round pick to the receiving corps alongside him in Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler. Then there was Noah Fant, the former first-round pick whose collection of physical skills made him one of the most promising young players at his position. And in the backfield, Denver had two Pro Bowl running backs in Melvin Gordon III and Phillip Lindsay.
Unfortunately, the offense as a whole stumbled — due to a combination of inexperience, uneven quarterback play and injuries — and failed to realize that potential in 2020.
But with most of those players returning, the Broncos could see their hopes realized in 2021 instead. Sutton appears to be on track to return from a torn ACL to join Jeudy, who Head Coach Vic Fangio said is "a much more mature guy" as he enters his second season. Fant ranked in the top 10 among tight ends in receptions and yards, and Gordon nearly reached 1,000 rushing yards in 15 games (and just 10 starts) on a 4.6 yard-per-carry average.
All that combined with a new crop of rookies and offseason acquisitions could make Denver's offensive arsenal around Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater one of the league's best.
"The potential for a juggernaut — at least in terms of weapons — is still here," ESPN's Bill Barnwell wrote in a ranking of NFL teams' offensive arsenals. "Sutton is back, and after struggling with drops last season, Jeudy should take a step forward and improve his 46% catch rate in Year 2.
"Second-round pick Javonte Williams and even former Vikings backup Mike Boone should push Gordon. Tight end Noah Fant, a first-round pick in 2019, improved last season and has the skill set to go further."
The Broncos rank 17th here in Barnwell's list, as he notes that quarterback play will decide whether we see the full potential of this collection of offensive talent, but it's clear that what the Broncos have could be one of the league's best groups.
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The decision as to which quarterback takes the reins could take some time. NFL Network's James Palmer said Monday on "NFL NOW" that the decision may not come until after the preseason slate is finished. "This could go, to my understanding, through all three preseason games before they make a decision," Palmer said. "That's where they stand right now when they look at both of these quarterbacks."