Upgrade Your Fandom

Join the Ultimate Denver Broncos Community!

Broncos Battle Breakdown: Candidates emerging for final two receiver spots

Ryan Koenigsberg Avatar
August 8, 2018

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — “What have you seen from some of those reserve receivers?” I asked Will Parks after a day in which Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders were given a vet rest day, giving way to the younger guys.

“Those are the reserves?” He asked with a straight face. “I couldn’t tell.”

The question was specifically asked about No. 81, Tim Patrick and No. 15, River Cracraft, two of the receivers who stood out on Wednesday as they attempt to secure a spot on the 53-man roster.

If the Broncos are to keep six wide receivers on their roster, as is expected, the first four are obvious—Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton—but after that, you have eight guys competing for two spots.

If the depth chart is to be believed, Patrick and Cracraft currently hold those spots.

We keyed in on those guys today to try and get a better idea of where the competition is heading.


If you were coming to your first practice today, and you didn’t have a roster in your hand, you probably would have thought that No. 81 was the heavily-hyped rookie receiver, Courtland Sutton.

It started off early, when Paxton Lynch hit his back foot and unleashed a deep ball for Patrick in the end zone. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound receiver leaped into the air and used his massive frame to get up and over the defender and bring the ball in for the touchdown and play of the day honors.

After he got up from the group, Patrick—with the crowd roaring—thre his arms out wide and looked to the sky a la Terrell Owens. Fitting, based on his jersey number.

Later in the day, it was Lynch who once again lobbed one up for the big-bodied receiver, this time up the right sideline. With cornerback C.J. Smith smothering the former Ute, he reached around the DB and hauled the pass in with one hand, never even bobbling the ball and keeping his balance to turn upfield and gain 10 more yards on what was eventually a 30-plus-yard play.

Throughout the rest of the practice, the second-year man hauled in four more passes, consistently finding ways to make a play for his quarterback, no matter who is was.

Patrick came into camp with a lot of buzz and has done nothing but looked great since then. His unique combination of speed and size alone makes him a worthy candidate as a guy who you should keep around on potential, but he’s shown more than just potential this camp, he’s shown himself to be an actual playmaker.

As for Cracraft, he’s the Hamilton to Patrick’s Sutton. Not making the plays that send the hill into a frenzy, not embarrassing any DBs in the air, but constantly making plays and drawing targets from the guy holding the ball.

What’s most impressive about Cracraft, or “Cray-Cray,” as Case Keenum called him after practice, is his ability to use his body to make plays. Standing at just 6-feet tall and just under 200 pounds, he most certainly wouldn’t jump out at you as a guy who uses his body as a tool, but the second-year man out of Washington State does a fantastic job of boxing defensive backs out, getting his hands out in front of his body and making contested grabs in the middle of the field.

On top of that, his hands are as soft as they come. There was a play today where Chad Kelly ripped a strike to Cracraft on a shallow out route right in front of the media, and I swear the ball didn’t even make a sound when it hit his hands, he just absorbed it,

On the day, Cracraft pulled in multiple first-down catches in the middle of the field, showing himself to be a valuable weapon for the quarterbacks.

The rest of the group was largely inconsistent on the day, with Jordan Leslie being the only other player who made a consistent impact. Isaiah McKenzie, who appears to be the player outside of Patrick and Cracraft with the best chance to make the roster, was essentially invisible and left the second half of practice with a slight injury before eventually coming back onto the field but not participating.

McKenzie dropped a touchdown pass from Paxton Lynch in the early days of camp and has since essentially fallen off the face of the earth from an offensive perspective.


As I see it, the fifth receiver position is Patrick’s to lose. He has been the most consistent of the third-tier group while also looking like the player with the highest ceiling. Barring a meltdown or an injury, he should be safe.

To me, the last WR spot on the roster comes down to Cracraft and McKenzie.

With Cracraft, you are definitely getting the better wide receiver. A reliable guy who can make plays for you in the slot if you need him to and can also be your punt returner. With McKenzie, you are getting the guy who you can hopefully catch lightning in a bottle with. A guy who will only really touch the ball on special plays on offense but brings a homerun threat. Also, you are getting a guy who, if he can shake his case of the drops, has the potential to be a special playmaker in the punt return game.

The decision is going to come down to philosophy for the Broncos. Do you want the better player or do you want the specialist?


Vance Joseph on what he’s seen from WR River Cracraft

“[He’s] very consistent, very smart player and very good on [special] teams. He’s got some qualities that will help him make our team. Your fourth, fifth and sixth receiver has to be a guy that plays teams and has to be a smart guy to play every position. So far, he’s showing those traits.”

Case Keenum on what he has seen from wide receiver River Cracraft

“Cray-Cray? He’s playing well. He’s doing really well. I like throwing him the ball. He’s a friendly target. He’s learning too. He’s learning the NFL game. I think you like having a guy like that, you can move inside, outside, shifty. He’s got good separation at the top of his routes. And he’s learning too, just like a lot of those young guys. He’s continuing to grow, he’s watching the older guys, [WR] Emmanuel [Sanders], and watching what those guys do and trying to emulate some of that.”

Will Parks on what he thinks of WR Tim Patrick

“Baller, he’s been making plays since we first started practice. I’m glad to see him out here and make a couple of plays and make everybody better. At the end of the day, as long as we’re making each other better, because obviously people make plays on him and he makes plays on us. That’s the good thing about it is that it’s practice and you can look at ways to get better and things like that.”


Share your thoughts

Join the conversation

The Comment section is only for diehard members

Open comments +

Scroll to next article

Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?