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Did the Broncos’ sophomore class live up to expectations?

Zac Stevens Avatar
February 21, 2020

The Broncos’ 2018 rookie class made John Elway look like a genius in their rookie season. But with incredibly high expectations in their second year, were they able to do the same?

Before the season, we set expectations for the sophomore class in 2019. Here’s a look if each individual player lived up to their expectations in their second season in the NFL.

BRADLEY CHUBB

Expectations entering the season: 14.5 sacks; 65 tackles; 18 tackles for a loss; 25 quarterback hits

Actual output in 2019: 1 sack; 21 tackles; 5 tackles for a loss; 6 quarterback hits

Did he live up to expectations? No

Chubb’s torn ACL completely derailed his sophomore season. But it would be wrong to look past his slow start before the injury.

The former No. 5 overall pick showed he was more than just a pass rusher in the first four games of the season as he was stout against the run. But the 6-foot-4 pass rusher was a prized pick in 2018 because of his ability to rush the passer. He and Von Miller were central pieces to Denver’s historically slow start at getting after the opposing quarterback.

In the end, Chubb won’t be remembered for his sophomore season, but instead for the bounce back he has in 2020.

COURTLAND SUTTON

Expectations entering the season: 950 receiving yards; 75 receptions; 8 touchdowns; 16 starts

Actual output in 2019: 1,112 receiving yards; 72 receptions; 15.4 yards per catch; 6 touchdowns

Did he live up to expectations? Above and beyond

Becoming a 1,000-yard receiver is impressive. Becoming a 1,000-yard receiver in a player’s second season is very impressive. Becoming a 1,000-yard receiver in the fifth-worst passing offense is incredibly impressive. That’s why the former second-round pick blew his expectations out of the water his second year in the league.

Sutton not only had the numbers, but he also had the flashy big-time plays that put him in the national spotlight, all with questionable quarterback play for much of the season. There’s nothing not to like about the direction he’s trending.

ROYCE FREEMAN

Expectations entering the season: 700 rushing yards; 8 touchdowns; 4.4 yards per carry

Actual output in 2019: 496 rushing yards; 3 rushing touchdowns; 3.8 yards per carry; 43 receptions on 50 targets; 256 receiving yards; 1 receiving touchdown

Did he live up to expectations? No

As a runner, Royce was disappointing, there’s no other way to put it. As a receiver, however, Freeman was a pleasant surprise as he caught 86 percent of the passes thrown his way.

But in the end, the former third-round pick is a running back. His disappointing season on the ground will likely have Elway looking for another No. 2 running back this offseason. But Freeman’s surprisingly effectiveness out of the backfield could easily secure him Denver’s third-down role for 2020.

ISAAC YIADOM

Expectations entering the season: Special-teams stud; 15 percent of the defensive snaps

Actual output in 2019: 4 passes defended; 38 tackles; 1 TFL; 48 percent of the defensive snaps; 48 percent of the special teams’ snaps; 8 starts; 16 games played

Did he live up to expectations? Surprisingly, yes

Determining whether or not the former third-round pick lived up to expectations depends entirely on the expectations one had for him coming into the season.

After an up and down rookie season, I wasn’t expecting a monumental jump from Yiadom. In that case, he actually outperformed expectations as he was a major contributor on special teams and played a significant amount on defense, including flashing his potential at times.

However, Yiadom did struggle at corner, especially early on in the season as quarterbacks went his way over and over and over again. The verdict is still very much out on the soon-to-be third-year cornerback.

JOSEY JEWELL

Expectations entering the season: 75 tackles; 16 starts

Actual output in 2019: 34 tackles; 1 TFL; 2 quarterback hits; 1.5 sacks; 2 fumble recoveries; 3 starts

Did he live up to expectations? No

Alexander Johnson’s emergence was a fantastic surprise to everybody in Broncos Country except Jewell, as the “Dinosaur,” the nickname Johnson’s embraced, jumped over the second-year linebacker on the depth chart.

Jewell didn’t actually play poorly in his second season, but after an injury forced him to give up his starting role to Johnson in Week 4, he was never able to regain that as Johnson’s play was just too darn good. But in the end, Jewell was supposed to be Denver’s starting linebacker next to Todd Davis, but he spent most of the year on the bench when the defense was on the field.

DAESEAN HAMILTON

Expectations entering the season: 700 receiving yards; 65 receptions; 5 touchdowns

Actual output in 2019: 297 receiving yards; 28 receptions on 52 targets; 1 touchdown; 2 starts

Did he live up to expectations? Certainly not, but…

In the first 11 games, Hamilton had 11 receptions on 24 targets for 106 yards. He was as underwhelming and disappointing as could be.

Then Drew Lock unlocked DaeSean in the final five games. With Lock as his quarterback, Hamilton closed out the season with 17 receptions on 28 targets for 191 yards and a touchdown. Over an entire season, those numbers would have translated to 54 receptions for 611 yards and three touchdowns. Not exceptional, but Hamilton showed there’s enough to work with there. That’s why he’ll get another shot next year.

TROY FUMAGALLI

Expectations entering the season: 20 receptions; 200 yards

Actual output in 2019: 6 receptions on 9 targets; 38 yards, 1 touchdown

Did he live up to expectations? No

Early on in OTAs, the second-year tight end looked like he was poised for a breakout season as he was clicking with Joe Flacco. Then nothing really happened from there on out as he couldn’t breakthrough being the team’s No. 3 tight end.

SAM JONES

Expectations entering the season: Special teamer and backup interior offensive lineman

Actual output in 2019: Cut before the season

Did he live up to expectations? Nope.

The Colorado Kid couldn’t live the dream story like Phillip Lindsay has.

KEISHAWN BIERRIA

Expectations entering the season: Special teamer and backup inside linebacker

Actual output in 2019: 4 games played; Key special team’s player in first four games; Waived on Oct. 1

Did he live up to expectations? No

Until Bierria was waived after four games, he was actually living right up to his expectations. But he only lasted 25 percent of the season.

PHILLIP LINDSAY

Expectations entering the season: 950 rushing yards; 10 total touchdowns; 50 receptions; 500 receiving yards

Actual output in 2019: 1,011 rushing yards; 4.5 yards per carry; 7 total touchdowns; 35 receptions on 48 targets; 196 receiving yards

Did he live up to expectations? Yes…

In his second season, Phillip Lindsay continued to do the unthinkable, unimaginable and things that had never been done before. As he crossed the 1,000-yard mark in Week 17, the Colorado Kid became the first undrafted rookie in NFL history to have back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons to start his career.

In a bizarre way, Lindsay had the opposite year of Freeman in terms of expectations. Lindsay got the job done on the ground but was actually underwhelming in the passing game as he had the third-highest drop rate among running backs.

Even with that, Lindsay was still a stud.

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