John Elway believed there was only a slight chance Jerry Jeudy would be available to the Broncos at No. 15 overall. But Elway wanted the All-American receiver from Alabama.
In fact, Denver liked him so much, the Broncos explored the idea of trading up into the top 10 to land him. After deciding to stay put at 15, the star receiver fell right into their lap — despite Elway’s belief that there was only a 10 percent chance of Jeudy slipping to them, as he told the Rich Eisen Show on Wednesday,
With Courtland Sutton and Jeudy at Drew Lock’s disposal after the first day of the draft, a “big weight” was lifted off Elway’s shoulders as his young quarterback now had the weapons to succeed.
But that wasn’t enough. With their next pick, Elway grabbed Lock another weapon by drafting Penn State receiver K.J. Hamler.
Elway doubling down at receiver shocked the NFL world.
After grabbing Jeudy in the first round, it appeared that need was taken care of, at least in terms of another high-round pick. But it was that exact thinking by other NFL teams that allowed Denver to snag two of their top receivers.
“It helped us going receiver-receiver because if we hadn’t gone receiver in the first round I think there would have been a lot of people that would have tried to jump us in the second round,” Elway told Rich Eisen on the Rich Eisen Show on Wednesday. “I think there were a lot of people behind us that let us know Hamler was their guy. With us sitting there, not going up, as well as having drafting a wide receiver in the first round, people were fine sitting there thinking that we weren’t going to draft another wide receiver. It worked out well for us.”
Not only is Jerry Jeudy a great chess piece on the field, he already proved he’s a great decoy off it. If the Broncos hadn’t picked up Jeudy in the first, Denver’s hole at receiver would have been so glaring the entire world would have known receiver was a big priority to the Broncos in the second round. That allowed Hamler to fall right into Denver’s lap at No. 46 overall.
In fact, Hamler was the Broncos’ target in the second round “from the very get-go depending on how the first round fell.”
“He was going to kind of be our target in the second round because we love his explosiveness. We love the speed and the way that he plays. So he can really threaten a defense,” Elway said about the 5-foot-9, 178-pound receiver. “He was kind of our target. Not knowing how the first round was going to go, I was still prepared to go receiver-receiver.”
With needs speckled all over the Broncos’ roster — most notably on the offensive line and at cornerback — Denver wasn’t necessarily in a prime position to double down at a position that had two potential studs. At the same time, the Broncos didn’t need another Pro Bowl running back in free agency, yet Elway still went out and gave Melvin Gordon a two-year, $16 million contract to give the offense a much-needed jolt.
“We wanted to get more explosive on the offensive side,” Elway said. “Over the last couple of years, we’ve lost [Demaryius] Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders last year. We were a little depleted at the wide receiver [position]. We hadn’t been nearly as explosive on the offensive side as we needed to be. We made the commitment that we’re going to get better on the offensive side. We need to put more points on the board. We made that a point going in that we needed to get some speed and depth at wide receiver. So that was the goal going in.”
In a matter of months, the Broncos added a two-time Pro Bowl running back, a Biletnikoff-award receiver and a wideout that Vic Fangio believes runs at least a 4.3 40-yard dash.
Jeudy’s presence isn’t just responsible for Denver adding an All-American receiver. Hamler’s presence in orange and blue is partly due to him, as well.