The Denver Broncos have developed a sense of renewed hope under head coach Sean Payton heading into their Week 9 bye. Despite a two-game winning streak, Denver should look ahead to the 2024 NFL Draft with a playoff run unlikely.
Wide receivers Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy have an uncertain future with the Broncos. Trade rumors swirled around both players leading up to the October 31 NFL trade deadline. One draft analyst has Denver surprisingly using their first-round selection on a wide receiver in next year’s draft.
In his November 6 mock draft, Trevor Sikkema of PFF had the Broncos selecting LSU wideout Malik Nabers.
“Some Broncos fans are likely thinking quarterback here, but with Russell Wilson’s contract the way it is and Denver picking outside of the top five with Caleb Williams and Drake Maye off the board, we go in a different direction. Denver didn’t move Courtland Sutton or Jerry Jeudy before the trade deadline, but that’s not because they didn’t listen to offers. The offers just weren’t good enough. Nabers could be their WR1,” Sikkema wrote.
Nabers was the second wide receiver taken after Marvin Harrison Jr. went to the Chicago Bears with the third-overall pick.
The LSU star has reached 1,000 yards receiving in back-to-back seasons. Through nine games in 2023, Nabers has caught 66 passes for 1,152 yards and 10 touchdowns. He had a season-high 239 receiving yards in a 41-14 win over Mississippi State on September 16.
Nabers was named the 2023 Citrus Bowl MVP after catching nine passes for 163 yards and a touchdown. LSU would defeat Purdue 63-7 to finish the 2022 campaign 10-4.
Sean Payton on Broncos’ Progress: ‘I Feel Like We’re a Better Team Today’
Payton has seen the strides his team has made since their dreadful start to the season.
“Clearly, I feel like we’re a better team today than we were four or five weeks ago,” Payton told reporters on November 6. “You can see that in a lot of ways.”
The team’s most glaring improvement has come on defense. While the Broncos rank last in yards allowed (405.9) and points surrendered (28.3), they have held their last three opponents to 45 total points.
Wilson has also improved statistically as he tied his 16-touchdown mark from 2022 in just eight games. Payton mentioned he was encouraged by Wilson’s off-schedule plays and his ability to work the pocket.
“He’s in his third offense now in three years. Every day [he’s] working at it, working his tail off at it,” Payton said.
Upcoming Primetime Slate Poses Great Opportunity for Broncos
The Broncos will be tested immediately out of their bye as they travel to face the Buffalo Bills. Josh Allen and company will host Denver on “Monday Night Football” after Buffalo’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 9.
Following the Bills game, the Broncos will have yet another primetime matchup. Denver will welcome the Minnesota Vikings to town in Week 11 on “Sunday Night Football.”
Payton recognizes the challenges his team will face in the national spotlight.
“We’re playing good teams,” Payton said on Monday, November 6. “Buffalo’s been a perennial playoff team here, right on the cusp of being in a handful of Super Bowls and a team that we’ve got great respect for. [Buffalo head coach] Sean [McDermott]’s been fantastic there in what he’s done. I think they present a huge challenge, especially in Buffalo in the month of November.”
The veteran head coach relishes the spotlight and urges his team to appreciate the opportunity.
“Those are great challenges. The competitor in you wants to play in front of large audiences in important games. These are those opportunities.”
Both games will factor into the Broncos’ slim playoff odds. Per The New York Times, Denver has a four percent chance of making it into the postseason.