Analysis Reveals Broncos Have 2 Sets of All-Time Receiver Trios

Getty During Peyton Manning's tenure with the Denver Broncos, the offense possessed two different sets of historically-great receiver trios.

When it comes to all-time wideout corps, the Denver Broncos have historically cornered the market.

Per an ESPN column, the Broncos have two of the top-five trio of receiving units in NFL history — and of course, the common denominator is Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning.

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The Formula

Per Aaron Schatz’s column, he used a Football Outsiders metric known as DYAR (Defense-Adjusted Yards Above Replacement). Schatz’s formula measured the top three receivers for every team since 1983, noting that he used “the harmonic mean of their top three receivers’ DYAR totals.”

The ESPN NFL analyst and Editor-In-Chief at Football Outsiders said that “using harmonic mean, instead of normal arithmetic mean, gives us a list of teams where all three receivers had excellent seasons.”

That means that Schatz wasn’t grading a team that was top-loaded with two outstanding wideouts, and a third option who is not an ancillary contributor. Instead, he was grading teams with three top-flight wideouts. Schatz went on to use the 2006 Indianapolis Colts as a prime example of a receiving outfit that had just two primo options (Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison and former All-Pro Reggie Wayne), but a third wheel in Aaron Moorehead, who wasn’t contributing nearly as much as the aforementioned duo.

Special Groupings

The compiled tally consists of 12 wideout trios, and on his list, he rated the 2013 Broncos (fifth all-time) and the 2012 Broncos (third), meaning two of Manning’s four Denver seasons ranked as all-time great trios.

Manning’s second season in Denver was arguably his greatest statistical campaign, as he set an NFL single-season mark for touchdown passes with 55, but Schatz rated that trio behind the previous season. The 2013 trio put up “Star Wars-type Numbers,” as Manning’s former boss, Colts owner Jim Irsay liked to say.

Wes Welker, who was a long-time favorite of Tom Brady during their time together in New England, registered 73 catches for 778 yards and 10 touchdowns in his first season in Denver, as he replaced Manning’s former Colts and Broncos favorite Brandon Stokley in the slot. Demaryius Thomas‘s 2013 season was special, as he led the team in the big-three major categories (92 receptions, 1,431 yards, and 14 touchdowns), while Eric Decker compiled 87 catches for 1,288 and 11 touchdowns.

That trio was a headache for opponents all season long — until it ran into a buzz-saw of a defense in the Seattle Seahawks’ Legion of Boom secondary, in a demoralizing 43-8 defeat in the Super Bowl.

Two spots higher than that special 2013 trio was the 2012 version. Schatz deemed that triumvirate as the third-greatest of all time. Thomas and Decker were equally as impressive in that season, as the former registered 94 receptions with 1,430 and 10 touchdowns, while the latter added 85 receptions for 1,071 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Stokley’s 2012 season might not have been as Welker’s 2013 campaign, tallying just 45 catches for 544 yards and five touchdowns, but according to Schatz, it was more efficient, which is why he ranked the Thomas-Decker-Stokley trio ahead of the Thomas-Decker-Welker squad.

In Too Deep

Per Pro Football Focus’ Broncos page, they have one of the deepest wideout corps in 2021, as a tweet displayed just how good that stable is.

The Broncos are one of just two teams in the NFL that have at least four receivers with a grade of 70-plus in 2021. Perhaps the two biggest surprises are Courtland Sutton, who is the Broncos’ highest-rated receiver despite coming off a devastating ACL injury during a Week 2 loss at the Pittsburgh Steelers just a season ago, and Kendall Hinton, who was famously thrust into emergency quarterback duties in a 2020 Week 12 home matchup against the New Orleans Saints.

Sutton, specifically, is having an outstanding 2021 season, as he’s been one of the most sure-handed wideouts in the NFL.

Man Is Paid

Another wideout on that list who is finally getting recognition is Tim Patrick — and the Broncos have rewarded such excellence with financial love.

Per NFL Network insider Tom Pelissero, Patrick is about to finally have some security — and respect — in Denver.

Patrick, who entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Utah in 2017, is Denver’s second-leading receiver in 2021 with 37 catches for 523 yards and four touchdowns. He’s tallied 127 catches for 1,798 yards and 11 scores during his four seasons with the franchise.

The money finally matches for a guy who has been a very good receiver in Denver over the past two seasons. And his 90.2 receiving grade, per PFF, against man coverage is sixth-best in the NFL during the 2021 campaign.

Follow Tony Williams on Twitter: @TBone8
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