Can Courtland Sutton Be a Fantasy Football Factor in His Rookie Season?
In drafting wideouts Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton, Denver unofficially told Thomas and Sanders they aren’t long for the Broncos. But signing quarterback Case Keenum in free agency also told the offense that the front office knows the unit needed an upgrade under center.
As the Broncos begin their 2018 campaign with an uncertain direction, their investments in Keenum and in the offense through the draft show both a long- and short-term view. In fact, the Broncos invested heavily in the offense, with picks of Sutton (40th overall), running back Royce Freeman (71st) and Hamilton (113th).
But the in the case of Sutton, how much of an impact can he make in 2018? Is he someone worth drafting in redraft formats?
Sutton Standing Out Already
A few obstacles stand between Sutton and his rise to claiming a spot on your redraft roster in 2018: Sanders and Thomas aren’t going anywhere this season, and Hamilton is a pretty promising rookie in his own right.
Despite the roadblocks, the Sutton hype train hasn’t stopped. The former SMU standout has been compared to some of the game's best, including current Bengals wideout A.J. Green. And recently, the Denver Post’s Ryan O’Halloran chimed in on the continued praise of Sutton in camp and how the Broncos should utilize the rookie:
“Sutton is developing so quickly," O'Halloran said. "The Broncos, if they haven’t already, should be committing themselves to being a base '11' personnel (three-receiver, one-back) offense."
Those sentiments were backed up in short order as another recent report stated that Sutton has already locked down the number-three role on the receiver depth chart -- which should get him on the field plenty in Year 1 -- and he is dominating 50-50 balls in camp, a trait he displayed in college.
Getting snaps is the first step to garnering targets, but with Sanders and Thomas set in their respective top-two spots in the Denver passing game, will Sutton see enough volume to make a fantasy impact this fall?
The Fit in Denver
Last season, 120 targets went to wideouts other than Thomas or Sanders, and the receivers who saw them don't figure to stand in Sutton's way. Here's how those looks were distributed.
|Player||Catches||Targets||Yards||Yards Per Catch||TDs|
Jordan Taylor is on the PUP list, Latimer is with the New York Giants, Bennie Fowler signed with the Chicago Bears, and Isaiah McKenzie has yet to ingratiate himself with the Broncos. So there are target to be had.
As we already touched on, early reports have Sutton staking claim to the number-three role, which gives him some appeal right away. Time will tell how many of the above targets he seizes, but it would likely have to be a good chunk of them for Sutton to be a legit impact fantasy producer in 2018.
However, there is one area where Sutton could provide immediate help for Denver -- the red zone.
At SMU, Sutton saw a shade more than 27 percent of his team’s targets, according to NCAAsavant.com, and his athletic profile -- he's 6-foot-3, 218 pounds with a top comparable of Alshon Jeffery, per PlayerProfiler.com -- could fill a big need for Denver.
The Broncos were dead last in 2017 in red-zone scoring efficiency (touchdown only) at 39.58 percent. Keenum should help in this regard -- especially if he plays like he did last year -- but Sutton could pilfer a few touchdowns. For as good as Sanders and Thomas are, they haven't been finding the end zone at a high rate, with Thomas averaging 5.33 touchdowns per season over the last three years and Sanders scoring 4.33 times per campaign in that span.
Being Drafted Behind His Peers
While Sutton has a chance to see decent volume in 2018, there are some other rookies who landed in situations that should allow them to walk into a more meaningful role right out of the gate. According to Fantasy Football Calculator's 12-team, standard-league average draft position (ADP) info, four rookie wideouts are being taken in front of Sutton, who is currently going undrafted.
Gallup has a much clearer path to playing time in Dallas, and Ridley certainly has a good chance to push Mohamed Sanu for targets in a quality Atlanta offense. And Moore, the first wideout taken in the 2018 NFL Draft, might have a quicker path to playing time than Sutton does, but he finds himself in a very talented offense with many mouths to feed in Carolina.
But it’s certainly arguable that we should consider adding Sutton as a speculative pick in the same neighborhood as -- or perhaps earlier than -- Miller. While Miller could be the Bears' number-two wideout, Chicago also has solid pass-game weapons at running back and tight end, and the Bears are projected to have the sixth-worst passing offense in 2018, per our models. Not that Denver is a shoo-in to be better -- we peg them to be the second-worst passing offense, actually -- but the point here is that Sutton has a comparable fantasy outlook to Miller's, yet Sutton is going undrafted.
Considering Sutton in the final rounds of redraft leagues is certainly something to entertain. In many high-production offenses, the third wide receiver can be an asset, but it remains to be seen how much Keenum will lift this attack.
The Broncos have been searching for a solid third option in their passing game for the past couple years, and Sutton may give them just that, which would take some pressure off of Thomas and Sanders while adding some youthful punch to what's been a stagnant offense.
Last season, especially, defenses were able to concentrate their attention on Thomas and Sanders without a credible third threat in Denver's aerial attack.
As long as Sutton wins the number-three role, which he appears to be on track toward doing, he has some appeal as a late-round flier. And his athletic profile gives him nice upside if either Thomas or Sanders -- the latter of whom missed four games in 2017 -- get injured.
So, is Sutton a surefire contributor as a redraft pick this season? No. But as you look for value and pad the end of your roster with potential impact players, Sutton has to be near the top of the list of rookie wide receivers.