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Why Broncos receiver Courtland Sutton could be one of the biggest steals in the NFL Draft

He hasn’t gotten the same kind of attention as some of the draft’s other receivers, but retired NFL defensive end Stephen White sees a player who could be big surprise in the pros.

NCAA Football: SMU at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The whole time I was watching Courtland Sutton’s tape, I kept thinking he reminded me of somebody on the field. It was nagging me through all four games, but I just couldn’t figure out who it was. Finally, after I had finished the process of watching each game three times a name came to me — Kenny Britt.

So I wasn’t exactly surprised when I compared their combine measurements that they were exactly the same height, 6’3, and weight, 218 pounds, coming out of college. The similarities didn’t end there. Britt’s arms were just a little longer and his vert was a tad bit higher, but Sutton’s 40 was just a hair faster and his 20-yard shuttle time blew Britt’s away.

More than all of that, they just move similarly to me on the field, so Britt seems to be a very apt comparison.

You may recall that Britt was a late first-round pick by the Tennessee Titans when he came out in 2009. That is pretty much what I see Sutton as, too, though he went in the second round, to the Broncos.

For some folks this may seem like a knock on Sutton, especially if you only look at Britt’s stats since he’s been in the league. However, while Britt’s off-field issues have overshadowed, and in some cases, curtailed his performance on the field, there is no doubt that Britt was and is still a pretty good football player when he has his head on straight. I know its been awhile, but thanks to Google we can all be reminded that in his second season, nine of Britt’s 42 catches went for touchdowns and he averaged 18.5 yards per reception.

Mind you, that was with him missing four games.

Imagine what Britt could have been if he didn’t keep getting in trouble back then.

Provided he doesn’t follow Britt’s path off the field, I see Sutton as being the same kind of player with the potential for much better production in the NFL.

Sutton showed me he could be explosive as hell when I watched his film.

He would catch a short pass and, if given enough room to get going, he could turn a little into a lot in a hurry.

He also showed the kind of top end speed to beat corners on go routes down the field.

At other times, Sutton displayed an ability to use his height well, going up to get the ball in the air over smaller defenders.

And he wasn’t at all shy about getting physical with cornerbacks if he needed to in order to get himself open.

Now, Sutton is going to have to learn how to be a little more subtle with his his pushoffs once he gets to the league, but I love the mentality of big wide receivers forcing the refs to call OPI. If a referee is going to let a wide receiver toss a corner aside to make a catch, then that is exactly what that receiver should do.

Hell, most of the time they just eat their whistle anyway (unless its Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans).

Yeah, there will be times when OPI is called, and like I said before, Sutton has to learn how to not be so obvious about it, but I would much rather have a big receiver that is too aggressive going after the ball in the air.

You can get a guy to backoff a little, but it’s hard, if not damn near impossible, to teach aggressiveness to a player who hasn’t shown any before they made it to the NFL.

I do wish he had at least made some of those catches after pushing the DB out of the way however.

Speaking of being physical, I also loved the way Sutton got after it as a blocker in limited opportunities. He was chasing cats all over the field on running plays.

It was obvious that half of them dudes didn’t want no smoke.

He did have this one play where he appeared to be half-ass trying to block the corner and that looked bad, but it was literally the only “bad” block I saw him have in four games.

Wide receivers who are willing to really take it to defensive backs in the run game are always good money in my book. Most of the time when you see a long run by a running back there is at least one wide receiver wearing somebody out downfield.

Sutton can, and I believe, will be that kind of blocker in the pros.

Having said all that, the big swings in Sutton’s productivity in the games I watched were a little concerning when I first watched his tape. Against Houston, Sutton had 11 catches (one of which isn’t on the tape I watched), and against North Texas he had eight. But he only had one catch a piece against both TCU and Memphis.

So, what gives?

Well, first of all it is important to note his one catch against Memphis was actually a 35-yard touchdown.

Also, on further review, both Memphis and TCU were smart enough to double cover Sutton quite a bit to keep him in check.

It’s hard for anybody to get off with that much extra attention, no matter how good you are. On the other hand, the fact that those teams doubled Sutton so much showed how much respect they had for his game.

Sutton did, in fact, still get open deep a few times in both games, but his quarterback just couldn’t get to the ball to him.

One play in particular against TCU, Sutton ran a beautiful seam route from the slot, only to have the quarterback overthrow him on what should have been a layup.

Am I sure he would have caught those passes had the quarterback been able to put it on the money?

Well, I couldn’t be 100 percent sure since Sutton did have a couple of drops in those four games.

I also saw Sutton catch enough balls smoothly with his hands in the “proper” position in those four games that I would have given him good odds to come down with a lot of those if he had a chance.

Add it all up and you come away with a tall, strong, physical receiver with pretty good hands who can get down the field, jump over cornerbacks to make catches, as well as make somebody miss in space if he is allowed to get going.

I don’t know that Sutton showed that he can be spectacular, but I do think from his tape it’s safe to say the he can at least be really good. With his size and athleticism, that translates in to the late first round/early second round area. The Broncos got him at No. 40 and Courtland Sutton has enough potential and a high enough ceiling that he will have a legit chance to be one of the steals of this draft.

Since I don’t have access to all-22 for college football games, I use the next best thing for my draft profiles and go to Draft Breakdown where they post the TV copy of a bunch of top prospects’ games already cut up and ready to go. This time Draft Breakdown only had two of Courtland Sutton’s games from last season on their website, so I had to use Google to find two more (TCU and Memphis). For the purposes of this breakdown I watched Sutton play against North Texas, TCU, Houston, and Memphis. Those represented the second, third, sixth, and 11th games on SMU’s schedule last season, respectively.