Elway: Thomas trade should help Sutton's growth

The Denver Broncos’ trade of Demaryius Thomas was as much about opening playing time for a younger stud as it was getting an asset for an aging player.

Jettisoning Thomas now opens snaps for rookie Courtland Sutton, who general manager John Elway said deserves more playing time.

"We thought that this would give Courtland a chance to get out there, play more and become a bigger part of it because we think he’s ready to go," Elway said, via the Denver Post. "He’s played well up to this point in time. Hopefully this accelerates his maturity."

Through eight games, Sutton has played 68.7 percent of the Broncos offensive snaps, almost exclusively in three-receiver sets. Of the Broncos 131 2-WR sets this season, the rookie has participated in just 21. Thomas, conversely, played in 104 of those two-receiver situations.

The Broncos’ view Sutton as a star on the rise. Allowing him more opportunities in his young career could help escalate that growth.

"He’s a second-round pick that probably should’ve been a first-round pick," coach Vance Joseph said on Wednesday. "Obviously, he’s a gifted guy. He’s not a finished product by any means, but our hope is that he’s going to be special. That’s our hope. He has to continue to work, to perfect his routes and to continue to play hard and to study. We’ll see, but it’s his time, so he has plenty of reps and time to prove he’s that guy we think he can be."

Through the first eight weeks, the rookie has compiled 17 receptions on 37 targets for 324 yards and two touchdowns. The 45.9 catch rate puts him near the bottom of the NFL (183rd per Pro Football Reference).

Sutton has shown tantalizing ability to get open on the sideline, make body-contorting catches, and snake grabs in tight spaces. There’s plenty of work for the SMU product to improve upon, however.

"I’m definitely getting better each week," Sutton said. "There is always something to learn at this level and the game changes so much series-to-series. I’m just trying to make sure I’m continuing to get better each week and each day so that I can continue to make the best version of myself for this offense."

Getting more snaps with Thomas out the door should help accelerate the process.

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