Broncos counting way too much on Bo Nix connection to fill lackluster WR room

The Denver Broncos are hoping the Oregon Ducks' offensive success translates to the NFL.
Bo Nix, Troy Franklin, Oregon
Bo Nix, Troy Franklin, Oregon / Chris Gardner/GettyImages

The Denver Broncos made Oregon Ducks QB Bo Nix the 12th overall pick in April's NFL Draft. That decision shocked many inside and outside the organization. Sean Payton's affection for Nix was not a surprise, but he was viewed as a second or third-round prospect — not a top-12 pick and future star.

When five QBs went off the board in the top 10, Denver clearly felt pressure to land their guy. With all due respect to Jarrett Stidham, beginning the season with him as the uncontested starter under center would have been pointless. The Broncos need direction post-Russell Wilson, and Nix provides it. Sometimes direction is misguided, though, and Denver's decision-making deserves scrutiny.

Nix is a smart "kid" at 24 with a winning personality. He appeared in 61 games and threw 1,936 passes across five college seasons (three at Auburn, two at Oregon). That is a virtually unprecedented experience level for a top QB prospect. That said, Nix didn't pop off on NFL radars until he arrived in Eugene. The Ducks' dynamic offense, which centered on intermediate passes and explosive wideouts, allowed Nix's game management skills to flourish. He completed 77.4 percent of his passes as a senior and won over NFL scouts.

So fond of Nix and the Oregon offense were Denver, that his teammate Troy Franklin became a priority pick at No. 102 in the third round. The Broncos traded up for the twitchy WR, once again at the behest of Sean Payton, according to ESPN's Jeff Legwold.

Franklin was excellent at Oregon, taking the lid off defenses as a vertical threat and exploding for extensive yards after the catch. He reeled in 81 receptions for 1,383 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior. Now, Nix will have his favorite target in Denver, with a chance to build out the Broncos' weak WR room.

The thing is, Denver is probably relying a bit too much on the Oregon connection.

Broncos are really counting on Troy Franklin to unlock Bo Nix in the NFL

Franklin's speed and big-play ability is tantalizing, but he fell to the third round for a reason. NFL scouts had reservations, and now Denver is stuck with a middling WR room that will lean too heavily on an unproven rookie. Jerry Jeudy was dealt to the Cleveland Browns early in the offseason. Courtland Sutton currently profiles as WR1 for Nix (or Stidham), but he's involved in trade rumors, too. The Broncos' WR room is completely in flux two weeks after the draft.

Not great, Bob.

The ESPN report from Legwold paints a damning portrait of the Broncos' limited success with rookie wideouts in recent years.

"The Broncos have drafted a receiver in each of the past eight drafts and have used 13 picks on wide receivers in that span. The Broncos have one Pro Bowl season and one 1,000-yard season to show for it — both by [Courtland] Sutton in 2019."

Denver has invested a lot of assets in the WR position over the last decade, with very little to show for it. That perfectly displays the perils of relying on unproven pass-catchers, with Franklin expected to command a significant target share right out of the gate — especially if Sutton ends up on the chopping block as expected.

The Broncos need explosive playmakers, especially if Nix is going to start on day one. Bringing along his favorite target from Oregon is a commendable concept, but it's hard to translate college success to the next level. Franklin will face far superior physicality and pass coverage in the NFL. It won't be as easy to sneak behind the defense or reel off chunk gains after the catch, especially if his routes aren't razor-sharp.

Nix, meanwhile, has long relied on his wideouts to create after the catch. He doesn't have exceptional arm strength. He's mobile outside the pocket and a quick processor under duress, but let's just say Franklin probably isn't going for 1,300 yards and 14 touchdowns as a rookie. Nix's other options are limited, with Sutton, Josh Reynolds, and 2023 second-round pick Marvin Mims standing above Franklin on the depth chart right now.

Denver needs to focus on adding more firepower around Nix, rather than haphazardly banking on college chemistry translating to NFL success. That has worked before — see: Ja'Marr Chase and Joe Burrow in Cincinnati — but take caution. Bo Nix is not Joe Burrow, and Troy Franklin is not Ja'Marr Chase.

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