ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — No player should ever apologize for becoming a first-round pick.
Not when the distinction brings such lucrative signing bonuses. Broncos’ receiver Jerry Jeudy received an $8.61 million signing bonus as the team’s first-round pick, No. 15 overall, in the 2020 draft. By comparison, the Broncos’ second-round pick in that same draft, receiver KJ Hamler, got a $2.75 million bonus.
Yet, there has been a price for Jeudy to pay. Expectations for first-round picks are far greater than for second rounders. And while Jeudy had flashed his first-round talent here and there through his first two seasons, more was expected than his 45-catch, 662 yard, 1.5 touchdown average season.
"The first couple years I haven’t been playing to my expectations," Jeudy admitted Thursday in a sit-down interview with 9NEWS. "Not exactly how I wanted to. Just a lot of things that I had to deal with to overcome that.
"Now this year is the year to exceed expectations. I’m just excited for this year, excited to be with this coaching staff, excited to be playing of course with Russ and just excited to take advantage of the opportunities I’m going to have this year."
So far so good in year three. After new quarterback Russell Wilson didn’t attempt a pass to a receiver until there was less than 6 minutes remaining in the first half of the Broncos’ 17-16 loss Monday at Seattle, he made his first one count with a 67-yard touchdown pass to Jeudy.
"It was actually an aborted play," Jeudy said. "We aborted to a play we wanted, a man beater. It was a run play at first. We aborted to a cover 1 beater. I saw the nickel playing outside of me so I took him vertical, reached in, got back on top, Russ threw a great pass and I made a play."
Wilson actually underthrew the ball but Jeudy was able to hold up, outmaneuver cornerback Coby Bryant for the pass, then from a dead stop quickly shift to a higher gear and speed past safety Josh Jones, who seemed to have the angle on the receiver.
"Hey, I got a little speed in these legs," Jeudy said with a smile. "I saw green grass and I saw the end zone and I did everything in my power not to get caught."
The touchdown -- which tied the game, 10-10 with 5:34 left in the half -- was Jeudy’s first since the final game of the 2020 season – he missed seven games last year because of a high ankle sprain – and he finished with four catches for 102 yards. As a first-round draft pick with expectations of a 1,000-yard-plus season every season, he’s on his way in year three.
"It means a lot to me to build that confidence," Jeudy said. "Because last year going the whole season without a touchdown really was frustrating. But now that we have a great coaching staff, great quarterback putting me in position to be successful and now it’s up to me to take advantage of those opportunities."
The Broncos would lose to the Seahawks after Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett pulled his offense on fourth-and-5 from the Seahawks’ 46-yard line with what would have been 1:03 left on the clock. Instead, Hackett let the clock bleed down to 20 seconds remaining while sending in kicker Brandon McManus for a 64-yard field goal attempt.
"We were doing a good job of driving the field," Jeudy said. "We were driving and threw the ball to Poke (Javonte Williams) and he gained a good amount of yards on that play and just took a chance on Brandon McManus – we’ve seen him make a bunch of those kicks in practice over the past couple years. We took a chance and it ended up not going our way but we had a pretty good chance."
McManus missed left and Hackett was heavily criticized for his decision to bypass Wilson and fourth and 5 for McManus and 64.
"Coach Hackett, he’s a great dude and he takes accountability when things do go wrong," Jeudy said. "That was a hard decision. B-Mac is a great kicker so he has a lot of trust in B-Mac. But also Russ is a great quarterback, too, who was doing a good job driving the ball down the field. So it was kind of a hard choice but at the end of the day we’re going to stick by his side with whichever way he choose."
Now Jeudy has to keep stacking productive games beginning Sunday when the Broncos play game 2 against the Houston Texans at Empower Field at Mile High. Jeudy and Courtland Sutton are the Broncos top two receivers but injuries to Hamler and Tim Patrick have left unproven backups behind them.
So while the Broncos’ receiver group is thin, the quarterback is as robust as its been in a while with Wilson. Never mind Wilson’s leadership, presence, work ethic and other intangibles he brings to the quarterback position. How would Jeudy describe Wilson’s passing ability?
"Accurate. Got amazing arm strength," Jeudy said. "Can throw the ball from any angle. A guy who can create plays, throw the ball from his back leg, sidearm any angle to be able to get you the ball. You need a quarterback like that."
The QB should help a first-round receiver meet expectations.
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