Jerry Jeudy was the 15th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. After consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with 24 combined touchdowns between them, the Denver Broncos picked who they hoped would be the franchise’s next go-to receiver. Jeudy would pair with Courtland Sutton, a second-round pick in 2018 who was coming off a 1,112-yard campaign, and tight end Noah Fant, a first-round choice in 2019, to set up the receiving corps for the foreseeable future.

Denver drafted Jeudy 2 spots ahead of CeeDee Lamb, 7 spots ahead of Justin Jefferson, and 10 spots ahead of Brandon Aiyuk.

On Saturday, almost 4 years later, the Broncos reportedly agreed to trade Jeudy to the Cleveland Browns for a pair of 2024 draft picks in the fifth and sixth rounds.

In 4 seasons with the Broncos, Jeudy never produced 70 receptions, never produced 1,000 yards, and produced at least 5 touchdowns only once. The trio of Lamb, Jefferson, and Aiyuk have combined to produce 8 seasons with at least 70 catches, 1,000 yards, and 5 touchdowns.

Because of where he was picked, who he was picked over, and how it ended in Denver, Jeudy will be regarded as one of the bigger draft busts at receiver in recent years. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported last November that the Broncos turned down an offer of a third- and fifth-round pick for Jeudy ahead of the NFL’s trade deadline. Taking less to shed his salary months later just adds insult to injury.

Jeudy, now free from Denver, has a chance to re-ignite his career in Cleveland working with former Alabama receiver Amari Cooper.

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For one, Jeudy wasn’t Jefferson or Lamb during his time in Denver, but he still produced. His best career season came in 2022, when he made 67 catches for 972 yards and 6 touchdowns — all career-highs — in 15 games played. In 16 games last season, Jeudy had another 54 catches and 758 yards.

Denver’s pass game also only produced 46 total touchdowns over the last 2 seasons — the 13th-fewest in the NFL during that time. And the Broncos finished with a losing record all 4 years he was there. He caught passes from one quarterback as a rookie, then another as a sophomore, then another in 2022 and 2023. And he played for 3 different head coaches in 4 years.

Denver hasn’t exactly been a model of consistency around the young receiver.

By contrast, you can see what Cleveland, off an 11-6 season in 2023, is building.

Cooper is coming off a 1,250-yard season in 2023. It was his second consecutive 1,000-yard campaign to begin his time with the Browns. Wideout Elijah Moore had a career-high 640 yards in his first season with the Browns. Tight end David Njoku had a career-best 882 yards and 6 touchdowns on 81 catches.

If Jeudy can slot in, he can be a serviceable piece. According to PFF, Jeudy spent just shy of 60% of his snaps in the slot last season. And he was 12th in the NFL among qualified receivers with an average of 6.2 yards after the catch, per NFL’s Next Gen Stats. Cleveland needs exactly that kind of player.

From Cleveland’s perspective, the move is a no-brainer. It’s a low-cost flier on a player entering a contract year.

Jeudy has a fully guaranteed $12.99 million coming to him in 2024, but he’s entering the final year of his rookie deal and will be playing for a long-term contract. And has no shortage of fuel to use as motivation. Steve Smith Sr. made headlines last year when he got into a public spat with Jeudy, calling him a “tier-3 player” in the league.

Cleveland won’t need him to be a superstar. Be a capable No. 2. The union with Cooper — another South Florida receiver — can be a promising one.

Jeudy appreciates the route-running ability of Cooper. Cooper can help off the field, too. He’s been traded twice in his career, and can provide a go-to person for Jeudy as he makes the transition to Cleveland.

Denver proved to be a disappointing 4 years. Jeudy had a part to play in that. Cleveland offers a fresh start. We’ll see what the former Alabama receiver makes of it.

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