Monday, April 03, 2017

A.J. Derby trade with Patriots already paying off for Broncos

April 3, 2017

When the Denver Broncos sent a fifth-round pick to the New England Patriots for tight end A.J. Derby in October 2016, John Elway made it clear that he thought Derby could make an immediate impact. After being stuck behind Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett, the expectation was that Derby would play important snaps in Denver — and he did exactly that.

After casually being worked into the offense with six snaps in a loss to the Raiders a little over a week after the trade, the Broncos took the training wheels off down the stretch. Over the next five games, Derby played in no fewer than 47.5 percent of the team’s snaps and made an impact, catching 16 passes for 160 yards.

And in Week 13 and Week 14, Derby was particularly potent, catching 9 total passes for 92 yards
before missing the final two games of the season with a concussion. However, that stretch alone was enough to prove that the trade is already paying off for Denver.

They paid a premium for his services considering they paid a fifth-round price for a player who’d been drafted in the sixth round just a year earlier and had missed all of 2015 with a knee injury. But if you extrapolate his numbers in that five-game sample out to an entire season, you’re looking at a 50-catch, 500-yard tight end. That’s something the Broncos haven’t had since Julius Thomas.

And that’s just what he is right now. He didn’t make the switch to tight end until his senior season at Arkansas, so we’re just now getting a taste of his true potential as he continues to learn the nuances of the position.

If Derby can stay healthy in 2017, he’s going to have the chance to emerge as the clear No. 1 in the Broncos offense, finally giving Denver a solid third receiving option behind Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. And that’s going to be significant to the development of their two young quarterbacks, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch.

So while the Broncos may have overpaid a bit relative to where Derby was drafted, the price is paltry considering the Broncos nabbed a player with potential to be a valuable contributor long-term.

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