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Courtland Sutton aims to be Broncos No.1 wide receiver

The Denver Broncos traded Demaryius Thomas last season in part to give Courtland Sutton more opportunities. After not adding a receiver in free agency, and with Emmanuel Sanders still rehabbing, Sutton sits as the de facto No. 1 target heading into the summer.

"I'm excited going into this season knowing that I am going to get to be the No. 1 and I'll get all of the looks and all of the pressure," Sutton said Tuesday, via Mike Klis of 9News. "I'm excited about that. I want my teammates to look to me as that leader and that guy that is going to assume that role and take it and go with it as long as I possibly can."

Sanders said Tuesday he's aiming to be back by training camp after rupturing his Achilles tendon last season. Until he's 100 percent, Sutton sits as the presumptive go-to target for new Broncos QB Joe Flacco.

Last year, Sutton moved from No. 3 to No. 2 receiver following the Thomas trade. Once Sanders blew his Achilles, Sutton became the No. 1 target. Those four games didn't go so well. The rookie averaged 36.5 yards per game on 3.5 catches with one total touchdown as Denver lost all four tilts to close the year.

"There were a lot of learning lessons," he said. "A lot of what was expected of a No. 1. I'm taking all of those lessons that I learned from those last four games and taking them into this season and taking those expectations and going to run with them."

Sutton knows the expectations of a top target change, with defenses tossing more coverage his way in an effort to shut him down.

"The No. 1 role, you can't go into a game and have one or two catches," he said. "You have to go into a game and be 'that guy' every day. That is something that I know, and I accept that role."

At 6-foot-3, the 23-year-old is a prime candidate to bust out in Year 2, if Flacco plays like he did to open last year. Sutton provides a good size-and-speed combo on the outside and has shown incredible ability to go up and snatch the ball from defenders as a boundary receiver. At his size, with vice-grip hands, his red-zone production should rise as he grows into the NFL.

If Sanders returns to full form early in the season, Sutton might not be the No. 1 long. But in his second season, the youngster will have plenty of opportunities to show his growth in 2019. Sutton owns the talent to be a disruptive No. 1 target if his trajectory continues to rise.

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