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Broncos Mailbag: The story behind Jaleel McLaughlin’s No. 38 and weighing impact of Denver’s 2019-20 draft classes

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Denver Post Broncos writer Parker Gabriel posts his Broncos Mailbag periodically during the offseason. Click here to submit a question.

What is the meaning of life? No football this past weekend! I’m going through withdrawal. What do I do, PG?

— A Referee, Greeley

Ref, luckily most of the desert is behind us, and ahead is a cool, glimmering football oasis. Didn’t you watch some college ball at least? Get your fix with some Big Ten slugfests or Colorado knocking off TCU? This week is obviously a huge one in the NFL — we’re off and running Thursday night with Detroit at Kansas City — and here on the Front Range we’ve got quite a weekend double with CU-Nebraska on Saturday in Boulder and Broncos-Raiders on Sunday at Empower Field. Get the living room or tailgate setup primed early. It’s going to be a fun one. And you know The Denver Post will be out in force at both games, so plenty of coverage coming your way right here.

Being a retired U.S. Marine from Denver, living in San Diego, I see that running back Jaleel McLaughlin is wearing Mike Anderson’s number (38). Would LOVE to see him bring the “Mile High Salute” back when he scores TDs!

— Ron, San Diego

Hey Ron, thanks for writing in! McLaughlin’s been quite a story, hasn’t he? I was intrigued by him when he signed as an undrafted free agent because everybody spoke highly of him and because he ran for 8,000-plus yards in college, but he’s pretty clearly exceeded even the most optimistic expectations so far. Now, let’s see what he can do with the next step. It’ll be the biggest test yet.

As for his number, he had an interesting story about it this week in the locker room. McLaughlin told reporters that he didn’t pick it but thought about it later and realized he’d worn No. 10 in high school, No. 20 at Division II Notre Dame College and No. 8 when he transferred to Youngstown State. You can have my level of math proficiency and figure that one out. Pretty cool.

He’s already a heck of a story. If he scores touchdowns regularly enough to follow Terrell Davis’ salute or create something of his own, Broncos fans are going to be fully in love very quickly.

Parker, what can we expect from the receiving corps from what you’ve seen? Does Courtland Sutton look like he’s bounced back to the form he had before his injury? And what should we expect from Brandon Johnson and Marvin Mims Jr. this year?

— Mike, Denver

Mike, great question. Matter of fact, I wrote about just that in The Post this week.

Sutton was open and honest earlier in camp about the changes he made to his offseason routine in search of better results. He hasn’t shown the same kind of speed and explosiveness since the torn ACL cost him nearly all of the 2020 season. While he’s had a terrific training camp — if you were ranking every player on the Broncos roster relative to individual situation, I think you’d put him near the top — I’m not sure the top-end speed is ever coming back.

The good news is he doesn’t need it to be a force. He’s in great shape, feels comfortable and confident and is playing big. That’s what the Broncos really need from him. Go get the ball, give Russell Wilson a big target area to work with. Use that unique size to his advantage. If Sutton can do that, Sean Payton’s going to find a lot of ways to get him the ball.

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