Peyton Manning Broncos
Peyton Manning might not have the protection he got last year with several of his offensive linemen getting hurt. Reuters

Over the course of one season, the Denver Broncos went from the 31st-ranked passing offense to the fifth thanks to quarterback Peyton Manning.

Two receivers had 1,000-plus yard seasons with Manning, and Denver could get even better this season with the addition of Wes Welker, and a possible sleeper in undrafted rookie Lamaar Thomas, according to the Denver Post.

The 23-year-old Thomas went under the radar for a number of reasons, including a transfer from Ohio State to New Mexico, injuries, and a lack of touches with the Lobos.

The Post’s Mike Klis points out that Thomas had 29 catches during four seasons of college ball. Kils played four games in his first season as junior with New Mexico due to ankle and foot injuries then, during his senior season, the Lobos employed a rush-first and often attack that limited Thomas’s effectiveness.

In turn, Denver has instead focused on Thomas’s track and field experience. While at Ohio State, Thomas helped the Buckeyes win the 4 x 100m relay in the Big Ten championships. He also came in second in the 100 meters for New Mexico with a blistering 10.33 seconds at the Mountain West Outdoor Championships.

Denver signed Thomas on April 28, and that kind of speed will actually allow Manning to change the pace of the Broncos offense as he sees fit. Welker can suck defenses in with his quick outs and hooks, and Thomas can make them pay with a scoot down field for a bomb.

While Thomas might be relegated to the practice squad rather than making the 53-man roster, Klis also pointed out injuries to another rookie receiver could open up a spot. Denver selected Tavarres King out of Georgia in the fifth round, and he was seen as the team’s top receiving prospect before he suffered a quad injury during rookie workouts.

As a wild card Thomas could join a well-rounded Denver receiving corps. Welker was signed to a two-year $12 million contract, stealing him from the New England Patriots. He has led the NFL in receptions three times and has caught 100-plus balls five times in his career.

Demaryius Thomas had an incredible breakout year, almost tripling his production with 1,434 yards and 10 touchdowns off 94 receptions. Same goes for Eric Decker who led the team with 13 scores and 1,064 yards in his third year.