ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Years ago, former Tennessee Titans general manager Floyd Reese, who had also worked for the likes of Bud Grant and Bill Belichick along the way, took a few moments when asked about a particular slice of player evaluations: tough guys.
"Sometimes with the tough guys, the real tough guys, they're missing something, at least you think that at first," Reese said then. "But then you finally talk yourself into it, you take a chance and you bring them in. And they're a little faster than you think, they do a little more than you think and every year you're thinking about all of the new guys you're drafting or whatever and the tough guys keep making your 53 and keep making you better. And unless you're stubborn, or just dumb, you make a place in your evaluations for those guys. Because if you don't those are the guys, through the injuries, the tough breaks or whatever, you get to watch come beat you every year."
Tough guy Tim Patrick arrived to the Broncos in 2017 when he was signed to the practice squad. The Broncos wanted to take a look at a guy they had scouted at the University of Utah, but who had already been released by Baltimore and San Francisco as a rookie that year.
Even the Broncos waived him once in the 2017 season before bringing him back to the practice squad again to finish out the year.
The Broncos have used eight picks in the past four drafts on wide receivers. Three (Carlos Henderson, Isaiah McKenzie and Juwan Winfree) are no longer with the team. Meanwhile, Patrick has carved out a little more space in the offense each season with his grind-it-out, week-in, week-out approach.
With four games remaining in the 2020 season, Patrick leads the team in receiving yards (607) as well as receiving touchdowns (five) and is second in catches with 40 -- all career bests. NFL Next Gen stats regularly tracks him as one of the league's fastest players. Patrick has shown athleticism by winning contested catches and his week-to-week consistency has been a rare find for the Broncos' offense.
"Tim has been Tim this whole year," said Broncos quarterback Drew Lock. "Mr. Reliable, Mr. Consistent. He's always, always there for you whenever you need him."
This season Patrick was drafted in just 0.1% of ESPN fantasy leagues, or one-third as often as Dez Bryant, who was not on an NFL roster at the start of the season. Even around the Broncos, much of the early season discussion was how Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler would be in the Broncos' three-wide look the most often.
Then when Sutton went to injured reserve in Week 3, Patrick suddenly found himself with the most playing experience and the longest résumé.
Patrick has responded with the first, second and third 100-yard games of his career. He had his first multi-touchdown game this past Sunday night against the Chiefs. In the loss to Kansas City, Patrick was at his efficient best: four targets, four catches and two scores.
He maintains a no-nonsense approach.
"We just make it simple: [Lock] throws the ball, I catch it," Patrick said. "It's as simple as that. If the ball comes my way, I make a play. Sometimes he makes me look good and sometimes I make him look good."
Patrick ranks third on the team in targets overall -- 20 behind Jeudy and five behind tight end Noah Fant -- and leads the way in production. He will be a restricted free agent at season's end -- the Broncos can match any offers he may get -- after what could be an improbable 1,000-yard season.
"If the ball comes my way, it's my job to make a play," Patrick said. "... That's it, that's how I look at it. Every time the ball comes my way, find a way to catch it and make a play, however I have to do it. Every time, that's how I look at it, not once in a while, every time."