(CBS4) – With the Denver Broncos training camp underway, let’s take a look at how the Broncos line up at the tight end position.
In the Hunt:
Andrew Beck, 2nd season
Jake Butt, 3rd season
Noah Fant, 2nd season
Austin Fort, 2nd season
Troy Fumagalli, 3rd season
Jeff Heuerman, 6th season
Albert Okwuegbunam, rookie
Nick Vannett, 5th season
Top Offseason Moves: Signing Nick Vannett to a two-year and drafting Albert Okwuegbunam in the fourth round.
Projected Starter: Noah Fant
The Broncos invested a first-round pick in Noah Fant to compete with the other solid tight end in the division and the rookie didn’t disappoint. Fant caught 40 passes for 562 yards and three touchdowns.
Fant had two-100 yard receiving games, which tied for third-most for a rookie tight end in league history. He also set the franchise record for the most receptions and receiving yards by a rookie tight end.
His progression will come under the guiding eye of new Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur whose base offense features three wide receivers and one tight end sets.
The Broncos are ranked as the 13th best tight end grouping in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus.
Reserves: Andrew Beck, Albert Okwuegbunam, Jeff Heuerman, Austin Fort (Practice Squad)
The logjam at the tight end position will be sorted out by several battles to see who will backup Fant on the depth chart.
The Broncos picked up Drew Lock’s former college teammate Albert Okwuegbunam in the fourth-round. Okwuegbunam’s speed and playmaking ability makes him a lock for the final roster as he ran a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.
Andrew Beck will play tight end and fullback and his versatility will help him stick on the final roster. This would leave the final roster spot to be battled between veterans Nick Vannett, Jeff Heuerman, Jake Butt and Troy Fumagalli.
Austin Fort, who tore his ACL after in the third preseason game last season, is one of the players who could benefit from making it to the practice squad.
Best Training Camp Battle: Jeff Heuerman vs Nick Vannett
The best position battle will be between these two former Ohio State Buckeyes to back up Noah Fant. Nick Vannett and Jeff Heuerman are both viewed as solid run blockers and have put up similar numbers in their careers.
– Jeff Heuerman: 63 receptions, 678 yards and five touchdowns
– Nick Vannett: 61 receptions, 591 yards and four touchdowns
If this competition is close, the deciding factor could come down to dollars and cents. Heuerman counts $4.3 million dollars on the cap while Vannett carries a $2.1 million cap hit.
Under the Radar: Jake Butt
Jake Butt has dealt with two ACL injuries during his time with the Broncos, but if he’s healthy, he could grab one of the coveted roster spots. Butt runs crisp routes but he will have to show that his body can stand the impact of a full NFL season.
Stats to Know:
– The tight ends accounted for six of the 16 touchdown receptions last season.
What They Said: Albert Okwuegbunam on how his speed translated to the NFL
“The ability to stretch the field all over, it’s going to put a lot of strain on the corners and safeties. They can’t favor one side of the field. We can hit them everywhere. Just the ability to spread us all out in the mismatch, especially the tight end’s mismatched ability it creates. It will be too fast for a linebacker and be too big for a DB. I think it’s going to be a great thing that’s going to be happening on offense and I can’t wait to be part of it.”
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