The Denver Broncos desperately need more production from the tight end position. All around the league, teams are using tight ends to create defensive mismatches and take pressure off the wide receivers. For some reason though–the Broncos have failed to get tight ends involved in the passing offense for years.
Since the 2015 season, the Broncos have had only one tight end record 40 or more catches in a season, Owen Daniels (46). Over the last decade, Julius Thomas (2013-14) and Jacob Tamme (2014) are Denver’s only tight ends to finish a single season with at least 50 receptions; and both of them played with Peyton Manning.
Luckily for Denver, the 2019 NFL Draft presents a valuable opportunity for the Broncos to add depth at the position. Jake Butt and Troy Fumagalli both have shown potential, but with longevity issues and Jeff Heuerman likely leaving via free agency, the Broncos would be wise to take advantage of an extremely talented 2019 Draft class.
Here are four tight ends the Broncos should consider targeting:
T.J. Hockerson (6’5″, 243 lbs)
Noah Fant has gotten more attention, but Hockerson was Iowa’s other stud tight end. Hockerson is known for his blocking abilities, but the 21-year-old might actually be the most versatile tight end among the 2019 draft class. He has reliable hands, a solid frame, and according to Next Gen Stats, Hockerson and Caleb Wilson (UCLA) had the two-highest college production scores of anyone coming out this year.
Caleb Wilson (6’5″, 235 lbs)
Wilson is not the most athletic tight end, but he runs well enough to be a legitimate threat in the passing game. The former Bruin has soft hands and is a competent route runner, but definitely struggles as a blocker. If the Broncos are looking for a sure-handed pass catcher, Wilson could be an intriguing option in the middle rounds. It seems more likely that the Broncos would pursue someone with better versatility though.
Irv Smith Jr. (6’3″, 243 lbs)
On paper, Smith might be the best fit of any of the tight end prospects. He is not as tall as some of the other guys coming out, but Smith was easily one of the best run blockers in all of college football while at Alabama. Smith also proved to be a reliable red zone threat with seven touchdown catches in 2018. If the Broncos paired Smith with Jake Butt, the offense would have a lot of flexibility with what it could do on the ground and through the air.
Noah Fant (6’4″, 232 lbs)
Fant has phenomenal athleticism, sure hands and is probably the best route runner in the 2019 class. He’s also basically a guaranteed first rounder, which means the Broncos are likely not going to be in the mix unless the team decides to trade back from No. 10. With all of that in mind, Fant is too talented to leave off this list.
Whether the Broncos end up taking a tight end in the draft or adding one via free agency, it’s evident that something needs to change in 2019. Players like Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce are perfect examples of how a superior tight end can open up the entire playbook for the offense. It’s time for the Broncos to get with the times.