3 players in the 2022 NFL Draft that could be the Denver Broncos’ Noah Fant replacement

Colorado State senior tight end Trey McBride carries the football during a game against Nevada on Saturday
Colorado State senior tight end Trey McBride carries the football during a game against Nevada on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021, at Canvas Stadium in Fort Collins. Ftc 1127 Ja Csu Nevada Fball 011

When the Denver Broncos acquired Russell Wilson via trade, they opened up a hole in their tight end room by trading former first-round pick Noah Fant to the Seattle Seahawks.

With that need remaining as NFL free agency comes to a close, how could the Broncos address that void via the NFL Draft?

Here, we’ll take a look at three potential solutions that Denver should consider targeting.

Trey McBride, Colorado State

If you were to take a poll among members of Broncos Country to try and find out who the most desired replacement for Noah Fant is, the results would likely be a landslide victory for local star Trey McBride.

McBride’s Colorado native status paired with the impressive résumé he built during his time with the Rams makes him appealing to Broncos fans, as does his skill set, which is perfect for Nathaniel Hackett’s offense.

McBride is extremely versatile and impacts the game at a high level both as a pass-catcher and as a blocker. He’s a natural catcher of the football and has the speed and physicality to create after the catch point.

Plus, while he projects as a prototypical inline tight end, he has the athletic traits to be successful as a move tight end too. Colorado State even used him in the backfield as a fullback.

Presently, his route running is sloppy and his blocking technique, especially when asked to help in pass protection, could use some work.

Overall though, McBride would be a slam-dunk selection for the Broncos, though it seems unlikely he’ll fall to the 64th pick. Even if he does, Denver might debate taking a tight end so high when they have so few premium picks.

Cade Otton, Washington

Eric Tomlinson provides the Broncos with a tight end who can serve as an excellent blocker, though he offers almost nothing as a receiver. Albert Okwuegbunam provides the Broncos with a high-end pass-catcher at the position, but his ability to block in this scheme is a serious question.

Denver is still lacking a do-it-all option at the position that fits Hackett’s scheme, and like McBride, Otton could fill that void, and probably at a cheaper cost-of-acquisition than McBride.

Otton is one of the best blocking tight ends in this draft, thanks to his gritty and physical demeanor as well as his rare length at the position. That length allows him to outreach opposing defenders and dominates their one-on-one matchups.

Otton isn’t just a blocker though, as he flashes impressive receiving skills as well. Unlike Okwuegbunam or McBride, Otton isn’t a huge threat to create after the catch point, but he does have excellent hands that allow him to win contested-catch situations and secure the ball through contact. He also showcases his intelligence with an excellent understanding of how to manipulate and take advantage of leverage.

If the Broncos miss out on McBride or decide they don’t want to make the lofty investment in him, Otton would be an excellent option that can provide a lot of the same qualities at a considerably cheaper investment.

Isaiah Likely, Coastal Carolina

If the Broncos were looking to replace Noah Fant’s skillset rather than target a new type of tight end for Hackett’s scheme, Isaiah Likely could be a very intriguing option.

As was just alluded to, Likely isn’t the most natural fit in Nathaniel Hackett’s offense, but he isn’t necessarily a bad fit either.

Likely is an impressive athlete at the tight end position and is comfortably the most dangerous receiving threat of any of the options on this list. He has the athletic traits to stretch the seam and create big plays offensively and consistently creates big plays after the reception. He also catches the ball like a wide receiver, and his excellent ball skills are clear as day when asked to attack deep.

Despite going to a smaller school, it’s clear that Likely has an incredibly high football IQ and is an especially smart player, as demonstrated by the extreme number of responsibilities he was tasked with and his ability to perform those responsibilities well.

The big knock on Likely and his fit with the Broncos will be his limitations as a blocker. Now, on the positive end, there is zero reason to debate Likely’s physicality or his desire to block. The motor and physical temperament are certainly there. His lack of blocking prowess has a lot more to do with his lack of length, and that is something he can’t develop.

Though, as that clip demonstrates, he’s far from hopeless in that regard and can still make an impact as a blocker, though it certainly won’t be his strong suit.

Having that willingness to block is huge and should not go overlooked, but there’s also reason to worry that Likely might never be able to remedy that hole in his game.

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