The Broncos have completely rebuilt their tight end room over the last two seasons by investing quality draft picks in Noah Fant and Albert Okwuegbunam, and signing Nick Vannett and undrafted free agent Andrew Beck.
The group looks promising, but Pro Football Focus isn’t convinced yet, as they ranked them 13th, behind teams like New Orleans with Jared Cook and not much else.
“Fant showed off his big-play ability as a rookie, picking up 562 yards while averaging 14.1 yards per reception, Steve Palazzolo wrote. “He has his limitations — his ball skills need work, and his run blocking is a work in progress — but Fant’s speed is an asset up the seam and underneath in space.”
Fant certainly needs to improve his ball skills and ability to help in the run game as a blocker. His drop rate of 7.6% was 4th-worst among tight ends last season, and his run blocking grade of 45.4 was worst among tight ends with at least 175 snaps last season.
“The backup role will be a battle between former Ohio State tight ends Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett,” wrote Palazzolo. “Heuerman has a better track record as a run-blocker, which might give him the nod here, though keep an eye on fourth-round pick Albert Okwuegbunamout of Missouri. Albert O had a productive college career and ran a 4.49 40-yard dash at the scouting combine, and that’s attractive for a Broncos team that has done everything it can to load up on difficult-to-cover playmakers.”
While Palazzolo might have more faith in Heuerman, and he might be a better player, Vannett should be considered the heavy favorite in that training camp battle. The contract the Broncos signed him to this off-season has a dead cap hit of $2.5 million if Denver decided to part ways. Meanwhile, the Broncos stand to save a hair under $4 million by cutting Heuerman.