Greg Dulcich can help replace Noah Fant’s athletic mismatch ability at TE

UCLA Bruins tight end Greg Dulcich (85) runs with the ball for a first down in the first half against the Colorado Buffaloes at Rose Bowl.
Nov 13, 2021; Pasadena, California, USA; UCLA Bruins tight end Greg Dulcich (85) runs with the ball for a first down in the first half against the Colorado Buffaloes at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos looked to address one of their greatest positional needs, by drafting Greg Dulcich out of UCLA to try and help them to replace Noah Fant’s offensive production.

Why should Broncos Country love this pick and why should they hold onto some reservations? Let’s look.

Reasons to love the pick

The overall tone of this article might slant negative, as this pick wasn’t exactly ideal, but as you’ll see in the next section, that has very little to do with Dulcich the player or Dulcich the person, and much more to do with where the Broncos currently find themselves.

That’s because Dulcich is a really nice player.

Superstar draftnik Daniel Jeremiah had Dulcich as his top tight end in the entire class, much to the chagrin of CSU-faithful, and it’s easy to see why.

Dulcich is an extremely dangerous receiver and those traits should translate to the next level pretty well.

He’s a smart player that knows how to manipulate leverage and create separation against man. He also showcases a good understanding of where the soft spots in the zone for him to attack are. He doesn’t shy away from contact at the catch point, and while he’s not exactly an effective blocker, it’s not due to a lack of trying.

His physical traits are what really set him apart though. Dulcich’s movement skills make him a nightmare for opposing linebackers to cover, and though he’s on the smaller side, he’s still too big for most safeties to match up with, especially considering Dulcich’s understanding of leverage.

Russell Wilson has regularly failed to target tight ends throughout his time in Seattle, and there’s an argument to be made that giving him a downfield threat like Dulcich is the best way to give the tight end a larger role in the Wilson-led offense. The star quarterback struggles to attack the intermediate part of the field between the hashes, where tight ends typically eat, so drafting a tight end with the skills to attack every blade of grass on the field makes sense.

Dulcich has both terrific quickness and long speed, and can even offer a little big of wiggle on runs after the catch. He doesn’t mind getting hit and does a good job of falling forward. He also has impressive hands and is able to come away with contested catches and receptions outside his frame frequently.

There are redundancy concerns with Albert Okwuegbunam, but Okwuegbunam will be a free agent after the 2023 season, and has a nasty injury history, so depth is valuable.

Reasons to hate the pick

Yeah, hate is strong, but strong opinions rake in the big bucks baby. Ever heard of First Take? That’s what I thought.

Broncos Country shouldn’t hate the Dulcich pick, but there’s plenty of reason to question it.

The Broncos already have a hyper-athletic, field-stretching tight end and a sturdy blocking tight end with concrete hands. The only problem is that both those players currently function as offensive tells.

If Eric Tomlinson is out there, he is going to block, and if he goes out for a route, it’s probably just bait, considering he has just two receptions for eight yards since the start of 2019. Meanwhile, Okwuegbunam might stay in to block, but he’s offering Denver’s zone-blocking scheme very little.

The Broncos needed a do-it-all tight end to balance the room, and Dulcich is decidedly not that.

While Dulcich is an especially dangerous pass-catcher, he doesn’t hold up as a blocker. He shows effort and a willingness to engage in this less-fun responsibility of his position, but he just isn’t strong enough to match up against Pac-12 defenders when lining up as a ‘Y’ tight end (inline), and it’s hard to imagine that’ll get better once he’s tasked with helping against NFL athletes.

Hypothetically, Dulcich could add to his play strength and improve his blocking, but the tale with Fant was similar, and it never really got much better.

The other hang-ups with Dulcich are also situational.

Denver is in win-now mode, and tight ends — save for the freakiest of freaks, like Kyle Pitts — are notorious for having one of the slowest and most difficult transitions to the pros of any position in the league, meaning Dulcich likely won’t aid the Lombardi chase much in 2022.

Consensus top-10 talent T.J. Hockenson recorded 32 receptions for 367 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie. Consensus first-round talent Fant recorded just 40 receptions for 562 yards and three touchdowns in what was a much-better-than-average rookie season for a tight end.

Dulcich was a consensus third-round talent in a weak tight end class.

The concerns about production are compounded by the final hang-up — Wilson doesn’t use tight ends.

Now again, in theory, Dulcich’s field-stretching ability might make him the type of tight end Wilson will use, but that’s entirely hypothetical for now. Plus the Broncos will have Okwuegbunam ahead of Dulcich on the depth chart, so even if Wilson does want to use a tight end in that way finally, he already has a target ahead of Dulcich to roll with.

Final Thoughts

Dulcich is a really nice tight-end prospect as a receiver, but he’s lacking quite a bit in his ability to help in the run, making him an awkward fit in the offensive scheme and alongside the pre-existing offensive personnel.

Barring injury to Okwuegbunam, Broncos Country should expect Dulcich to be the team’s second-leading pass-catcher from the tight end position as a rookie, as he looks to add weight and improve his blocking. Hopefully, as he enters his second season, he’ll be ready to challenge Okwuegbunam for the top tight end job on the depth chart.

Quick note, grading picks that have yet to lace ’em up for training camp yet is ultimately a completely pointless effort and this grade primarily functions to encapsulate the current feeling of this analyst surrounding this pick and to appease those that just glanced over the article to find the grade. How can you let them down?

Grade: B-

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