Position Review: Broncos finally have playmaking tight end in Noah Fant

Denver Broncos tight end Noah Fant (87) runs the ball as Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward (35) defends during the first half at Arrowhead Stadium.
Dec 15, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; Denver Broncos tight end Noah Fant (87) runs the ball as Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward (35) defends during the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Last offseason, it was reported multiple times that John Elway wanted to finally patch up the Broncos’ hole at tight end that had persisted since Julius Thomas left in free agency.

With the emergence of Noah Fant, the Broncos may have done just that, but what does his addition and the addition of Andrew Beck do to Denver’s tight end room as a whole?

Let’s take a look.

Noah Fant

Whether or not the Denver Broncos should have taken Devin Bush instead of Fant is a topic that Broncos fans will likely be debating for several years. But no matter who you prefer, you can’t deny that Noah Fant gave the Broncos something they hadn’t had at tight end since Julius Thomas.

In the middle of the season, Fant was legitimately a top 10 tight end, hauling in 20 receptions for 333 yards and two touchdowns from Week 8 through Week 14. However, in the season’s other 10 games, Fant totaled just 18 receptions for 229 yards and one touchdown.

His rookie season got off to a rocky start which included dropped balls, missed blocks and failed run attempts. But that middle portion of the year was when Fant showed his potential.

That 75-yard catch and run to the house against Cleveland was special; Fant wouldn’t let a number of defenders bring him down. He also enjoyed explosive plays in the loss to Minnesota as well as the win over the Houston Texans.

The Broncos will be looking for more Dr. Jekyll from Fant in 2020 and less Mr. Hyde.

Jeff Heuerman

Jeff Heuerman was never a dynamic No. 1 tight end for the Broncos, but he offers them a lot more than most No. 2 tight ends in the league do.

With the emergence of Fant, Heuerman saw his playing time decrease fairly drastically this season. However, when he got on the field and provided a sense of steadiness and consistency to the tight end position that Fant didn’t have in year one.

While the contract Denver signed him to last offseason continues to be pretty questionable considering the first-round selection of Fant, Heuerman continues to be a valuable contributor to the Broncos’ offensive depth.

Jake Butt

It seems Jake Butt is like a cat on his ninth life with the Broncos after missing yet another season with an injury, this time a setback that came up while trying to rehab from his third torn ACL.

Butt had the potential to be the Broncos’ second tight end behind Fant but just can’t stay on the field in a league where the best ability is availability.

At this point, what does a healthy Jake Butt offer you that Heuerman doesn’t? And if the answer is “not much” then why are the Broncos still holding on to him?

Troy Fumagalli

The Broncos need a blocking tight end, and last offseason, Troy Fumagalli appeared to be perfect for the job.

Fumagalli had an incredibly minor impact in the passing game, catching six passes for 38 yards and a score, but he was able to contribute as an in-line blocking tight end.

Of his 156 snaps, Fumagalli blocked 79 times, though results were mixed, as he earned a run-blocking grade of 51.8 from Pro Football Focus, and an overall grade of 48.5, the lowest on the entire offense.

Andrew Beck

Fumagalli’s roster spot isn’t in trouble just for his poor play last season, as the emergence of fullback-tight end hybrid Andrew Beck is arguably more responsible.

The Broncos brought in Beck as a backup to Andy Janovich who was out with a torn pectoral. Not only was Beck a solid backup fullback, but he performed the duties of blocking tight end much better than Fumagalli.

Considering how much more Beck offers the Broncos, it seems likely that he’ll take over the blocking tight end duties in 2020.

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