There are numerous adjectives that could be used to describe the Denver Broncos' offensive unit in 2016, and for some fans, those words might be infused with additional expletives.
The Broncos really disappointed me this season. How tf did we do this badly. We need a new offense straight up.— Jonny Dropout (@IScreamedWolf) December 26, 2016
The lack of production in the run game, as well severely inept conversion rates in respect third down and red zone efficiency were also alarming. The aforementioned trio amalgamated into a disastrous bomb, which finally exploded in the last several losses the Broncos were dealt. Most certainly, those issues must be bucked if the Broncos hope to endure better success offensively in 2017.
A majority of the debate surrounding the future of the offense has circled around who is the right quarterback to lead them into battle in 2017. Yet, it is crystal clear that regardless of who who starts at the position next season (Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch), they will endure similar struggles if their isn't a vast improvement in regard to coaching and game planning.
Without question, the dearth of talent on the Denver Broncos' offense is also a significant cause for concern. Outside the offensive line, who are giving the unit of the Minnesota Vikings a run for their money for "Worst in the League Honors", the lack of talent and difference makers on the roster at tight end is the biggest issue I see on the teams' roster.
I don't know the technical term for it, but I think it's: Broncos tight ends stink.— Mark Kiszla (@markkiszla) November 7, 2016
Virgil Green was given a 3 year, $8.4 million contract extension two years ago with the hope he would become a true difference maker in the receiving game. To date that hasn't happened, and since being drafted in 2011, Green has only amassed 54 receptions for 599 yards and two touchdowns. What you see is what you get with Green and quite simply, it's average production. The Broncos can do better.
Jeff Heuerman has made a few good catches this year after missing his first season with a torn ACL, but he hasn't developed into the player the team believed he could when they used a third round selection a few seasons ago. When it is all said and done, I'm willing to bet that Heuerman will be consider more of a bust as opposed to a top-flight NFL tight end capable of making big plays when it matters most.
To shore up their unit, the Broncos traded a 2017 fifth round selection to the New England Patriots for A.J. Derby. He too has made some plays, but drops and inconsistency have been an issue for him since arriving with the team. I expect that the offseason will help improve his knowledge of the offense and overall game, but I too doubt his long-term ability to become a premier receiving weapon for the team.
@savagegrind77 Ignoring the TE position would be a huge disaster given the lack of production this year and the talent in the draft.— Christopher Hart (@topherhart) December 26, 2016
There is ample evidence league-wide that shows how essential and integral a young, dynamic tight end can be for an offense.
Hunter Henry, the San Diego Chargers' second-round pick from the 2016 NFL Draft has already become one of Philip Rivers' top receiving targets. The heir apparent to Antonio Gates, Henry has reeled in 32 receptions for 435 yards and 7 touchdowns his rookie season. Of his 32 receptions, 26 of them have resulted in first downs and his 13.6 yard per reception average is among the best for players at his position. It's safe to say that as a first-year player in the NFL, Henry has already shown signs of becoming an elite difference maker for his football team.
The Kansas City Chiefs have one of the league's best tight ends in Travis Kelce, whose play is so impeccable at times, he makes Alex Smith look like Joe Montana. Jason Witten, a future Hall of Famer, has been a terrific safety valve for Dallas Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott. Kirk Cousins has Jordan Reed in Washington, and Zach Ertz has been a blessing for rookie Carson Wentz. Cameron Brate has been a breakout performer with Tampa Bay and has become one of Jameis Winston's favorite targets.
Do you see the trend here?
All of the aforementioned have made a difference for their teams this year, and the play of the quarterbacks leading those teams has been demonstrably better because of their prowess on the field and importance to their respective offenses. Wouldn't it be nice for the Broncos to have a player of their caliber?
A talented tight end is a quarterback's best friend.
It's time for the Broncos to make a strong move, preferably in the 2017 NFL Draft whose tight end class is shaping up to be one of the greatest in recent memory.
The offense needs weapons for their young quarterbacks, and it would be one of the best acquisitions the team could make to improve the teams' offensive production in next season and beyond. Sure, there is a chance that some of these prospects never pan out, but using a Top 75 selection in a draft this strong at a position where the roster is so weak is a gamble the Broncos must be willing to take. Avoiding an infusion of talent at the position would simply be unacceptable.
Have a favorite college prospect at tight end that you would love to see on the Broncos?
Talk about them in the comments section and make your voice heard. And yes my friends, mock draft season and prospect analysis is coming at Mile High Report. If you love the NFL Draft and want to get the scoop and news on players and potential Broncos draft plans, this is the place you will want to be over the course of then next several months.