One of the bigger holes in the Denver Broncos’ offense the last few years has been a tight end who could be both a big-time blocker and a reliable pass-catcher.
Name: Jake Butt
Position: Tight End
Height: 6'5" Weight: 246
Age: 21 Experience: R
Since the departure of Julius Thomas two years ago, the Broncos have struggled to find a TE that could be the touchdown machine Thomas was but also serve as a drastic improvement on the prima donna’s blocking skills.
Virgil Green, entering his seventh season, has never materialized into that all-around tight end, and third-year player Jeff Heuerman has spent as much time in injury rehab as he has on the field - so the position has remained a weak spot on this squad.
Possibly until now.
Admittedly, scheme and quarterback have played into this glaring weakness, but regardless, the Broncos seem committed to a major improvement here. With new offensive coordinator Mike McCoy being known for utilizing pass-catching tight ends, rookie Jake Butt could be that big-time playmaker here.
McCoy used three-tight end sets 88 times with the Chargers in 2016 - fourth most in the league - and will possibly do it again with the Broncos if he has the right players.
Luckily for McCoy, the rookie out of Michigan is the kind of tight end NFL teams drool over. The Big Ten’s “Tight End of the Year” his junior and senior seasons, Butt has the right size to go up against NFL defensive backs along with “magnet hands” to be a difference-maker in the pro game. He put up tremendous production with the Wolverines, logging 97 catches, 1,200 yards and seven touchdowns.
Coming out of Michigan under the tutelage of Jim Harbaugh, Butt is also likely to adapt to the pro style a lot quicker than many of his rookie counterparts.
Although Butt isn’t known for his speed, he’s tough to bring down after the catch. As SBNation’s Christian D’Andrea noted after the tight end’s selection by the Broncos in the fifth round, Butt “sees the field well with the ball in his hands and can turn safeties around,” able to “absorb contact and drive through to first downs when his team needs him.”
Pro Football Focus points out he is known for running crisp routes “with a penchant for finding open space underneath the coverage” and while he may not make “chunk yardage plays” he will definitely move the chains.
“Jake is a guy that will never hurt ya. He’ll always make plays. Third and 6, he’s the guy that’s going to make a catch,” said Jim Brandstatter, play-by-play announcer for Michigan. “The quarterback can throw anywhere near him, and he’ll make the play. He’ll get you the first down and keep the chains moving. He’s not going to make stupid penalties, not going to get many drops...he’s just a solid every down player.”
Butt’s blocking skills apparently need some work, particularly in the run game, but given how McCoy likes to use his tight ends as pass-catchers, Butt’s skill set will likely be used to his strength.
Brandstatter believes Butt’s skills are good enough to be effective, and with a little coaching, he’ll be just fine.
“He’s not one of those guys you say, ‘OK, we drafted him to block for the run,’” Brandstatter said recently. “You drafted him because he’s an all-around guy. He will get in there and mix it up. He’ll play in the pit. He’ll get after people. He’ll put a helmet on them and block them...he’ll get in their way and give the [running] back a chance, a crease.”
At this point, Butt’s main obstacle is that he is recovering from an ACL injury and missing a good part of the offseason, which is particularly critical for rookies and also crucial when a team is installing a new offense.
“Coach Geep [Chryst] wants me to prove that I’m the best tight end in this class. That is how I feel. Right now, my job is just to get healthy and learn as much of this playbook as I possibly can. That has been my focus. Down the line, that is the ultimate goal." — Jake Butt, TE
Still working on rehab for an ACL injury suffered during the Orange Bowl, Butt says he is on track to be on the field for Training Camp, and coach Vance Joseph has indicated he hopes to have Butt ready for the beginning of the regular season.
Do you believe Jake Butt can be the all-around tight end the Broncos need?
This poll is closed
Yes - it’s all over Butt the shouting.
No - too many have tried, Butt too many have failed.
Maybe - well, Butt like, probably, like, sure.