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Will Jake Butt emerge as the Broncos’ top tight end in 2018?

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Jake Butt has the skill set to be a quality tight end in this league, but has a lot to prove after missing his entire rookie season with a torn ACL.

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Having a tight end who can stretch the field vertically, consistently move the chains on third downs and be a threat in the red zone is important for any offense. Wouldn’t it be nice for the Denver Broncos to finally have that kind of player?

Since the departure of Julius Thomas in free agency several seasons ago, the franchise has lacked a difference maker at the position. In fact, the team’s tight end production has ranked in the bottom portion of the league every year since then and their efficiency on offense has suffered greatly because of it. That being said, it is no surprise that the team has now used a pick in the NFL Draft three years in a row in hopes to find ‘the future’ who can make an impact for the team in a positive manner.

Name: Jake Butt
Position: Tight End
Height: 6’6”
Weight: 249
Age: 22
Experience: 2
College: Michigan

Regarded as the top tight end prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft, former Michigan product Jake Butt was penciled in as an early day two pick by most draft analysts. Unfortunately, a torn ACL suffered in his final bowl game against Florida State caused teams to pass on the highly-talented player. He slipped to the third day of the draft, where the Broncos gladly swooped him up in the fifth-round, but ended up placing him on injured reserve so he could get healthy and use his first season to get acclimated to the mental rigors of the game.

Butt is eager to prove he can be the guy, and if he stays healthy — there is no doubt in my mind he will become a quality tight end and be the difference maker on offense the team has been searching for over the past several seasons.

The Good

Butt has the physical size and presence that NFL teams look for at the position and boasts an enormous catch radius that makes him a big threat in the red zone. He was a first down machine at Michigan and over fifty percent of his career catch total were for first downs — proving he was a safety valve and trusted target to move the chains when called upon. When evaluating his tape, Butt was lethal on short and underneath routes and gained a lot of yards after initial contact.

He also succeeded tremendously on post and corner routes that allowed him to use his size to his advantage — smaller defensive backs didn’t have a chance at stopping him on those plays. During his collegiate career, he was a two-time All-American and Big Ten selection, as well as the recipient of a handful of awards related to tight ends. He was beloved by his coaches and fellow players and was a leader for the Wolverines on and off the field.

The Bad

The largest concern regarding Butt is his durability and long-term ability to contribute after having suffering two ACL tears prior to playing a legitimate down in the National Football League. If he stays healthy, there is no question that he has all the talent to be a good tight end in this league. His collegiate tape with the Wolverines was incredible, but one area of improvement for him would be run blocking — but that’s a critique that basically every tight end prospect has thrown their way. It’s not a matter of effort with Butt in that regard, but a question of experience, as he wasn’t asked to do that often with the Wolverines.

Quotable

“Emotionally, the hardest part was that I’m so used to being a part of a team and being out there practicing. It hurt a little bit when everyone was out practicing, but I was going to the weight room to lift. It hurts when everyone’s watching themselves on film and I’m watching back from afar. I think that the emotional aspect is really the hardest part, but it made me find a new appreciation for this game.” — Butt speaking about having to sit out all of last season during the Broncos’ rookie orientation

2018 Status

It’s really not a question of if Butt will make the team, it will just be how much of an impact he will make in his second season. One of the most intriguing training camp battles will certainly be at the tight end position, where Butt will be fighting for the top spot against two former Big Ten rivals in third-year pro Jeff Heuerman and rookie Troy Fumagalli from Wisconsin. Regardless of if he earns the top spot or not, I do expect Butt to play an important role for the Broncos’ offense in 2018 and provide a much needed boost on moving the chains and scoring points in the red zone.