When the Denver Broncos drafted tight end Jake Butt in the fifth-round of the 2017 NFL Draft it was viewed as a steal by many. Butt was injured having torn his ACL in a bowl game a few months prior which had drop his draft stock from a high Day 2 pick to where the Broncos took him.
After sitting out a year, Butt is coming on strong in the team’s OTA sessions. Head coach Vance Joseph used some very positive wording to describe how the young player is progressing.
“I’m very excited,” Joseph said. ”He works so hard and he’s obviously a playmaker. You watch the guy make plays catching the football. He’s a playmaker, so he’s going to be a great addition to our offense.”
This is vital as the Broncos made zero significant signings at the position, so one of the young players had to emerge as the pass catching red zone threat. That area was a huge concern given tight ends in 2017 combined for 50 receptions for 575 yards and five touchdowns.
The two leading receivers at the position in 2017, A.J. Derby and Virgil Green, are no longer on the team either.
Case Keenum will also be looking for a security blanket during games and so far Butt is impressing the veteran quarterback.
“Jake is a competitor,” Keenum said. ”He wants the ball no matter what and I like that. I like a guy that comes back to the huddle and, ‘Hey, were you open on that play,’ and even if there were three guys on him, he’s like, ‘Yeah, you could’ve fit it in.’ He wants the ball and I love that. He’s hungry right now for knowledge, for how to run routes, for how to maneuver with leverage and I’m excited for him to continue to keep going.”
Butt is being that sponge that young players have to be to make the leap from the college game to the NFL. He is working on his craft and paying attention to the minor details.
During Mandatory Minicamp on Wednesday, Butt was dominant. According to Andrew Mason of the Denver Broncos media team, Butt caught two touchdown passes from Keenum.
One of the standouts of red-zone work was rookie tight end Jake Butt. During one period he caught two touchdown passes, one on a slant from Keenum and the other on a post route in the back of the end zone from Keenum.
While technically Butt isn’t a rookie, he is basically one as he was unable to practice or do anything useful with a torn ACL during his actual rookie season. This is the first time anyone has gotten a good look at a fully healthy Jake Butt.
It’s that red zone work that has coaches most excited about playcalling with Butt on the field. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave noted how essential the tight end position is to his offense.
“I think we need to utilize those guys,” Musgrave said of the running back and tight end positions. “Our wide receivers are the strength of our team; we know that with Emmanuel [Sanders] and Demaryius [Thomas]. But we’re looking forward to Jake Butt making a contribution in the passing game, and our running backs have great hands.”
Even the defense is getting in on praising the young tight end. Safety Darian Stewart was asked about whether or not any rookies were standing out in OTA’s and while he praised Bradley Chubb and the running backs, he named Jake Butt as one player who is coming on strong.
“[Bradley] Chubb is doing a great job,” Stewart said. ”On offense, there’s a bunch of them. I like it, I like it a lot. They can do a lot of different things, especially in that running back group. Jake Butt is coming along pretty good after sitting out last year. I like what I see from all of them and they’re going to be a big impact for us this year.”
Right now, it looks like Butt and Jeff Heuerman are the two players competing for that 1a tight end position in OTAs. It is unlikely either will emerge as the clear starter in OTAs, but when the pads come on in training camp this will be a position battle worth paying attention to.