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Noah Fant has big first round tight end shoes to fill for the Denver Broncos

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Who was the last tight end Denver drafted in the first round?

Comparisons across generations are rarely fair. However, the Denver Broncos selection of Noah Fant in the 2019 NFL draft necessitates one. That night in Nashville, Denver did something that they haven’t done in 47-years and only once in their history, drafted a tight end in the first round.

In 1972, with the 6th overall pick, the Denver Broncos selected tight end Riley Odoms out of Houston. At the time, Odoms selection was the highest for a tight end in the NFL draft since Mike Ditka in 1961. Expectations for Odoms were high and he met every one and excelled as the greatest tight end in Broncos history until Shannon Sharpe hit the scene in 1990.

To quote Kaptain Kirk’s article that declared Odoms the greatest to wear jersey #88 (from 2011 when Demaryius Thomas’ run with the Broncos was in its infancy):

Odoms was a starter on the Broncos Super Bowl XII team and never averaged less than 10 yards per catch in a season. He started 134 of 153 games in a 12-year career with the Broncos.
He finished his career with 396 receptions for 5,755 yards, a 14.5 average and 41 touchdowns. Riley ran for 211 yards and 2 touchdowns on 25 carries, Fumbled 8 times, recovered 4 and returned one for a touchdown.

Considering the era in which he played and the stats he amassed while doing so, it’s surprising that his is a candidacy for the Broncos ring of fame you never hear much about. Remember, he played in an era when head slaps and on-the-field muggings were just another part of the game.

4-Time Pro Bowler (1973, 1974, 1975, 1978)
2-Time 1st-Team All-Pro (1974, 1975)
2nd team-offense on the Broncos 50th anniversary Team.
6-100 yard Games
5-Seasons with 40+ catches
1st in Team Receptions (1973, 1974, 1977, 1978)
1st in Team Receiving Yardage (1975)

As a 1st round pick, Riley Odoms lived up to expectations as a Denver Bronco. Can Noah Fant? To quote MHR’s scouting report on Fant:

Modern day move tight end with the potential to become a mismatch nightmare for opposing defenses. Possesses elite athleticism and had one of the most impressive combine performances ever by a tight end. Displays a great burst off the line of scrimmage, separates from defenders with ease, and gets to top-end speed quickly. Has a knack for getting above the defender and coming down with contested throws. Tremendous threat up the seam vertically and in the red zone. Demonstrates great elusiveness in the open field and accumulates a lot of yardage after the catch. Boasts incredible production with 18 of his 69 catches the past two seasons going for touchdowns. Well-coached and comes from a program known for producing NFL caliber talent at the position.

So what do you think, Broncos Country? Can Noah Fant become the next Riley Odoms?

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