After Noah Fant and Albert Okweugbunam, the unknown rules the Broncos’ tight end room. There’s four players waging a bubble battle if the Broncos count Andrew Beck, three if they don’t. Either way, the Broncos’ former Patriot is guaranteed a roster battler because George Paton signed Adam Prentice out of South Carolina after the NFL Draft.
The uncertainty around Beck may serve as an opportunity. He could find playing time as the third tight end behind Albert O and Fant if Shurmur sees him as the happy medium between a blocker and receiver. If he doesn’t, Beck may wind up looking for a new home before week one.
Andrew Beck’s profile
Weight: 255 lbs
After no team selected him in the 2019 NFL Draft, Beck received $115,000 in guarantees to sign with the New England Patriots, the most they gave to any undrafted free agent. It didn’t save him on cut day, however, as Bill Belichick waived him before the regular season. The Pats’ loss became the Broncos’ gain when they claimed him off waivers to serve as an injury replacement for Andy Janovich.
Since then, Beck has played 668 snaps in orange and blue, serving as an unsung role player on offense and a mainstay on the special teams units when healthy.
Andrew Beck picked up T.J. Watt long enough for Jeff Driskel to throw a touchdown.— Joe (R-E-L-A-X) Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) July 10, 2021
Jeff Driskel did not throw said touchdown. pic.twitter.com/gVJXMRog6o
Considering how little Shurmur uses a fullback, a player needs to bring value beyond his listed position. Beck played contain on the Broncos’ punt unit last season, can rush off the edge on punt return, and there’s hints that he could play more snaps as a reserve tight end in 12 or 13 personnel.
While the Broncos only rarely asked Beck to play as a tight end last season because of their depth at the position, he has the size and skillset to do it. With Albert Okwuegbunam working back from injury and the lack of proven depth behind him on the roster, Beck’s versatility could stand out in the camp battle this preseason.
More often than not a fullback is little more than a safety valve in the passing game, but Beck has shown solid hands and he’s athletic enough to make the most of the space in front of him on receptions. He also has the lateral quickness and balance to stay in front of pass rushers and adjust to defenders on the second level.
Beck’s an adequate run blocker overall. He has the athletic ability and foot quickness to stay in front of defenders, but isn’t going to make you forget about Jano. His height works against him in the leverage battle. He isn’t going to displace bigger bodies without help and improved hand usage would help his positioning.
Standing 6’3 and 255 lbs. makes Beck tall for a fullback and short for a tight end. All but a handful of his snaps to date have come from the backfield, which means two different offensive coordinators preferred a combination Jeff Heuerman, Troy Fumagalli, Jake Butt, and Nick Vannett to him.
Andrew Beck’s roster status with the Broncos
Due to Covid-19 and a hamstring injury that landed Beck on Injured Reserve in the middle of last season, the Broncos have already seen what life without him was like in 2020. After giving Jeremy Cox the fullback role in his absence, the Broncos replaced him with an undrafted free agent rookie Adam Prentice, who brings more heft than his predecessor.
When I looked at Shurmur’s rosters over the three years preceding Denver, I found he tends to carry three tight ends and a fullback. Given Beck’s potential versatility, he could factor into either number. If Prentice is a better fit for what Shurmur wants from his lead blocker in the running game, Beck may have to fit into the backup tight end battle with Eric Saubert and Shaun Beyer.
Beck’s potential versatility and what he adds to special teams seems to make him a soft lock, but Prentice could steal his fullback role if Shurmur wants more of a hammer for the personnel packages Beck plays most.