There’s a new level of excitement coming out of the Denver Broncos’ facility. It’s almost at tangible levels, and the team is feeling it.
Between a massive trade for QB Russell Wilson, the hiring of HC Nathaniel Hackett and his staff, and GM George Paton bringing in another talented class of rookies, the excitement is palpable and will only build as training camp continues.
An underrated part of the Broncos’ roster is the tight end room. The seven players they have in that room have some pretty diverse skill sets, and each has something to offer that could justify a roster spot.
Albert Okwuegbunam #85
Report: The second fiddle to Noah Fant over the last couple of seasons, Albert Okwuegbunam is viewed by many as a breakout candidate on the team this year. While I don’t quite share the same level of optimism, I’m certainly intrigued to see his usage this season. Okwuebgunam hasn’t proven himself as a downfield threat just yet. The vast majority of his career production and targets have come underneath where his physicality after the catch gave him the best opportunity for production. He possesses great size and pairs that with good body control and ball skills, providing a clear path to success as a red-zone threat. His blocking isn’t quite as poor as it was coming out of college, but it’s still not a strength of his game, with inconsistent hand placement and footwork. His drops haven’t been as persistent an issue as they were in college, but they have cropped up in Denver. It will need to be monitored in an expanded role. With his downfield ability and blocking remaining a question mark, I’m not totally convinced Albert Okwuebgunam has the TE1 role locked up in this offense.
Greg Dulcich #80
Report: It’s hard not to be excited about Greg Dulcich’s potential in this offense. Where Okwuebgunam has struggled since college to win downfield, Dulcich has thrived downfield, with almost 25% of his production in 2021 coming off of passes over 20+ yards and boasting one of the highest aDOTs in the country. He’s a natural mover in space and is one of the best route-running tight ends I’ve scouted. There’s been discussion about his ability as a blocker, but he has the aggressive demeanor and physicality that will translate, and his overall skill set as a receiver outweighs his only average blocking ability. While he is a rookie tight end, the thought process of rookie tight ends not producing is a bit of a misnomer. The ones that do are guys like Dulcich, and his prowess as a receiver and his downfield ability meshes with the style of tight end Russell Wilson has targeted most often in his career. He’s the main competition to Okwuegbunam for the TE1 job, and I’m not convinced he won’t win it outright.
Eric Tomlinson #87
Report: One of the first free agency moves the Broncos made this offseason was signing Eric Tomlinson away from the Baltimore Ravens. While the 30-year old’s box score won’t wow anyone, the film of him moving defenders out of lanes and punishing linebackers as a blocker certainly will. Tomlinson has 41 career starts to his name despite just 26 career targets (one in 2020 and 2021 combined) due to his excellent ability as a blocker. Tomlinson’s play strength and attitude at the point of attack are truly impressive, and he essentially serves as an extra OL when he’s on the field. He won’t produce much on the box score, but his presence will be notable and evident.
Eric Saubert #82
Report: Another familiar face from last season, Eric Saubert quietly had a good season for the Broncos. Playing at fullback, in-line, in the slot, out wide, while also playing the second-most special teams snaps, Saubert was productive and a quietly important player on the team last season. He was a reliable catcher in space, flashing good athleticism and hands. He was also the best blocking tight end on the team as well. It’s no surprise the team brought him back. Saubert should be a lock on the roster as the TE4.
Andrew Beck #83
Report: Serving as a fullback/tight end for the team, Andrew Beck has played in 38 games for the Broncos over his career but ended on IR at the end of 2021. His film in 2021 wasn’t particularly inspiring, making his likelihood of ending up on the roster slim. His run blocking fell off, a must have trait for fullbacks, and his poor athleticism limits any potential as a receiver. While Hackett’s offense uses a fullback, both Tomlinson and Saubert have taken snaps at fullback and are simply better players. I’m not sure Beck has a place on the roster moving forward, and it’ll take an uphill climb to secure a spot.
Rodney Williams #86
Report: A UDFA tight end from the FCS, Rodney Williams is a converted wide receiver. A two-time FCS All-American, Williams was essentially a jumbo wide receiver. Over 60% of his snaps were out wide or in the slot. Tennessee-Martin moved him off the line of scrimmage often simply because his blocking just isn’t up to snuff, which is to be expected considering he weighed around 230 pounds. His frame and inexperience at tight end make his blocking a total project, but his athleticism and ability as a receiver help ease those concerns. Williams was moved around the formation often, attacking coverages with his explosive athleticism. He has the traits to stick around as a move tight end in the NFL, but he’ll likely end up on the practice squad as a stash and see developmental player.
Dylan Parham #48
Report: Like Rodney Williams, Dylan Parham is a positional convert, moving from quarterback to tight end as a freshman. Parham’s game is like Eric Tomlinson’s and is based more on his blocking ability than his receiving ability. He’s not as dominant a run blocker as Tomlinson, but Parham displayed good fundamentals with his hand placement and footwork, and it led to good production as a blocker. I’m not sure he’s destined for the practice squad in Denver, given his injury history, tape, and inexperience, but a good showing in training camp could earn him a spot as a replacement for one of Tomlinson or Saubert moving forward.
There’s going to be battles all over the tight end room, but there are likely going to be just four tight ends that stick onto the roster. I feel comfortable saying Okwuegbunam, Dulcich, Tomlinson, and Saubert are virtual locks for the roster, so there’s not really a spot left barring an injury.
Okwuebgunam and Dulcich will fight it out for the TE1 spot, and it should be a fairly competitive battle. Okwuegbunam has the experience, but Dulcich has the athleticism and is a draft pick of this coaching staff and front office.
Tomlinson and Saubert will compete for TE3 reps. I don’t think either player has an edge in this battle, and there’s really no wrong answer. I could see these two being virtually interchangeable as the season goes on anyways.
There are only so many practice squad spots, so Williams and Parham could be battling it out for a spot on the practice squad. Williams is a much better athlete, but Parham is closer to a real in-line tight end. It could come down to simple preference by the staff.