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A look into the state of Denver’s tight end position

How do they stack up against the rest of the league, and what should change in 2024?

NFL: Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Well folks, the 2023 Denver Broncos ranked 26th among all NFL team offenses, per Fox Sports.

Some good news? We inched closer to the playoffs this year, making it feel a little less like just “another losing season;” but in the end, it was exactly that.

We’re in desperate need of some positional tune-ups, and I don’t know where the Walton-Penner family or GM George Paton plan on starting, but today I want to look at the tight end room.

In 2023’s starting lineup we had Adam Trautman, followed by Lucas Krull, with Greg Dulcich spending the majority of the season on injury. Broncos Country will probably remember he first injured his hamstring in week one, then again in week six, right as he was returning to the field.

No one was more frustrated with this than Dulcich, who also had an injury-ridden year in his rookie season. “Of course, it had to happen the week I was coming back to practice. Just some weird swelling,” he said, getting real about it by adding, “I have, unfortunately, some bony feet and my cleat just irritated it in a really, kind of freaky way.”

But what about the Broncos tight ends who did get to play? Here’s a scary statistic: we actually had the least productive TEs when it came to pass-catching. Per Denver Sports, Denver’s tight ends managed 39 receptions for 362 yards, and only 19 first downs — less than half the numbers of the average NFL tight end room.

We’ll start by looking at Adam Trautman. The Michigan-born TE just finished his first year with the Broncos, fourth in the NFL. He was originally drafted to the Saints, and the trade to Denver was not a coincidence according to head coach Sean Payton, who led him in NOLA and sought the trade for him this past year.

Payton gave some insight on this decision when they first added him to Denver in 2023, saying, “When we drafted Adam...we utilized him depending on who was up and who was down and who was healthy—both inline and at the ‘F’ position.”

He added that with Trautman, you know “exactly what you’re getting.” The coach shared his confidence in the TE’s zone coverage as well as blocking.

In seventeen games, Trautman recorded 204 yards in 22 receptions, completing a total of three touchdowns. Though he will be a free agent in 2024, I’m interested to see whether the Broncos hold onto him, given how excited Payton was to have him and how readily Trautman wanted to be traded from the Saints to play for him again.

Next, Lucas Krull. Another former Saint, Krull appeared in seven games and managed one touchdown, eight receptions, and 95 yards. From my point of view he has solid speed, but is inconsistent when it comes to blocking.

Although they’re not as consequential to the starter conversation right now, Chris Manhertz played two games, getting two receptions for 16 yards, and Nate Adkins managed four receptions for 22 yards across six games.

So, with the tight end room needing a bit of a face lift, the Broncos have some options with their 12th overall first-round pick of 2024. There’s Georgia’s Brock Bowers — who is probably a lofty idea considering he’s ranked by some as the top TE coming into the draft — and there’s Texas’ Ja’Tavion Sanders, as well as Ohio State’s Cade Stover, South Carolina’s Jaheim Bell...and that’s just to name a few.

In other words, we have options at tight end. 12th overall isn’t a bad place to be. Right now, though, the analysts seem to be leaning toward thinking Denver will go with a defensive player or a QB in the first round (check out Scotty Payne’s full NFL mock draft roundup for a quick snapshot).

Bottom line: We likely can’t depend on Greg Dulcich having a perfectly healthy season in 2024-25, so securing a tight end in the draft may be our only chance to tackle a problem position — especially if we can get someone who’s particularly skilled in receiving in high traffic under pressure.

Poll

Do you think the Broncos should draft a tight end in the first round?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Yes
    (38 votes)
  • 91%
    No — another position of ours needs it more
    (417 votes)
455 votes total Vote Now