Tight end Albert Okwuegbunam was drafted in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos with their 118th overall selection. Since then, he has flashed in a reserve role for them but could be on the verge of a breakout season in Nathaniel Hackett’s offensive system with quarterback Russell Wilson under center.
Okwuegbunam has played in 18 games the past two seasons with a total of six starts under his belt. In those 18 games and 6 starts, he has totaled 44 receptions for 451 yards and 3 touchdowns. After his rookie season was cut short by a torn ACL, Okwuegbunam bounced back in 2021 by totaling 33 receptions for 330 yards and 2 touchdowns.
I’m an Albert Okwuegbunam fan. I think he’ll be a good starter in this league at some point. Could be now…more versatile of the two active TEs in Denver and better in contested situations/unschemed plays. pic.twitter.com/pyBCBDFkYN
— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 15, 2021
With former first-round pick Noah Fant now in Seattle after the Russell Wilson trade, Okwuegbunam is in line to start this season for the Broncos. With Russell Wilson at quarterback, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, Jerry Jeudy at wide receiver, and Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon at running back, Okwuegbunam could be an overlooked weapon on offense.
Weight: 258 pounds
Age: 24 years old
Experience: 3rd NFL season
How does tight end Albert Okwuegbunam fit with the Broncos?
As of right now, the Denver Broncos projected starting tight end to start the 2022 season is Albert Okwuegbunam. He will be doing this in what figures to be an explosive offense so his opportunity to have a breakout season is there.
Okwuegbunam has the size and athletic ability to be a menace for defenses this upcoming season. All the attention is going to be on the Broncos’ receivers and running backs which could leave him with some favorable matchups in the middle of the field. Where will be especially dangerous is in the red zone. He’s a 6’5” tight end with good athleticism, so expect quarterback Russell Wilson to target him often and throw the ball up and allow Okwuegbunam to go up and get it.
Here is what Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett had to say about Okwuegbunam and how he fits in the Broncos offense this upcoming season.
“He’s going to be one of those move tight ends. He’s going to be more of a receiver right now. We want to train him in blocking so he can be right there next to [tight end Eric] Tomlinson. He’s going to be a guy that we’re going to slowly develop and we’re very excited to see him work. I remember watching the tape. He caught a short pass and just took off for a touchdown. I think it was like a 70 yarder or something like that. It was pretty impressive. [I’m] excited to get the ball in his hands.”
There are a few things that could get in the way of Okwuegbunam having that breakout season.
First, it is his run-blocking skills. With Nathaniel Hackett bringing a west coast offense to the Broncos, they are going to run the ball. With Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon as your backs, they will feed these two often. So, your tight ends will need to block, and block well. If he doesn’t improve here, it could limit his snaps on offense.
Also, the Broncos spent a third-round selection on UCLA tight end Greg Dulcich. He’s a very athletic tight end who has a rather similar skill-set to Okwuegbunam. He’s more of a receiving threat who needs to improve as a blocker. There’s a decent chance he could eat into Okwuegbunam’s snaps and even potentially surpass him as the starter. Now, that does seem unlikely as rookie tight ends do not usually produce much. However, there are hurdles here that Okwuegbunam needs to get past before he has a “breakout season”.
Okwuegbunam has looked better at times than Noah Fant during his past two seasons in limited action. Now, he’ll get starting reps with an elite quarterback under center. All the ingredients are there for Okwuegbunam to have a breakout season.
Of course, there’s always a chance he doesn’t live up to these expectations. Also, George Paton and Nathaniel Hackett didn’t draft Greg Dulcich to sit on the bench either and have high expectations for the rook as well. So, there’s a decent possibility that he eats into Okwuegbunam’s snaps and targets.
Either way, I like the Broncos receiving threats at tight end this upcoming season. Both may lack in the blocking department, but both have a chance to make multiple chunk plays at the position and be weapons within the red zone.