Denver Broncos Tight Ends: Who Will and Won't Be Blocking and Catching Next Year

Michael Keller@@MichaelK_NFLAnalyst IIIJanuary 27, 2011

Denver Broncos Tight Ends: Who Will and Won't Be Blocking and Catching Next Year

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    No, this isn't an article about Shannon Sharpe coming out of retirement to help out his old teammate John Elway.

    But a guy can dream, can't he?

    But if he did come back now, he would be the best receiving TE on the team, by a mile.

    A lot has happened these past two years within the Broncos organization, and a lot of it was not good. Giving away Tony Scheffler wasn't one of the good things Hoody West did to this team.

    Although Sheff wasn't a great blocker, he was able to catch the ball and cause issues for the LBs and CBs that ended up covering him. He had a little over 1,500 yards on 70 catches and five TDs in his two years as a Bronco.

    Not great numbers but consider that he almost disappeared his last season in Denver before being tossed out for a fifth-round pick; Denver even had to give up a seventh-rounder in the trade.


    Denver has had virtually no TE production without him. How does 222 yards by the combined three TEs and 0 TDs sound? That would be a poor performance for just about any starting TE in the NFL, let alone for an entire team.

    In John Fox's system in Carolina, tight ends were expected to block first and catch second, but even they had 385 yards and two TDs.

    It seems safe to say that there will be a few changes at the TE position next season for the Denver Broncos.

    Let's take a look at what those might be.

MAYBE: Daniel Graham

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    Daniel Graham was brought over from the New England Patriots, but not by Josh McDaniels. Mike Shanahan actually went after him in free agency to secure one of the best blocking TEs in the game today.

    As you can see in this picture, he looks like a D-9 Caterpillar hunting down a building to knock over. At 6'3" and 260 pounds, he hits like one as well.

    That is one of the big things Fox likes in his TEs: aggressive blocking.

    But Graham had some decent receiving stats as well. He had over 1,400 yards and 17 TDs in NE and 924 yards and seven TDs in his first three years in a Bronco uniform. But his 148 yards with no TDs in 2010 was a ghostly performance.

    The question is, will the Broncos bring him back with a $4.2 million paycheck awaiting him? I am not so sure.

    But Graham played at the University of Colorado and is glad to be home, so maybe he would be willing to renegotiate if that becomes an issue.


    ODDS TO RETURN: Better than 50 percent

MAYBE: Richard Quinn

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    Poor Richard Quinn. He was another of the "Say what?" picks that McDaniels made in his first draft. He traded away picks to move up and take Quinn with the last pick in the second round.

    He was the second TE taken when he was the eighth or ninth-ranked TE in that draft. It sure would have been more fun if we could have taken Jared Cook, James Casey or Chase Coffman, all of whom were drafted later and all of whom have contributed a lot more for their teams than has Quinn.

    That being said, he is a good blocking TE, and in a two-TE blocking set we need two blocking TEs.

    But will Mr. Quinn be one of those two?


    ODDS TO RETURN: Less than 50 percent

MAYBE: Dan Gronkowski

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    Dan Gronkowski was taken in the seventh round by the Detroit Lions and then was the player that came over to Denver for Alphonso Smith, another of McDouche's great personnel moves. He traded up to get Smith in the second round.

    So the Broncos traded their 2010 first round pick in 2010 in order to select him in the second round!

    But the Broncos MAY have at least found a TE who can catch the ball. He actually started four games for Denver and had eight catches for 68 yards. But he injured his ankle in the second KC game and was placed on IR.

    With his size—6'5", 255 pounds—he might be an answer to the receiving TE needed here. He also has some football genes in that two of his brothers are in the NFL too. Chris is a FB for the Dallas Cowboys, and Rob is a TE for the New England Patriots. I bet the grocery bill in the Gronkowski household was enormous!


    ODDS TO RETURN: Better than 50 percent

NOT SO SURE: Daniel Coats

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    Coats came over to the Broncos from the Cincinnati Bengals and finished the year on the active roster.

    But as you can see from this picture, there wasn't much evidence that he even played. He did contribute on special teams though, which explains this photo.

    He had a so-so career for the Bengals and at 6'3" and 265 pounds does have some size. Again, not much of a receiving threat, so I am not sure what his status will be next year.

    What is intriguing about him is the fact he came from a very prolific passing offense at Brigham Young. But he didn't have many catches, which tells me that he may not have the best hands.


    ODDS TO RETURN: Less than 35 percent

NOT LIKELY: John Nalbone

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    John Nalbone is currently on the practice squad.

    6'4", 255 pounds.

    Previously was on Miami's practice squad.

    NFL Statistics: 0 catches, 0 yards, 0 TDs.

    Played at Monmouth College.

    Claim to fame: Was a teammate at Monmouth of WR Miles Austin of the Dallas Cowboys.


    ODDS TO RETURN: Less than 10 percent


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    Now THAT is how to look the ball into your hands!

    Mike McNeill, not exactly a household name outside of the Corn state, has some intrigue about him.

    Decent size (6'4", 235 pounds), he has a Dallas Clark-esque look about him. Yes, THAT Dallas Clark of the Colts. Like Clark, McNeill has decent speed, can catch across the middle and can spread the field with his moves deep.

    And like any player at Nebraska, he knows how to block.

    Another plus is he will be available in the later rounds or maybe even as an undrafted free agent.


    ODDS TO BE HERE: 15 percent or less

POSSIBLE DRAFT CHOICE: DeAndre Brown, Southern Mississippi

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    For those of you that may have read my previous article on WRs, this might sound redundant.

    DeAndre Brown has the build—6'6" and 239 pounds—to reach for those high balls, and his frame will allow him to put on another 10 to 15 pounds.

    For that reason, I see Brown as a very intriguing option.

    He was on the athletic department's academic honor roll, so he has a head on his broad shoulders.

    Due to his injury-shortened season, I see him going in the fifth or sixth round, and he would be a good gamble for the Broncos.


    ODDS TO BE HERE: 25 percent or greater


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    TE Marcedes Lewis is a LARGE 6'6",  275-lb. free agent signing opportunity for the Denver Broncos.

    I know I have said it before, and I will say it again: This man would be a freakin' nuclear weapon. With his size, wingspan and with John Fox pushing him to be the best he can be, we would have a "huge" answer at the TE position.

    He had a great year for a WR at TE with 58 catches for 700 yards and 10 TDs. He is the type of player that opposing teams' LBs, CBs and safeties lose sleep over the week before they have to play this dude.

    Whether JAX will pay him what he wants or even if Denver would get into the bidding war is yet to be determined, but this would indeed answer some questions at the TE position.


    ODDS TO BE HERE: 20 percent or less

    But I sure wish it was higher!

TIGHT ENDS: The Final Roster

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    With all the new and improved coaches and front office folks in place, it will be fun to see what happens to the TE position going forward.

    As I said earlier, HC John Fox wants his TEs to be tough, to be able to block and to be able to catch the ball in traffic and bail out his QB when in trouble.

    It will be up to that man in the picture, Mike McCoy, to produce a creative playbook that will have both hard-nosed blocking but also some good receiving plays called for that most interesting of positions, tight end (since I used to play it, I can make that call).


    Final Roster

    TE: Daniel Graham

    TE: Daniel Coats

    TE: Dan Gronkowski

    TE/H-Back/WR: DeAndre Brown


    Practice Squad

    TE: Mike McNeill