It’s been said that a tight end is a young quarterback’s best friend. Tight ends provide an outlet. Young quarterbacks, and even the old farts, know that you can exploit deficiencies in the coverages of opponents by finding a mismatch at the tight end position.
Would you say the Broncos have that?
With the emergence of Julius Thomas, the Broncos blew the doors off of even the loftiest of expectations for what the offense could have been in 2013, setting scoring records and showing the game of football what it means to be productive offensively.
It didn’t result in a Super Bowl win, but the Broncos got there with a lot of help from the big plays and the strong hands of their tight ends, specifically Thomas, who has become a fan favorite and one of the most dynamic tight ends in the NFL in terms of his pass catching ability.
It wasn’t until Thomas’ third year, though, that he emerged in Denver and a lot of that was due to injury, but Thomas also came from a small school where he was also a basketball player, and he was pretty raw when the Broncos traded up in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL Draft to get him.
The development has been obviously very pleasing to Denver, but despite their depth at the TE position as a whole, they might have a young prospect coming up who could really intrigue the decision makers of this team, someone who has earned his way to the practice squad not just once, but twice, and could have a shot of sticking on the 53-man roster in 2014.
That player is none other than 2012 undrafted free agent Gerell Robinson, a former Arizona State Sun Devil wide receiver who came into the league and with the Broncos in the same year as his college teammate and quarterback Brock Osweiler.
Robinson was waived from the Broncos and spent some time on the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad, but made his way back to Denver where he spent all of the 2013 season, and about midway through the year the team’s official roster revealed something that took many fans by surprise. Robinson was no longer listed as a wide receiver — he’d been switched to tight end.
Since Robinson stands at about 6’4″ 220 pounds or so, it made sense that the Broncos would maybe have him add 15 pounds of weight and get him more involved as a tight end who could also split out and provide what we talked about before — a mismatch.
Coming out of Arizona State, it’s hard to believe that Robinson wasn’t drafted based on measurables and production alone, as so many guys are picked simply based on size and 40 time. At his size, he ran a 4.54 at the scouting combine and showed excellent leaping ability with a 35.5″ vertical jump. He also wasn’t a slouch at Arizona State, where he caught 77 passes for 1,397 yards and seven touchdowns his senior year, averaging over 18 yards per grab.
With the Broncos, Robinson has flashed enough to be brought in not just as an undrafted free agent, but to make the practice squad twice and to be signed to the roster this past offseason after developing last year at tight end.
The Denver Post said the Broncos ‘remain intrigued’ by Robinson who received high marks from GM John Elway during last year’s pre-season finale, where many felt Robinson had earned a spot on the roster after his overall pre-season performance. He capped off the exhibition games by catching five passes for 99 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals, flashing his big play ability and how he can dominate defenders on a pure size advantage.
This is a player with strong hands, a broad catch radius, and the ability to dominate in the vertical passing game given his position switch. He will be given a chance to compete for a third or fourth TE spot on the Broncos, who have obviously had big plans for this kid since the time he was drafted.
If he can show some more improvement this year, he could be another huge weapon in an already dominant passing attack that could give the Broncos even more athleticism and big play ability working against linebackers and safeties.