The Denver Broncos kicked off day three with the shocking decision to add another tight end to the team with its selection of Mizzou’s Albert Okwuegbunam.
Through the first part of the final day of the NFL draft, nobody can say that John Elway and the Denver Broncos aren’t trying to make the Drew Lock era work. After doubling down on wide receivers in rounds one and two, and selecting a potential day one starter at center in Lloyd Cushenberry in the third, the Denver Broncos added Lock’s old throwing target, Missouri’s Albert Okwuegbunam.
On the surface, this is a puzzling pick given Denver’s needs at other positions and the fact that they have invested heavily in the tight end position in the last five years. In fact, over the last five years, they have selected four All-Big Ten tight ends.
It started back in 2015 with the selection of Ohio State’s Jeff Heuerman in the third round. Denver skipped a year before adding Jake Butt (2017 5th), Troy Fumagalli (2018 5th), and Noah Fant (2019 1st) in back-to-back-to-back years.
In addition to those draft picks, Denver re-signed Hueuerman to a two-year deal last offseason and added former Steelers tight end, Nick Vannett, this offseason.
Now, with the addition of Okwuegbunam, the Broncos can successfully say they have the deepest tight end group in the entire league and also, quite possibly, the most injury-prone tight end group in the entire league.
But that’s also why this surprising selection makes a bit of sense for the Broncos. Okwuegbunam oozes with potential, if (and it’s a big if) he can stay on the field. Given the injury concerns with the rest of Denver’s tight end group, getting a guy who can spell Fant makes a lot of sense.
Coming into his junior season, Albert O was viewed as potentially the top tight end in the NFL draft class of 2020. However, the injury bug continued to hit him as he missed three more games in 2019 and saw a significant regression in his production (from 43 to 26 catches and a 160-yard decrease in receiving yards).
However, he put on a show at the combine, posting one of the fastest 40-yard dashes we’ve ever seen for a tight end at 4.49 seconds despite checking in at 6-foot-5 and 258 pounds. So again I reiterate that the potential is there if he can stay on the field and continues his development (he entered the draft as a true junior).
And when you combine the potential to be a huge mismatch weapon in the passing game with the fact that he already has a comfort level with the Broncos signal-caller and most of Denver’s tight ends have injury history concerns, this pick makes a lot of sense at pick 118 in the fourth round.