Denver Broncos: Shaun Beyer has a shot to be next big UDFA

Denver Broncos, Shaun Beyer. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Denver Broncos, Shaun Beyer. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The Denver Broncos have built a very rich history and really tradition of cranking out productive undrafted free agent players. There are plenty of examples throughout the team’s history including arguably the best undrafted free agent of all-time, wide receiver Rod Smith.

Chris Harris Jr. would like a word, as well, and other players — especially in recent Denver Broncos history — indicate that the team is likely to have found at least one substantial contributor among their undrafted free agent rookie heap in 2021.

Although the team drafted 10 players in 2021, which undrafted player or players could wind up cracking the final 53-man roster? That’s no small feat for anyone, but even as strong as the Denver Broncos’ roster is in terms of depth or at least potential, former Iowa Hawkeyes tight end Shaun Beyer has a real shot to make the team in 2021.

Denver Broncos’ current tight ends

  • Noah Fant
  • Albert Okwuegbunam
  • Eric Saubert
  • Austin Fort

Noah Fant has obviously established himself as one of the better tight ends in the NFL. In fact, there are so many other tight ends that get attention that Fant is frankly underrated through his first two NFL seasons.

He has 102 receptions for 1,235 yards and six touchdowns at over 12 yards per catch through his first two NFL seasons and he’s proven to be a YAC machine, something the analytics folks didn’t like about his game coming into the NFL.

But I digress.

Albert Okwuegbunam is progressing well from an ACL injury he unfortunately suffered just as he was seemingly getting heated up last season. Vic Fangio stated to the media at the 2021 NFL Draft that Okwuegbunam would not likely be at full strength by training camp (July) and that he would be eased into work even upon his re-entry.

Eric Saubert was just recently added to the team for competition and possible depth at the position while Austin Fort is coming off of his second season-ending injury.

As you can see, the path is very much cleared for a player like Beyer — a former teammate of Fant’s with the Hawkeyes — to make the Denver Broncos’ roster barring any veteran additions from now until September.

So what does Beyer bring to the table?

Shaun Beyer at a glance

Beyer brings league-average size and athletic ability to the position with some plus scores in the area of agility and explosiveness (broad jump). He came to Iowa listed as a 6-foot-5, 200-pound wide receiver, and like many others before him in the Hawkeyes’ program, he put on a good 50 pounds and transformed into an NFL-caliber tight end.

In high school, Beyer was also a high-jumper and hurdler in track and also competed in wrestling and basketball.

After redshirting in 2016, Beyer had to take whatever snaps he could get with the Hawkeyes playing behind eventual first-round picks Noah Fant and TJ Hockenson in 2017 and 2018.

By 2019, he was finally getting his first shot at significant playing time but ended up splitting time with Sam LaPorta and Nate Wieting. Despite only catching seven passes, Beyer had the highest yards per reception on the team in 2019 at 16.7 yards per catch.

In 2020, Iowa’s passing game was nothing short of an abomination with Nate Stanley departed for the NFL, as erratic as it was even with Stanley under center. Despite having multiple NFL-caliber wide receivers, Sam LaPorta led the Hawkeyes with 27 receptions in 2020 and Beyer finished with just 11.

He was once again able to show his big-play ability with 14.4 yards per reception.

With only a handful of splash plays in the passing game, how do you evaluate an NFL projection for Shaun Beyer? His work on special teams and as a blocker will tell the tale.

Although the upside is certainly there for Beyer as a receiver, his being signed as one of the Denver Broncos’ priority undrafted free agents is telling of what this team thinks of him as a blocker considering they cut their primary blocking option at tight end in Nick Vannett shortly before the 2021 NFL Draft.

Noah Fant is certainly no hack as a blocker, but this has become Beyer’s specialty given the Hawkeyes’ offense in the past two seasons.

There’s plenty to like about Beyer’s game beyond statistics. He makes an impact in the running game and on special teams, and his trajectory as a receiver is very positive. His athleticism comes across on tape even a bit better than we see in his testing scores, especially when we get the opportunity to see him with a full head of steam and the ball in his hands.

We could see the Denver Broncos’ fun tradition and history of undrafted gems continue with Beyer in 2021.