Denver Broncos: Second year players with bigger roles in 2021

Denver Broncos young TE Albert Okwuegbunam. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Denver Broncos young TE Albert Okwuegbunam. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /
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Albert Okuwegbunam, Denver Broncos
Oct 18, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Denver Broncos tight end Albert Okwuegbunam (85) catches a pass against the New England Patriots during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports /

At this time of year, everyone is excited about their favorite team’s newest acquisitions, and rightfully so. The Denver Broncos have made a number of huge moves in year one of the George Paton era and those moves are the ones everyone has largely been focused on.

What is often not given as much attention as it deserves is the year-to-year development of players everyone was really excited about just one offseason ago. Second-year players can become your team’s breakout players and the Denver Broncos have some intriguing candidates to do just that.

Players on both sides of the ball have the chance to go from small contributors or essentially “redshirt” players in 2020 to big-time contributors and core pieces of the franchise moving forward.

While everyone expects big things from Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler — the team’s top two picks last year — what other second-year players can we expect to make a big jump?

Denver Broncos second-year breakout candidates

1. Albert Okwuegbunam, TE

The Denver Broncos got themselves a steal in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft in former Missouri tight end Albert Okwuegbunam.

The 2020 Draft class was not exactly known for its stellar depth at tight end, but Okwuebunam posted such ridiculous speed numbers at the Combine that it was shocking he was not a top-100 pick at all.

At 6-foot-5, 258 pounds, Okwuegbunam ran a ridiculous 4.49 in the 40-yard dash. With over 34-inch arms and over 10-inch hands, Okwuegbunam is a massive target in the passing game with rare athletic ability, body control, size, and catch radius.

He showed us glimpses of what he can be prior to a season-ending knee injury.

The Denver Broncos cut veteran Nick Vannett this offseason and let Troy Fumagalli and Jake Butt walk in free agency. They have not made any other moves at the tight end position other than bringing in Shaun Beyer as an undrafted free agent and Eric Saubert as a camp body.

One of the players on the roster already along with Okwuegbunam could certainly surprise, but the Broncos were understandably quite impressed with the small sample from the Missouri product in 2020.

He is one of the top candidates on the team to break out as a tight end, big slot, and red zone weapon.