According to a recent report from ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Denver Broncos will be without their star receiving tight end Greg Dulcich for "multiple weeks" as he recovers from a hamstring injury that was suffered in the season opener against the Las Vegas Raiders. Without Dulcich, the Broncos are left without a true playmaker at the tight end position on their active roster. You can make the argument for veteran tight end Adam Trautman as a legitimate pass catcher however, lacks a lot of athleticism to beat defenses on an every down basis.
Luckily for the Broncos offense, head coach Sean Payton has a secret tight end stashed on his 17-man practice squad that possesses promising upside. That of course is second-year player Lucas Krull who Payton poached off waivers after his former team, New Orleans Saints, decided to let him go after an impressive preseason.
Krull, 25, led all NFL tight ends in the preseason with both receptions and receiving yards reeling in 10 catches for a total 136 yards. To make things even better, Krull received a total 23 targets during the two preseason games he appeared in and had zero drops. His stat total could have very well been increased if it had not been for poor quarterback play. Out of his 23 targets, quarterbacks completed just 43.5% of their pass attempts, signaling that Krull likely was not given the best opportunity to make plays. However, with Krull's heavy target share, it is clear he was able to find separation very often in the passing game -- something the Broncos desperately need from the position at the moment.
While he may not have the most popular name or resume just yet, Krull made quite the name for himself in the Saints' preseason finale against the Houston Texans in which he caught seven passes for 106 yards which happens to be a very similar stat line compared to former Broncos tight end Albert Okwuegbunam. In Denver's preseason finale against the Los Angeles Rams, Okwuegbunam put up nearly identical numbers with seven receptions for 109 yards and a touchdown. In hindsight, gaining a pick swap for Albert O and also making a parallel acquisition by bringing in Lucas Krull appears to be a genius move by GM George Paton.
Krull stands in at a big 6 foot 6, 260 pounds while veteran tight end Greg Dulcich is just 6 foot 4 and 245 pounds. Looking at the prototype of what Sean Payton prefers in a tight end in terms of length and size, they all are either 6 foot 5 at the shortest or a minimum 250 pounds. It's one or the other. Lucas Krull happens to have both. To be an effective tight end and earn reps in Payton's offense, you have to show the ability to block at a high level both through the run and pass game. It's how undrafted free agent tight end Nate Adkins made the team over Albert Okwuegbunam and how Adam Trautman earned the starting nod over Dulcich to begin with.
In a small sample size, Krull has shown flashes of being a capable blocker in a run-first offense while also bringing a ton of juice to the receiving game simultaneously. If the young tight end impresses coaches during the week of practice leading up to games, Payton will most likely elevate him to the active roster for game days, especially considering there are only three active tight ends on the roster with Dulcich currently out of the mix. The Broncos could very well have their next developmental piece at tight end that could sneak up from the bottom of the depth chart and surprise a lot of fans as the season progresses.