Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton was asked leading up to the 2023 NFL Draft about how difficult it can be to evaluate tight end prospects coming from the college level because these players are asked to do so many different things across the college football landscape. Payton noted that these players are essentially packaged the same as they have been over the last 20 years, but that there's now almost always projection involved when you're talking about taking a guy who was primarily a receiver in college and asking him to block more in the NFL, or vice versa. It's rare to find players who are great at both.
We're seeing a major emphasis being placed on the tight end position in the 2023 offseason for the Denver Broncos, specifically as it relates to guys who can block really well. General manager George Paton gave some insight before the NFL Draft on what makes evaluating tight ends difficult coming out of college:
"Those seem to be the harder ones to find—the guys who can line up in-line and they can block a five technique and set the edge in the run game. I think in this day and age, you can find the receivers a little easier, although there’s some good receivers in this draft as well. The hard part is trying to project that ‘F’ tight end and him blocking in-line because they’re not asked to do so as much in college."- George Paton (via Broncos PR)
That last line from Paton is interesting, because the Denver Broncos had already added two NFL veterans at tight end this offseason with a lot of experience in the blocking department. Namely, the Broncos went out in free agency and added blocking specialist Chris Manhertz and they traded for former Saints third-round pick AdamTrautman during the 2023 NFL Draft.
Now, they have added yet another blocking specialist at the tight end position with Tommy Hudson joining the 90-man roster. Hudson, standing just over 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds, tried out for the team last week. Sean Payton spoke about the importance of minicamp, and how as talent evaluators they don't want a guy to be right in front of their face, only to watch him latch on with another team and find success after being cut. Perhaps they were having too many second thoughts on Hudson and what he can potentially bring to the table as a blocker.
Hudson appeared in three games back in the 2021 season, catching three passes for 31 yards. More importantly, he made an impression in his time with the Titans as a blocker:
When you add players to the 90-man roster throughout the course of the offseason, you always want to look at guys who can possibly raise the "floor" of your different position groups. Someone like Tommy Hudson, who has experience in actual NFL games and has shown good things as a blocker, could end up being a tremendous and underrated pickup as a 4th or 5th TE.
I think right now, it's important not to write off guys like Albert Okwuegbunam, who could have a big offseason in this offense. Who knows?
For the time being, the Broncos have added yet another viable option to the tight end room which was already looking pretty competitive. Now, someone like Hudson is going to come in and put pressure on other players because he can do a little bit of everything well, with a little lean towards his blocking abilities. And in this offense, that could push him over the top of some guys.