Broncos Camp: Rookie TE Albert Okwuegbunam has Been 'Flashing' Early
Entering Year 2, Noah Fant is the Denver Broncos' unquestioned starting tight end. Coming off a rookie debut in which he totaled 40 receptions for 562 yards and three touchdowns, Fant will be used this year to vertically stretch the field in OC Pat Shurmur’s spread offense.
Shurmur’s scheme primarily operates out of 11-personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) but a new buzz out of training camp has Broncos Country believing that GM John Elway's decision to double down on the tight end position might pay dividends.
Albert Okwuegbunam was selected by the Broncos in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. In his three seasons at Missouri, Okwuegbunam hauled in 98 receptions for 1,187 yards and 23 touchdowns.
At an impressive 6-foot-5 and 258 pounds, the rookie’s nickname is ‘Albert O.’ The name was given to him by friends and former teammates including Broncos second-year QB Drew Lock — a Missouri alum.
Following the draft, Elway described Albert O. as a red-zone weapon.
“To put him on the other side from Noah, he’s a 4.49 guy that can really run at 258 pounds, and so again was a big target, good in the red zone," Elway said back in April. "He’s another weapon with great speed that we could add."
On Thursday, KUSA’s Mike Kilis was appeared on 104.3 The FAN's Stokely and Zach afternoon show. In that conversation, Klis told hosts Brandon Stokley and Zach Bye, “Albert O. has been flashing a little bit.”
With limited media being allowed to attend Friday's practice at UC Health Training Center, the tempo is expected to increase. Players will be physically and mentally tested by the coaching staff. Having someone at your side to endure the same challenges as can you bring a team closer.
Recent rumors suggest that Lock and second-year left guard Dalton Risner are very close with Okwuegbunam. Call me crazy, but I love hearing that and it should be music for Broncos Country’s ears.
In the middle of a pandemic, and amid a canceled preseason, Albert O. is making new connections and strengthening old ones. While it’s not particularly surprising or groundbreaking to hear that Lock is strengthening bonds with his teammates, it is encouraging.
Elway consulted with Lock prior to drafting Okwuegbunam. Lock gave his former college teammate the stamp of approval and it's easy to see why. Together at Mizzou, Lock and Albert O. connected on 17 touchdowns for the Tigers.
“The confidence that we had in each other—off the field we’re brothers,” Okwuegbunam said earlier this offseason. “We get along great and I think that really just translated onto the field. Being with him in Missouri, I just felt like a lot of the times in tough situations, I was the guy that he always felt comfortable with just knowing that he always had an open throw in me, regardless of the situation.
"If we needed a big play, his eyes are coming to me. Just the amount of confidence he had in me, just coming out of routes I feel like we’re always on the same page. I feel like all across the board just that chemistry is there.”
Initially, I was intent on the Broncos selecting an offensive lineman — particularly a tackle — in the middle rounds of the draft. However, Okwuegbunam’s film reveals his exceptional speed and strength.
His massive frame allows him to bully defenders on the ground and in the air. He has a natural comfort with maneuvering his large body into small windows. This make’s him not only a friend of Lock’s off the field, but on it, too.
It seems Denver was the perfect landing spot for Okwuegbunam. He’s expected to develop but will be free to do so with Fant.
Fant is poised to significantly increase his production in 2020, especially with the benefit of quarterback continuity. This will provide the Broncos time and opportunity to coach up Albert O. and test his abilities.