Oakland Raiders: Ranking The AFC West By Position Group – Tight Ends

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 20: Tight end Clive Walford
OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 20: Tight end Clive Walford /
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Oakland Raiders
GLENDALE, AZ – SEPTEMBER 01: Tight ends Jeff Heuerman /

4. Denver Broncos

When Julius Thomas left to join the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Broncos lost one of their big receiving threats – especially down in the red zone. In Thomas’ last season in Denver, he posted 489 yards on 43 receptions – an average of 11.4 yards per reception – and a whopping 12 touchdowns.

In the two years since Thomas left the organization, the Broncos have struggled to replace his production. Over those two years, the Broncos’ tight end group has a combined 130 receptions for 1,579 yards and just six touchdowns.

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And roughly half of that productivity came in 2015 with two players who’ve long since moved on – Owen Daniels (46 receptions for 517 yards, 3 touchdowns) and Vernon Davis (20 receptions for 201 yards). If you’re scoring at home, that means in the two years since Thomas left, Denver’s tight ends – Daniels and Davis aside – have combined for 64 receptions for 861 yards and 3 touchdowns.

After being the league’s fourth ranked passing offense in 2014 with Thomas, it’s perhaps not a surprise that Denver’s passing offense has struggled the past two seasons – ranking twenty-eighth in 2015 and twenty-first in 2016.

Of course, quarterback play is a big component of a passsing game’s success. But so is having viable targets that aren’t named Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Especially down in the red zone.

But the Broncos’ offense doesn’t appear to be getting any relief – or any better – heading into 2017. Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch are still the quarterbacks at the top of the depth chart and they still don’t have any viable threats outside of Sanders and Thomas.

Especially in the tight end department where they have a depth chart that features Virgil Green, Jake Butt, and Jeff Heuerman – essentially, the same tight ends group that was underwhelming in 2016 (52 receptions for 688 yards and just two touchdowns).

The only difference being the rookie, Butt.

Denver will again struggle to put points on the board and score down near the goal line because they don’t have an viable threats. And that makes their tight ends group the worst in the AFC West.