There has been considerable chatter recently about the Broncos new rookie class - deservedly so. But there are times when Bronco fans need to get reintroduced to promising rookies of recent years.
Ladies and gentlemen, once again: Jeff Heuerman.
Much as Jake Butt gets most of the media attention around here, Heuerman is the Broncos’ No. 1 tight end this offseason. And with Butt missing his rookie season in 2017, Heuerman is the likely starter for 2018.
“It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be exciting,’’ Heuerman said after he was the Broncos headline player who participated in the team’s Play 60 event Tuesday evening at the Pat Bowlen Fieldhouse. “I’ve been fortunate to learn from some older tight ends the last couple of years and I’m ready. I’m ready to take on that leadership role that No.1 role and go from there.’’
Besides Heuerman at tight end, Connor McGovern, a fifth-round draft pick in 2016, has been rotating at right guard with Menelik Watson. Watson was the Broncos’ starting right tackle last season until he suffered a season-ending foot injury. The Broncos are taking a look at him at guard this offseason knowing he has the flexibility to play tackle.
Billy Turner is working at right tackle as Jared Veldheer continues to mend. Veldheer missed the final three games with Arizona last year because of an ankle injury. Veldheer is expected to return during the offseason. Max Garcia, who started the past two seasons at left guard, is now working behind Ron Leary at that position.
Fact is, rarely does a rookie start. Even Bradley Chubb, the No. 5 overall draft pick, may not start. A team’s new starters each year are usually players who have been around long enough to receive a promotion.
The Broncos do believe Butt can eventually develop into a franchise-type tight end. But he is essentially in his first season after he spent last season mending from surgery on his right ACL, an injury suffered in his final college game for Michigan.
Heuerman understands. He was a third-round draft pick out of Ohio State in 2015. I interviewed him for 9NEWS on his first day at the Broncos’ facility.
A week later, Heuerman suffered a torn ACL on a kickoff coverage drill during rookie minicamp. The next year was hampered by soft-tissue leg injuries common with those coming off torn ACLs. He started to come on last season, his third in the NFL.
It’s been a longer-than-expected journey to the top of the depth chart for Heuerman but he’s there now.
“It’s obviously not how you draw it up,’’ Heuerman said. “But adversity is part of sports. Part of life. You’ve just got to keep going and here we are going into year four.
“I was taught at a young age to work hard, keep your mouth shut and in the end, good things can happen. Be a good person. That’s what I try to do and here we are four years later and you’re still interviewing me. I’m good.’’