Last season, the Broncos ranked fourth in the NFL in targeting their tight ends, throwing to them 148 times.
Noah Fant, who is entering his third season, was target 93 times — the sixth most in the league — totaling 62 receptions for 673 yards and three touchdowns in 15 games played. But Fant has made it clear he thinks he can be better. He thinks he can be one of the best tight ends in the league, saying earlier this offseason "I have to step up to that level."
His teammates are expecting him to make that leap in 2021.
“Not only this season, but I think every season, my expectations are high on Noah, and he knows that," quarterback Drew Lock said. "One of the big things that, again, not a lot of people have known or talked about is that me and Noah got a lot of work in this offseason. He was in Colorado for a decent amount of time, and every time we were throwing, he was right there. We found things we thought he needed to work on, and he even came with things to me that he wanted to work on with me. So there’s been a lot of work that me and him have been able to put in this offseason."
Fant isn't the only Broncos tight end many are expecting to have a big season, either.
Second year tight end Albert Okwuegbunam is looking to build off his rookie success, after his season ended early as he tore his ACL in Week 9. He had caught 11 passes for 121 yards and one touchdown in four games played. Okwuegbunam was limited to individual drills during OTAs and mandatory minicamp.
"I've grown to get close with him and he's a good dude and a good kid. I'm excited to play with him,' Fant said. "I think our whole tight end room is pretty good this year. We just picked up Eric (Saubert), who has been doing some really good things also. I’m really excited to play with these guys and excited to get on the field with them.”
The Broncos took five tight ends in their original 53-man roster last season and will likely take around the same this year. Fant, Okwuegbunam, Saubert and either Andrew Beck, Austin Fort or Shaun Beyer are expected to be among those chosen.
But Fant and Okwuegbunam are believed to be the future at the position, as both have shown promise earlier in their career. The Broncos also ran several two tight end packages last season with Fant and Okwuegbunam.
And if it's up to offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, that likely isn't going away next season.
“Just to be more consistent and be more explosive," Shurmur said of Fant and Okwuegbunam. "Just keep doing all the things you do better and having more good plays and less bad. These offseason training sessions—the OTAs and the mini camps—to this point have been very beneficial because they can take what we did last year plus the parts of the offense that we’ve grown and improve on it.”