ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — O.J. Howard, Evan Engram, David Njoku, Gerald Everett, Adam Shaheen, Jonnu Smith and Michael Roberts—seven names that Denver Broncos tight end Jake Butt will never forget.
Who are they? They are the tight ends selected before the man who was once considered a player at the position in the 2017 class. When Butt went down with a torn ACL in the Orange Bowl, his draft stock went the same way. Now, he has a bone to pick. Now, he wants to prove to himself, the Denver Broncos and the rest of the NFL that letting him fall to the fifth round was a big mistake.
“That is why I’m here, and that is why I’m here to work," Butt said Friday when asked if he's out to prove he is the best tight end in this class. "That is how I feel... That's the ultimate goal.”
Of course, Butt has work to do on himself before he can start competing with everyone else, the former Michigan star is part of a group of Broncos who aren't expected to join the team in an on-the-field capacity until training camp.
“It’s really tough," he explained. "Being out there, my adrenaline is still pumping. I’m so locked in and I know what I’m doing out there on every play, I just can’t go out there and do it. That’s tough being a competitor and being a player that wants to help the team win. I’m living through these guys out here. They’re having fun and they’re living out their dreams. I’m just helping where I can.”
Butt, like his fellow rookies, is making a huge transition from college to the NFL. The speed of the game is one thing, but the mental aspect is whole other animal. An early injury can set a rookie back, but letting break from the field slip into the classroom can be extremely detrimental. That doesn't appear to be a problem for the fifth-rounder.
“His maturity," head coach Vance Joseph said of what has impressed him so far. "When you’re around Jake, you can see the maturity as far as the football player and the person. In meetings, he’s in the front row. He’s taking every note. He’s a guy that’s played at a high level for a long time. We’re excited about Jake. He just needs time to get healthy. It’s his second injury, very similar to the first one. He’s aware of the process. He’s in good spirits and happy to be here. When he gets healthy, he can help us.”
The Broncos could use the help, their production out of the tight end has been below average since the departure of Julius Thomas, a healthy Butt could be just what the doctor ordered to get them out of the drought.