Riley Odoms was a trail blazer, can Denver find another?

Before Shannon Sharpe, there was TE Riley Odoms. To this day, he still holds the sixth best receiving record for the Broncos.

It’s been forty years since he played,  his 396 receptions for 5,755 yards and 41 touchdowns still stands. He was an All-Rookie, Pro-Bowl+4 and All-Pro+2 TE. Not only did he lead Denver in receiving yards in 1973, 1974, 1977, and 1978, he also was a top receiver in the AFL/NFL, too.

The 1977 Orange Crush team had Riley Odoms averaging 11.5 yards a catch. Denver went to the SB because Odoms went beast mode in the Playoffs. Beating Oakland was the sweet cherry on top. Had Craig Morton not choked against his former team, Odoms may have been able to help to get the trophy.

Over his career, his average was an amazing 14.1 yards a touch. For reference, Shannon Sharpe averaged 12.5.  He was something special. He helped make TE’s relevant and in no doubt helped the Denver Broncos see that using Shannon Sharpe could do the same.

Outside of Antonio Gates and Rob Gronkowski, Odoms’ and Sharpe’s kind of averages in modern football are rarely seen. However, if Denver can find one that’s close, he would help this offense stay  aggressive. A good QB/TE connection can help keep teams afloat during reboot years.

Odoms played eleven years in Denver, nine of them as a catching workhorse. There are two players the Broncos miss most on in the draft: TE and QB.

In its history, Denver has yet to draft a franchise QB. Sure, they’ve drafted plenty first round selections and all the way down to the last round like Kubiak and Siemian, but getting that elusive guy who plays a decade, it’s been a big miss. (Let’s cheer for Lynch being the guy to break the curse)

Julius Thomas seemed to be the next Sharpe/Odoms, but injuries and whining sent him to Jacksonville. Can Jake Butt or AJ Derby be the next Riley? The long term big safety net. For Butt to be that guy he’s going to need to stay healthy. Same for Jeff Heuerman.

Denver didn’t draft Derby, but let’s add him in because he’s young enough to last a decade. I like Virgil Green, but not only did that boat sail, he has a habit of dropping crucial catches. He hurt both our QBs last year.

Another name that keeps popping up almost daily is, Steven Scheau. Not sure what’s going on there, if Andrew Mason just wants to highlight him, or he’s actually making a lot plays. If it’s the latter, he could be a sleeper to make the 53. He has the size at 6’5″ 255. Sometimes the best athlete doesn’t make a team, it’s the one that has the best chemistry with the QB, who does.

On Tuesday, Green, Heuerman and Derby spoke to the press and all three spoke about the versatility of the offense, the chance for them to be used more and that it was fun and exciting. Will this be the year we see a breakout star?

In 2012, McCoy used Joel Dressen and Jacob Tamme for 7 TDs on 143 attempts. Not a lot; however, it may have been Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas were really clicking with Manning. Maybe because Manning was such a rhythm/timing guy, he didn’t feel comfortable spreading the ball around as much as he did in prior years. He almost exclusively only targeted six WR/TE.

When looking at San Diego last year, to get another feel for how McCoy may use the TE’s, we see a similar pattern. Two TE’s see a lot action along with two WRs and catching RB’s, but not a lot action for the rest of the offense. They were 9th in points, but also had some tough injuries that kept them from doing better. Plus, their defense was really bad, so they weren’t a balanced team.

This is both good and bad news for our guys with hands. The good news is whomever gets clicking with Lynch, will most likely have the chance to be a long term solution at TE. Provided health stays with them. McCoy goes with what works.

The bad news is this could limit who gets a shot. Do we have an Odoms on the team? Who knows, but this offense appears to give any one or two of them the best shot to blaze their own trail. No matter the record at the end of year, it will be successful if Denver finally breaks the long QB/TE draft drought. Here’s to hoping we see some beautiful connections out there.


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