Despite providing promising bursts in his rookie campaign, Greg Dulcich's first NFL season was ultimately derailed by injuries and overall offensive struggles for the Denver Broncos.
None of the Dulcich optimism has dimmed in the infant days of the Sean Payton era, though.
Following Thursday's organized team activities, Payton had surely glimpsed Dulcich's potential and very much liked what he saw.
"I've been lucky enough to -- I've had (Jeremy) Shockey, (Jason) Witten, Jimmy Graham, and I'm probably leaving out a few guys," Payton said. "I'm not saying this young player [will be just like them], but he's got traits that are exciting and today was one of those days where you begin to have a vision."
Payton's vision for Dulcich could potentially be beyond just playing tight end and taking on the "joker" position.
"The 'joker' player for us is not a receiver," Payton explained. "It's either a running back or a tight end with exceptional ball skills and then you can work matchups. We've had that at the running back position]. Reggie Bush was the ‘joker,’ Darren Sproles and [Alvin Kamara. Those were all unique players, not just in the running game, but they had passing game skill sets that allowed you to do multiple things, and I think Greg does, too."
Though not mentioned by Payton, the Saints' Taysom Hill is the name most often associated with the "joker" position. Hill's overall skill set has made him a dangerous option as a gadget player. Though Dulcich portends to be a more traditional tight end than Hill, he was a wide receiver when he starred for St. Francis High (La Canada, California). He was also a backup QB for the Golden Knights under the late Jim Bonds.
Thus, the versatility is there.
A walk-on at UCLA who blossomed into becoming a 2022 third-round draft choice of the Broncos, Dulcich is a 6-foot-3, 245-pound target with a great head of hair, tremendous ball skills and potential aplenty.
Said potential was unlocked sporadically during the Broncos' trying 2022 campaign.
After missing the first five weeks of the season, Dulcich sprang loose for a 39-yard touchdown in his NFL debut during a Week 6 defeat to the Los Angeles Chargers. He also had a touchdown in his last game of the season -- once again versus the Bolts -- in Week 16. He missed Denver's last two contests with a trip to injured reserve and all told registered 33 receptions for 411 yards and the two scores. Dulcich had a few games where he shined and some where he was rarely involved.
Though it's the dawn of June, Payton sees the potential for bigger things from his second-year tight end/potential "joker."
"He's got unique skill set, and he's got traits in the passing game," Payton said. "We use the term 'joker' where we can get matchups. The trick sometimes is trying to predict what you're going to get defensively, if you're either going to get a nickel package or a base package. But man, he can run, he's got good ball skills and he had one of his better practices today. Then you begin to build on that. Right now, there's an install that's taking place and the players, they go play those spots. When you get into the season, you really get more specific to who's running what route. I think his menu is going to be lengthy in the passing game, and there's enough stuff that we can do in the run game."
Could Dulcich be the Denver version of Hill or any of the stars referenced by Payton? It's far too early to tell, but the 23-year-old's skill set has excited his veteran head coach, and that's good enough on the first day of June.