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Tight end Jeff Heuerman #82 of the Denver Broncos on the sidelines during the preseaon NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 1, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Broncos 38-17. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Stokley: Broncos TE Heuerman’s limit is being a ‘serviceable backup’

Tight end Jeff Heuerman #82 of the Denver Broncos on the sidelines during the preseaon NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 1, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Broncos 38-17. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

In May of 2015, after the Denver Broncos drafted Jeff Heuerman in the bottom of the third round of the draft, general manager John Elway said he believed the Ohio State tight end had a “high ceiling” in the NFL.

“He’s just scratching the surface of what he can do,” Elway said at the time.

But three seasons removed, one ending in injury and two others in statistical disappointment, Heuerman’s opportunities may be dwindling, “Stokley and Zach” co-host Brandon Stokley said on Wednesday.

Heuerman, who finished third among all Broncos tight ends last year, is the senior member of position group with A.J. Derby and Virgil Green no longer in Denver.

He’ll compete with Austin Traylor, a late addition to Denver last season; rookie Troy Fumagalli, whom the Broncos picked up in last month’s draft; and Jake Butt, a fifth-rounder from 2017 that’s said to have first-round talent.

But with a combined 18 career catches (nine in each of the previous two seasons) and 283 total receiving yards, Heuerman’s odds of ever cracking starter-level status is slim, Stokley said.

“My hope is Jake Butt is the starter and Jeff Heuerman can be a serviceable backup,” Stokley said. “That’s the limit. I think Jeff Heuerman needs to earn a roster spot, that’s where we’re at with him.”

Stokley said he “hopes” Heuerman can become “the guy” for Denver, but he “just can’t go there,” especially after Butt impressed him in an interview last week on 104.3 The Fan.

“But after you hear him talk it’s like, OK, maybe they are because this guy sounds the part,” Stokley said at the time on if Denver is really relying on Butt to run away with the starting role.

On Wednesday, Stokley said it’d be “foolish” of the Broncos to think Heuerman as someone different than the past three years, a sentiment shared by fellow 104.3 The Fan host Sandy Clough.

“If Heuerman is your starting tight end, you’re in trouble,” Clough said last week.