Miami TE David Njoku - Photo courtesy of the University of Miami
PewterReport.com continues its daily feature previewing the upcoming NFL Draft with position-by-position analysis. PewterReport.com’s Mark Cook analyzes what the Bucs have currently on their roster at each position and Trevor Sikkema provides a comprehensive overall ranking of the top players at that position going into the draft. Scott Reynolds makes his projections for Tampa Bay with PewterReport.com’s Bucs’ Best Bets – one early round pick, and one from the later rounds.
The series began with quarterbacks, followed by running backs and wide receivers, while this installment previews tight ends.
WHAT THE BUCS HAVE AT TIGHT END
Thin would be the best way to describe the Bucs’ tight end situation. Tampa Bay does have one of the better pass catching tight ends in the league in Cameron Brate, but after that, the depth chart is weak.
Brate had a tremendous breakout 2016 season, finishing the year with 57 catches for 660 yards and eight touchdowns. Brate’s emergence was huge for the Bucs after former second rounder Austin Seferian-Jenkins was released prior to Week 3 following a DUI arrest, which was the final straw after a series of things that drove the coaching staff and management crazy. Brate, a former undrafted free agent from Harvard, became a go-to weapon for quarterback Jameis Winston, and the team is counting heavily on him to produce again in 2017.
Bucs TE Cameron Brate – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Luke Stocker, a fourth-round pick in 2011, fills a nice role as a blocker for the Bucs, but no defensive coordinators are losing sleep worrying about the former Volunteer burning linebackers and safeties down the seam. Stocker only contributed five receptions for 23 yards in 2016.
The Bucs chose not to re-sign veteran Brandon Myers, but still have Alan Cross who surprisingly made the team – and contributed – last season as an undrafted free agent. Cross caught his first career touchdown pass against the Chiefs last year, which proved to be the game-winner, and finished the year with six catches for 38 yards.
Kivon Cartwright and Tevin Westbrook are players with athletic ability, but no one in the organization is holding their breath that they emerge as impact players. It doesn’t mean one of them doesn’t make the roster however, but making the roster and seeing action are two different things.
WHAT THE BUCS NEED AT TIGHT END
Tampa Bay will address the tight end position in next week’s draft, and it is very possible it could be as early as the first round. Finding a tight end that would create mismatches in the middle of the field will open things up for receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson on the outside. Another tight end also gives head coach Dirk Koetter another toy to tinker with and the Bucs could run more two-tight end set.
Tampa Bay would love to find a tight end that is a dual threat as a receiver and a blocker, but due to the influx of college teams running spread offenses, find quality in-line blockers is becoming more and more difficult. Not only do the Bucs need a tight end to pair with Brate, they also need a receiving threat capable of stepping in as insurance in case he misses time due to injury in 2017.
CLICK PAGE 2 FOR THE TE RANKINGS
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at email@example.com
No question we need a TE. He’s got to be able to go in rotational mode for Brate or Stocker which means some speed and size .
Njkuo fits that category, but is he ready?
Nijkuo will be ready and has a Ton of upside.
I liked learning about Michael Roberts. 16 touchdowns!! That’s insane
The more I hear about Roberts, the more I like him. I was a big fan of Bucky Hodges for most of this off-season, but this article points out some of his deficiencies that I was never aware of. Not sure who to believe. I know that if you poll 10 different draft experts, you will get 10 different lists and 10 different opinions on each player. Good news is, I trust the Bucs to make the right decisions and I will support whoever they draft! I can’t wait for the draft!!
I’d like to see some Butt in the third day of the draft.
Licht seems to like those small school gems. Adam Shaheen would fit that bill. He beat up on lesser talent, but at 6’6″ 278 lbs sounds like he could beat up some pros too. Has the size you want for blocking, some of the other T.E.’s you mentioned couldn’t handle D linemen at their weight.
Cameron Brate had 57 catches for 660 yards and a league leading 8 touchdowns.
The top 5 TE’s last year based on catches Pitta(86), Kelce(85), Rudolph(83), Olsen(80), and Ertz(78).
Only two TE’s eclipsed 1000 yards receiving, Kelce(1125) and Olsen(1073).
Why spend a top pick on another TE? How much more production can you expect from the position and how much of that production comes at Brate’s expense? If Brate goes down, then the Bucs are thin at the position. That is true. If the TE needs time to grow into the role(Njoku is raw), how much help will he be anyway?
Defense wins championships. You know it’s true Bucs fans!
Brate is a nice TE. He IMO will never be a all pro. I would hate to see him traded BUT he would bring a nice draft pick if he was.
The reason I bring up trades is because if Bucs do make the playoffs they can use draft capital to move around in future drafts.
TE is definitely a need, but considering we already have a good starter in Brate, I would rather we target Shaheen, Butt, or Roberts on day 3 than spend our 1st pick on Njoku. I wouldn’t throw my remote at the TV if we did take Njoku though as I think he will be a really good TE in the NFL and will be a day 1 contributor as a pass catcher while his blocking skills catch up.
Yes , it’s true we need an extra tight end. Brate most definitely needs to have a back up plan. I still think that Stocker has value on the team. You are right about him though, he’s not scaring the heck out of anyone with his pass catching.
O J Howard should be the only TE that the BUCS should consider drafting. That pick needs to be nailed to the barn door.
I’ll leave it to Licht and Koetter to draft a TE later.
Roberts? BTW, good write up on him PR.
Chett I have posted MANY TIMES to do what ever the Bucs need to do and get OJH if he somehow is on the board around 12-13 make a trade even a 2018 second round pick. IMO he is a 8+ years all pro.
No gripes with me on that. OJ is the best TE I’ve seen in years. I’ll compare him to Kellen Winslow.
The old man not the kid’
I meant at 19 for Howard.
Even if Bucs draft a TE in first rd. Jake Butt would be a value pick in 3_4 rd.
Hell, I’d draft him just for his name. I’m sure he would be the butt of some commenters.
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