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.
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.
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.
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, the beach and family time.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