continues its daily feature previewing the upcoming NFL Draft with position-by-position analysis.’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’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. 

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
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. 

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.


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About the Author: Mark Cook

Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for 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
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4 years ago

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?

Buc 1976
Reply to  Horse
4 years ago

Nijkuo will be ready and has a Ton of upside.

4 years ago

I liked learning about Michael Roberts. 16 touchdowns!! That’s insane

4 years ago

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!!

4 years ago

I’d like to see some Butt in the third day of the draft.

4 years ago

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.

4 years ago

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… Read more »

Buc 1976
Reply to  BucWild02
4 years ago

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.