WHAT THE BUCS HAVE AT TE
Injuries held back 2014 second-round pick Austin Seferian-Jenkins last season, but the former Washington Husky is set to have a big role in the Buccaneers’ new-look offense led by offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. The Bucs are high on the second-year tight end and he should enter the season as the team’s starter at the tight end position. Behind Seferian-Jenkins is veteran Brandon Myers, who caught just 22 passes for 190 yards last season and is just a depth player at this point in career. Tampa Bay re-signed blocking tight end Luke Stocker in free agency this offseason and he figures to provide the offense with a true in-line blocker and depth. Second-year players Cameron Brate and Taylor Sloat round out the Buccaneers’ group of tight ends. Both will battle for a roster spot this offseason.
WHAT THE BUCS NEED AT TE
The Buccaneers have much bigger needs than tight end as the draft approaches, but there’s still a chance they could take one to compete with Seferian-Jenkins in the later rounds of the draft. Koetter’s offenses have generally geared more towards in-line tight ends who can catch and block effectively. If Tampa Bay was to add a tight end in the draft, it would likely be a player who fits that mold. Tampa Bay’s tight end group doesn’t have a true receiving threat like it has in years past with players like Tim Wright and Kellen Winslow. This year’s class of tight ends offers a few athletic receiving options that could intrigue the Bucs in the later rounds.
BUCS BEST BET AT TE (EARLY 1-3) TE Ben Koyack – Notre Dame – Senior – 6-5, 255 – 4.76
Koyack could make sense for the Buccaneers as a player who could push Seferian-Jenkins as well as impact the game immediately as a blocker. Having Seferian-Jenkins and Koyack in two tight end sets would give the Bucs two huge options to throw to in the red zone and down the seam. Koyack is a better blocker than receiver at this point in his career, but his athleticism and size offer nice potential to develop as a pass-catcher.
BUCS BEST BET AT TE (LATE 4-7) TENick O’Leary – Florida State – Senior – 6-3, 252 – 4.93
O’Leary is a throwback tight end that plays with grit and effort that could make sense for the Buccaneers if they look to the later rounds for tight end help. If Tampa Bay was to select quarterback Jameis Winston with the first overall pick, drafting O’Leary later on would give Winston a familiar target to throw to as well as give the Bucs a legitmate dual-threat as an H-back. O’Leary is a player that likely won’t become a star NFL tight end, but his intelligence and effort make him valuable as a role player and quality depth.
TOP TEN TIGHT ENDS 1. TE Maxx Williams – Minnesota – Redshirt Sophomore – 6-4, 249 – 4.78
Williams is a highly athletic tight end that has a knack for making big plays in the passing game. Showcasing tremendous body control and hands, Williams is outstanding at coming down with catches that most tight ends can’t haul in. The Minnesota product has the necessary athletic tools to become a big-time receiving threat at the next level, but he still needs to work on his route-running to put his game over the top. Williams isn’t a standout blocker, but the young tight end blocks with aggressiveness. The former Golden Gopher is the type of the receiving threat that NFL teams are looking for at the tight end position, making Williams a viable candidate for a high second-round grade.
2. TE Clive Walford – Miami – Senior – 6-4, 251 – 4.79
Walford had a great week at the Senior Bowl and cemented his status as one of the top three tight ends in this years draft. The Miami product totaled 44 catches for 676 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior, including a four-catch, 127-yard performance against Florida State. Walford blocks very well and can line up all over the formation because of his atheticism. His game doesn’t have many weaknesses and his blocking skill will be sought after by NFL teams. He should hear his name called in Round 3 of the draft.
3. TE Ben Koyack – Notre Dame – Senior – 6-5, 255 – 4.76
Koyack is a sound blocker who can step in right away for an NFL team and have an impact on the running game. While he possesses excellent athleticism for the position, he needs to improve his ability to create separation with his route-running and technique. The Notre Dame product showed the ability to be a threat in the red zone, showcasing his ability to make plays in contested situations and in traffic. Koyack caught 30 passes for 317 yards and two touchdowns for the Fighting Irish as a senior in 2014, including the game-winner against Stanford on fourth down with just seconds left. The 6-foot-5, 255-pound target figures to go in the third or fourth rounds.
4. TE Jeff Heuerman– Ohio State – Senior – 6-5, 254 – 4.83
Heuerman never put up big numbers for the Buckeyes but the 6-foot-5, 254-pound target offers excellent upside as a dual-threat tight end as an NFL prospect. The Ohio State product has excellent athleticism and strength for his size and has the potential to become a valuable piece of an NFL passing attack. Despite bench pressing 26 reps at the Combine in February, his strength doesn’t translate to his on-field performance, as he was often overwhelmed as a blocker. Still, Heuerman offers great upside and should go in rounds four or five.
5. TE James O’Shaughnessy – Illinois State – Senior – 6-4, 245 – 4.68
PewterReport.com believes O’Shaughnessy is one of the most underrated players in the entire 2015 draft. At 6-foot-4, 245 pounds, the Illinois State product runs a 4.68 40-yard dash and plays every snap like it’s his last. O’Shaugnessy has excellent hands and thrives in jump ball and contested situations, but he also has the athleticism necessary to get open on intermediate and short routes consistently at the next level. The senior also a good blocker that displays sound footwork. O’Shaughnessy could be a late route steal on Day 3 of the draft.
6. TE Nick O’Leary – Florida State – Senior – 6-3, 252 – 4.93
O’Leary was one of Winston’s favorite targets over the last two seasons for the Seminoles. The former Seminole hauled in 48 passes for 618 yards and six touchdowns as a senior, one year removed from a junior season where he caught 33 passes for 557 yards and seven touchdowns. The 6-foot-3, 252-pound tight end is know for his gritty style of play and his ability to contribute as a blocker and receiver. O’Leary does a great job of sitting down in between zone coverage and gets open using his technique rather than his quickness and speed. Unfortunately, O’Leary simply doesn’t have the physical tools that other players in the pool of tight ends do, which could cause him to slide into the fourth or fifth round.
7. TE Tyler Kroft – Rutgers – Junior – 6-5, 245 – 4.67
Kroft is an underrated prospect that is one of the more well-rounded tight ends in the 2015 draft class. The Rutgers product has great athleticism to go along with his prototypical tight end size. Kroft ran a 4.67 40-yard dash at his pro day and bench pressed 17 reps at the NFL Scouting Combine. Kroft is one of the top blockers in the draft class, showing excellent footwork and ability to sustain his block to the whistle. He’s also a good receiver that displays good route-running ability and athleticism to get open at the next level. Kroft looks he could be a nice value pick on Day 3 of the draft.
8. TE Rory Anderson – South Carolina– Junior – 6-5, 244 – 4.70
Anderson has battled through injuries over the course of his career at South Carolina, starting in just 19 games over the last four seasons. However, the South Carolina product is a well-rounded tight end that has the potential to become a valuable piece of an NFL offense. Anderson plays with great technique as a blocker and has the necessary athleticism and size to be a down-field threat as a receiver at the NFL level. If he can find a way to stay healthy, Anderson could be an excellent find for a team in the fifth or sixth rounds.
9. TE Jesse James – Penn State – Junior – 6-7, 261 – 4.83
James is a huge tight end (6-7, 261) that set the Penn State record for most career touchdowns by a tight end. The former Nittany Lion is a legitimate threat in the red zone, as he can go up and over defenders and win in contested situations. James performed very well at the combine, but that athleticism doesn’t seem to show up on tape as much as it should. The Penn State product doesn’t show much explosiveness in his route-running and has limited straight-line speed. James looks like a fifth- or sixth-round pick because of his lack of game speed and athletcism.
10. Nick Boyle – Delaware – Senior – 6-4, 268 – 5.04
Boyle put himself on the map at the Senior Bowl in January, where he stood out as a receiver and blocker throughout the week. The Delaware product ran a weak 40-yard dash time of 5.04, but he was a top performer in the 20-yard shuttle and the 60-yard shuttle at the Combine. Boyle won’t be a killer down-field threat at the next level, but he can be a viable option in the short and intermediate areas of the field. He should come off the board in the sixth round.
BEST OF THE REST 11. Blake Bell – Oklahoma – Senior – 6-5, 255 – 4.80
Bell, who switched positions from quarterback to tight end in 2014, brings a good deal of upside to the table as a potential dual-threat at the tight end position. Bell didn’t look out of place as a tight end at the East-West Shrine practices and improved throughout the season. He’s extremely raw, but he has the physical tools necessary to play as an in-line tight end at the NFL level. A team could take a flier on Bell near the end of the draft in hopes of tapping into some of that potential.
12. Wes Saxton – South Alabama – Senior – 6-3, 248 – 4.65
Saxton is a dangerous receiving threat at the tight end position that oozes of raw athleticism. The South Alabama product ran a 4.65 in the 40-yard dash, recorded a vertical leap of 36 inches and also recorded a 119-inch broad jump at the Combine in February. Saxton has great hands and is too fast for linebackers too cover one-on-one. He’s a potential match-up problem in the NFL. However, Saxton offers little to no value as a blocker and is a raw receiver, which is why his stock isn’t up there with the top tight ends in the class.
13. Jean Sifrin – Massachusetts – Junior – 6-5, 245 – 4.84
Sifrin is a play-making receiving tight end that will be a 27-year old rookie. The 6-foot-5 tight end stopped playing football to raise his son and returned to the game with the University of Massachusetts in 2014 where he caught 42 passes for 642 yards and six touchdowns. The former basketball player is a tremendous receiving threat that can work the seam and make plays the red zone with his massive catch radius. As a 27-year old rookie that is very raw, it’s hard to imagine that Sifrin gets drafted any higher than the sixth round, but the play-making tight end would be a great pickup as a free agent once the draft concludes.
14. McCoyle Pruitt – Southern Illinois – Senior – 6-2, 251 – 4.58
Pruitt is a quality receiving tight end with excellent hands and production. The former Saluki caught 81 passes for 861 yards and 13 scores as a senior in 2014. He proved to be a reliable receiving threat in all areas of the field and also showed some ability as an in-line blocker. Pruitt’s size and lack of effort will be concerns for scouts and talent evaluators, and will likely put his draft stock in the sixth- or seventh-round range.
15. Gerald Christian – Louisville – Senior – 6-3, 244 – 4.87
Christian is an ideal candidate for a role as an H-back and move tight end at the next level. The former Cardinal is a dual-threat tight end that is a reliable receiver and blocker. Christian’s game lacks elite qualities, but he is a solid all-around tight end that should stick in the league as a number two tight end. He’s slated to be a late-round pick or an undrafted free agent.