Buccaneers: Full Position Breakdown and Depth Chart Analysis at Tight End
All of a sudden, tight end is a position of strength for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Selecting former Washington TE Austin-Seferian Jenkins in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft gave the Bucs an array of big-bodied pass catchers to pick from this season.
The Bucs already had Tim Wright and Brandon Myers on the roster as well as holdover Luke Stocker. The addition of Seferian-Jenkins is a clear indication that the Bucs want to move the ball with the tight end position in 2014.
While the ability to catch the ball will be the key factor to each player's spot on the roster, the Bucs' tight ends may also distinguish themselves if they can prove reliable blockers. Though none of the Bucs' current tight ends is known for blocking, diversity in their game might be the one thing that sets one of them apart from the others.
Here is a breakdown of the Bucs' current crop of tight ends and where they look to fall on the depth chart.
Despite being a rookie, second-round draft pick, Austin Seferian-Jenkins is the most complete tight end on the Bucs' roster.
At 6'5", 260 pounds, the former Washington tight end brings the ideal measurements for a No. 1 tight end.
Seferian-Jenkins was very productive in college, catching 146 passes for 1838 yards and 21 touchdowns over his three years at Washington. He also improved as a blocker down the stretch.
The Bucs didn't spend a second-round pick on Seferian-Jenkins for him to ride the pine behind another player for a year. He should be the starter opening day.
The only things standing in his way are his health and his unfamiliarity with the Bucs' playbook.
At this year's NFL combine, doctors discovered Seferian-Jenkins had a stress fracture in his foot. While he had surgery in February to stabilize his foot, he hasn't played much football since, and his recovery could affect him in training camp and during the season.
Seferian-Jenkins also missed out on most of the Bucs' offseason workouts while he was taking classes at the University of Washington. Taking his studies seriously is nothing but admirable, but it has a real affect on his ability to stay up to speed on the installation of the Bucs' new offense.
The Bucs should hope that their second round pick's setbacks will inevitably be temporary hindrances and that Seferian-Jenkins will be as, if not more, effective in the NFL than he was in college.
It's a little surprising the Bucs drafted a tight end in the second round this year considering the breakout season Tim Wright had last year.
Despite starting only eight games, Wright caught 54 passes for 571 yards and five scores. His rapport with quarterback Mike Glennon was undeniable as Wright became a security blanket on third down.
Perhaps the biggest reason the Bucs didn't feel safe with Wright as the starter moving forward was his shabby blocking ability. When called upon to be an in-line blocker, Wright was man-handled by defenders and had a better chance of slowing down time than a pass rusher.
At 220 pounds, Wright is big for a wide receiver and plays faster than most tight ends. His athleticism makes him a real threat in the passing game, but his blocking, or lack thereof, keeps him from claiming the top spot of the tight end depth chart.
Former Giants TE Brandon Myers could be the opening-day starter at tight end and still prove extraneous by the end of the season.
Myers is the most experienced tight end on the roster. He caught 47 passes for 522 yards and four scores while in New York last season and notched 79 receptions for 806 yards and four touchdowns for the Oakland Raiders in 2012.
Before the Bucs drafted Seferian-Jenkins, it appeared as though Wright and Myers would vie for the starting spot. Both are primarily receiving targets as neither are any good as blockers.
This could prove to be Myers' undoing. Despite playing on a Giants team that has produced big numbers from the tight end position, Myers put up mediocre numbers and didn't provide much of a spark offensively.
Myers would have had trouble keeping Wright at bay. It may prove impossible to stay atop of both Wright and Seferian-Jenkins on the depth chart.
Time has finally run out for Luke Stocker.
Afforded opportunity upon opportunity, Stocker simply has not risen to the challenge. In 32 games over three seasons, Stocker has caught only 28 passes for 257 yards and one touchdown.
Obviously, Stocker brings very little to the passing game. He's a decent blocker, but that's not why the Bucs spent a fourth round pick on him in 2011.
It's likely the end of the road for Stocker unless he displays something in training camp that he probably should have revealed over the past three seasons.
Most folks don't go to Harvard to be an NFL prospect. Rookie TE Cameron Brate could be an exception if he makes an impression on the Bucs.
Brate is an impressive athlete at 6'5" and 245 pounds. He ran a 4.77 40 and pressed 225 pounds for 24 reps at his pro day workout. In his career at Harvard, Brate recorded 91 receptions for 1,381 yards and 18 touchdowns.
The biggest reason to keep an eye on Brate is the impression he's made on Lovie Smith. According to Roy Cummings of The Tampa Tribune, Smith said of Brate:
When you’re coming in behind the 8-ball, you’ve got to make the coaches take notice, and he’s done that, catching the ball and knowing what to do.
Intelligence is a huge factor to success in an NFL offense. Obviously Brate is a smart guy, but he also brings a physical component that could land him on the Bucs' roster or the practice squad at the very least.