State of the Union: Part 4

Today we cover the Buccaneers tight ends. This should be one of the more stable units on the team next season, with only a few minor changes likely.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins

The Bucs’ 2014 second-round pick is well on his way to an “injury-prone” label. Seferian-Jenkins has yet to play more than nine games in a season since turning pro. Ankle and back problems landed him on injured reserve in 2014, costing him seven games his rookie year. This season he battled a major shoulder injury that robbed him nine games and four more starts.

The drafting of Mike Evans and Seferian-Jenkins in 2014 was meant to form a triumvirate of “Dunkaneers” with Vincent Jackson. That has not come to pass and not just because of injuries.

Seferian-Jenkins was supposed to be a third-down and red zone threat, but his hands haven’t been up to the task. In 2015, he completed 21 of his 39 targets, but he also dropped four of them per Sporting Charts. Completing just over 50 percent of his targets and dropping one out of every ten is not what the Bucs had in mind when they drafted him.

It’s too early to give up on the second-year tight end, but his third year will be critical. The Bucs need to see some dividends on their investment soon before they feel compelled to cut their losses.

Cameron Brate

Oh sure, like he went to Harvard.

Ivy League schools aren’t known for churning out successful NFL prospects, except maybe…

Long live the beard.

Anyways, 2015 was something of a coming-out party for Cameron Brate. After bouncing around the Bucs and Saints practice squads in 2014, the second-year tight end established himself as one of the more sure-handed receivers on Tampa Bay’s roster in 2015.

Per Sporting Charts, Brate came up with 23 of his 30 targets, dropping none. Nearly two-thirds of his receptions and half his targets went for first downs. He also caught four touchdown passes.

There is some consolation that even if Austin Seferian-Jenkins doesn’t pan out, the Bucs found a decent pass-catcher in Brate.

Luke Stocker

The survivor of 2011. The fourth-year tight end defied the odds and was the last member of the Bucs’ 2011 draft class to make the 2015 roster (Would you count Da’Quan Bowers? Me either).

What does Stocker possess that his 2011 draft peers didn’t? He’s pretty good at his job. He can block anywhere he lines up, whether he’s in-line or as a lead blocker. Versatility makes him valuable.

The Bucs have Stocker under contract for the next two years. It’s unlikely he’ll be going anywhere, not while he’s the only blocking tight end the Bucs have.

Brandon Myers

It became apparent down the stretch that seventh-year tight end Brandon Myers would be the odd man out if the Bucs were to trim the tight end ranks. Though he is the Bucs’ most experienced tight end, he may be their least valuable.

While healthy for the entire season, Myers ranked third in snaps played among the Bucs tight ends. According to Sporting Charts, Myers played 316 of the Bucs’ 1095 offensive snaps. Stocker played 485, Brate played 341 and Seferian-Jenkins played 219.

The current regime has more invested in Seferian-Jenkins, Brate was simply more effective in just a few more snaps, and none of the tight ends match Stocker’s utility. The Bucs also have undrafted rookie Tevin Coleman who finished the season on the main roster. While he’s proven nothing yet, his presence is certainly a challenge to Myers.

Myers is under contract next season, but his salary isn’t guaranteed according to Over the Cap. With no cap consequence to cutting him and better options available, Myers is looking at new job prospects next season.

With Seferian-Jenkins, Stocker and Brate locked up next season, there likely won’t be many big changes to the tight end position this offseason. There’s always the chance an undrafted free agent or tryout player could impress, but it’s unlikely anyone will unseat an incumbent.

The Too-Early Depth Chart prediction:

Austin Seferian-Jenkins

Luke Stocker

Cameron Brate

Next time we address the offensive line. It’s gonna be a doozy.

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