Tampa Bay, for all their team needs, has two admirable strengths heading into this year’s draft.
It can be argued which position of the two is stronger, so we’ll start by addressing one of those today.
The Buccaneers are set at Tight End, but even stating that, we’ll look at several prospects available in later rounds that might be options as we head towards late April.
Cameron Brate was an absolute steal several years ago. This Ivy-Leaguer, coming from the University of Harvard, a storied program, produced one of the most underrated Tight End’s in recent years. The Bucs hit pay dirt with Brate and he became a “go to” guy very early in his career.
We have a very divisive draft last year as many Tampa Bay locals were clamoring for the Bucs to take Dalvin Cook, the running back and former teammate of QB Jameis Winston, from Florida State, with their first round pick.
Tampa instead opted to pick up Alabama Tight End O.J. Howard and there seemed to be no middle ground as it relates to fan reaction.
Personally, I found it to be a solid choice, but my opinion and a buck fifty will get you a cup of coffee.
Pairing Howard and Brate with the arm of Jameis Winston allows for some very solid dual threat packages as well as two guys who can block as needed when you are worried about your Quarterback taking hits.
We’ll address the offensive line in the weeks to come, but rest assurred Bucs fans, you are set for several years at the position as both men are not only on rookie deals, but they’ll continue to hone their craft and be valuable assets to the program.
As we address key needs in early rounds, we’ll look at some Day 3 guys that can add value to our storied franchise if coaches and scouts opt to go that route.
Dallas Goedert (TE, South Dakota State, 6’4, 260 lbs.)
Dallas is an enigmatic prospect. He’s incredibly talented, but his draft stock is legitimately all over the board. Some scouts have him going as early as the second round, some have him being looked at as an early day 3 pick.
He attended a small school, but this is a University that has produced some very solid talent over the past few years and Goedert really made his presence felt, helping his team to great success during his tenure.
As a senior, he had 72 receptions for over 1100 yards and he pulled in seven touchdowns to add to those impressive numbers. His junior year was equally as impressive as he caught 92 passes for just shy of 1300 yards and eleven touchdowns.
There have been rumblings about potential medical concerns, but as we head into the combine in short order, we’ll see if that tree bears fruit or if that is just precautionary speculation.
Goedert is one of the best prospects at the position, and if he does in fact fall into the later rounds, Tampa can certainly turn his card in to add to an already impressive roster of tight ends.
Ian Thomas (TE, Indiana, 6’3, 256 lbs.)
Thomas is going to be an incredible value for an NFL program in the later rounds of the draft. Projected to be another early day three guy, somewhere between the fourth and sixth round specifically, he has the potential to become something special.
During his 2017 campaign, he pulled in 25 receptions for 376 yards and five touchdowns.
While those numbers don’t exactly blow your socks off, he wasn’t always the focus of their offensive scheme, but when asked to deliver, he did just that.
Scouts have spoken about his need to develop as a blocker, as with crucial needs on the offensive line, that is something that a Tampa Bay tight end must do, and they must do well until the line gels together.
Thomas, if drafted, can spend time on the practice squad if they opt not to dress him on Sundays and perhaps you’ll add another weapon to the solid core for years to come.
We’ll see how Thomas does at the combine as his Senior Bowl week was met with mixed reactions.
Ryan Izzo (TE, Florida State, 6’5, 245 lbs.)
Another talent from within the state of Florida here, Izzo won’t dazzle you with down the field production, but he is heralded by many as a true blocking tight end.
When Jameis Winston needs to hold the ball for several crucial seconds to find a down field receiver, having a guy like Izzo in to chip away at a forthcoming pass rush will be paramount to offensive success.
In a division with so many studs coming off the end or up the middle, keeping your quarterback upright is just as important, if not more so, than making the grab for a five yard pickup.
Izzo did have 20 receptions at Florida State for 317 yards and three scores. Many have stated that Ryan should have remained at Florida State for his senior year, but he instead opted to come out and declare for the draft, hoping that a program will draft him to fill a need.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility to draft Izzo in the sixth or seventh round, or perhaps even as an undrafted rookie.
The draft is all about finding value just as it’s about filling a key need as soon as possible.
As mentioned earlier, the Bucs are certainly not hurting at tight end at the moment, but if they can add a solid piece to a stable roster of talent, then why not do it?
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