Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL draft: Assessing Bucs at receiver/tight end

Breaking down the Bucs

Who's back: Receivers Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams, Tiquan Underwood and Chris Owusu; tight ends Luke Stocker, Nate Byham, Danny Noble. Jackson and Williams formed a great 1-2 punch, providing numerous big plays for an offense that set franchise records. Underwood (28 receptions, 428 yards) provided a lift as a slot receiver but will be challenged in the fall. Stocker, provided the Bucs don't draft stiff competition, could have a chance to become the starter and play a bigger role in the passing game. But he has to stay healthy. Byham and Noble are younger players who will compete for roster spots.

Who they picked up: Receivers Kevin Ogletree, Steve Smith and Eric Page; tight ends Tom Crabtree and Zach Miller. Ogletree (free agent) is an option in the slot and a viable return man. Smith (free agent) has to prove he has something left after two largely unproductive seasons. Page (free agent) is a project. Crabtree (free agent), a proficient blocker, wants to prove his worth in the passing game. And Miller's last productive season was 2010, when he caught 20 passes for the Jaguars.

Who left: Receiver Arrelious Benn was traded to the Eagles last month after three seasons of injuries and disappointing results. Receiver Sammie Stroughter finished the season on injured reserve (again) and won't be re-signed. Tight end Dallas Clark had some impact, catching 47 passes for 435 yards last season. But he apparently is interested in playing elsewhere (perhaps Denver).

Top five in the draft

. WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia, 5-9, 174 — Significantly undersized but has game-changing poten­tial and could become a fixture in the slot for a team such as the Bucs, who drafted two West Virginia players in 2012.

TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame, 6-6, 250 — Has reliable hands and provides a nice-sized target in traffic; the top tight end available.

WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee, 6-2, 216 — The top deep threat in the draft; gained 16.9 yards per reception in 2012.

WR Robert Woods, USC, 6-1, 201 — Extremely productive receiver, catching 252 passes over three seasons, including 111 in 2011.

WR Keenan Allen, Cal, 6-2, 206 — Projects to be a solid, productive slot receiver, something he did with regularity in college.

Stephen F. Holder, Times staff writer

Overall draft assessment

R eceiver is one of the Bucs' strongest units, especially with Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. But depth is a minor concern. West Virginia's Tavon Austin is on the Bucs' radar, but he seems to be a bit of a luxury choice for a team with numerous offensive weapons but many weaknesses on defense. Tight end will be a focus as the Bucs try to determine if Luke Stocker is sufficient. Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert wouldn't be a reach in the first round .

 
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