Two years ago, Cameron Brate was clinging to the Buccaneers roster. Now, he is being called a "secret superstar."
Over at Pro Football Focus, Sam Monson identified one player on each NFL team who has received little national recognition relative to his high production, and the tight end was his pick for the Bucs.
"Brate burst into the scene in 2016, more than doubling his snap count from the year before and dramatically eclipsing his receiving marks as well," Monson said. "He caught eight touchdowns from 78 targets and dropped just two of those targets for a drop rate of 3.4 percent of catchable balls, the fifth-best mark among TEs in the league."
Brate, who missed the final game of the season because of a back injury, became Jameis Winston's most reliable target not named Mike Evans. His 57 catches, 660 receiving yards and eight touchdowns all were second-most on the team. His touchdown total tied the Bucs record by a tight end, which was set by Jimmie Giles in 1985.
Past Tampa Bay "secret superstars" (no PFF list in 2016)
• Danny Lansanah, linebacker (2015): "The arrival of Lovie Smith changed everything for Lansanah. He quickly took to the Tampa 2-based scheme, and showed the versatility to play all three linebacker roles."
• Demar Dotson, offensive tackle (2014): "Dotson played on a Tampa Bay line that conceded 47 sacks on the season (sixth-most) and had running backs run behind it to the tune of 3.8 yards per carry (25th), but he can't help the talent surrounding him."
• Leonard Johnson, cornerback (2013): "It would be a bit of a stretch to say that Johnson was a true superstar last season. Aside from the large responsibilities he had, he also made mistakes that will cost him in the future if he doesn't correct them."
• Michael Bennett, defensive end (2012): "He was one of the very few bright spots on a defense that needs to get better in order for Tampa Bay to be competitive in 2012."
• Quincy Black, linebacker (2011): "The emergence of Quincy Black in 2010 was a big part of the Buccaneers defensive success, and if they are able to bring him back, he'll be part of a defense that continues to rise. If he leaves Tampa Bay, he'll boost a 4-3 defense elsewhere."
Contact Thomas Bassinger at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @tometrics.