Many have debated the importance or necessity of the Bucs drafting a tight end in next week’s draft. The Buccaneers have needs elsewhere on the roster — like the ever popular cornerback and defensive line positions — so some may frown upon Tampa Bay taking a tight end in the first round. Although some may not agree with the decision, it should also not be a surprise if they select one of the top two tight ends on the board.
The Buccaneers offense carries similarities to what the New York Giants run under the offensive play calling of Kevin Gilbride. Since Gilbride started calling plays in 2007, the Giants have had decent tight ends like Kevin Boss, Jeremy Shockey, and Martellus Bennet.
The following is how they have done statistically while with the Giants.
Jeremy Shockey (2007): 57 receptions, 619 yards, three touchdowns
Kevin Boss (2008 – 2010 average): 37 receptions, 494 yards, 16 touchdowns in three seasons
Jake Ballard (2011): 38 receptions, 604 yards, four touchdowns
Martellus Bennett (2012): 55 receptions, 626 yards, five touchdowns
Now, for comparison, here are the numbers for the Bucs tight ends in 2012.
Dallas Clark: 47 receptions, 435 yards, four touchdowns
Luke Stocker: 16 receptions, 165 yards, one touchdown
The numbers are similar. But the difference is how they were obtained.
On several occasions, Clark had issues getting open. That problem limited quarterback Josh Freeman to two, maybe three other options depending on the play called. The issue resulted in miscues and inconsistencies.
To break it down a bit further, Josh Freeman targeted the tight end position in nearly 20% (19.3%) of his pass attempts in 2012. Tight ends were targeted by Eli Manning at virtually the same rate of 20.3%.
The team does have Stocker, Tom Crabtree, and Drake Dunsmore on the roster. But the uncertainty that surrounds Crabtree on being a legitimate starter, Dunsmore spending 2012 on the practice squad, and Stocker not showing enough this past season under Sullivan’s offense, the Bucs may still be looking to add more to the position.
And if 20% of Josh Freeman’s passing game is going to be targeted to a tight end — which ranks in the top half of the league, then drafting one may be something the Bucs have high on their boards.