Offenses in the NFL are changing, and one of the biggest changes is the use of the tight end in offense. General managers and coaches are seeking out athletic, dynamic receivers with size and strength, and then taking advantage of the matchup against safeties and linebackers. The statistics show just how drastic the increase in use of tight ends has been. Over the past two seasons, the NFL has seen at least 20 tight ends reel in over 500 rushing yards. Since 2007, a span of 5 seasons, there have been eleven 1,000 yard seasons by tight ends, compared to only 17 in the 30 years between 1976-2006.
So where do the Buccaneers stand in all of this? As is the case with most Buccaneers’ offensive history, it’s not pretty. The Buccaneers have only had one player eclipse 800 receiving yards from the tight end position, and that was Kellen Winslow Jr. in 2009. In fact, Winslow has 3 of the top 5 yardage seasons in Buccaneers history. Other than Winslow, there have only been 7 500 yard receiving seasons from Tampa Bay tight ends, and only 7 times in franchise history has a tight end scored 5 or more times. In other words…
The Buccaneers need a tight end. Josh Freeman’s favorite target in his best pre-2012 performances was Kellen Winslow, and while it’s clear he had no role under Greg Schiano, the Buccaneers could definitely use someone to fill his role in the offense. So who is available this offseason? The top two prospects at tight end are certainly proven talents, as Zach Ertz and Tyler Eifert are big, and fairly athletic. However, they’re both likely gone in the first 40 picks, and also lack a true athletic advantage over NFL defenders. Both are likely to be very good NFL players, but the tight end I believe the Buccaneers should focus on played his college ball a bit closer to home.
Jordan Reed of the Florida Gators might be remembered more for his fumble at the end of the Florida-Georgia game in 2012 than anything else he did in his time in Gainesville. But don’t let one moment of extra-effort blind you from what Reed did, and what he’s capable of. Reed is a good step or two quicker than either Ertz or Eifert, and while he does give up some size to the other tight end prospects, he’s a much more compelling addition to the passing game. He was used in multiple positions by the Gators, and has tallied at least 3 scores passing, rushing, and receiving over his collegiate career.
Reed has all the moves and skills of a wide receiver when acting as a pass catcher. He leaves linebackers in the dust, and despite being a bit smaller than the average modern tight end, he still holds a size advantage over safeties. He’s able to turn simple catches into much more, and would add a very viable option as a slot receiver in passing situation. He’ll need to improve his blocking somewhat, but the Buccaneers have Luke Stocker who will be able to handle the more important blocking assignments on designed running plays.
Reed is currently projected as a 3rd round pick. He compares to fellow Gator Aaron Hernandez, according to his CBS Sports Draft Profile. If he’s on the board when the Buccaneers choose their 3rd round selection, I will be rooting for Reed to come to Tampa Bay. So what about you, Bucs fans? What college tight end do you want to see the Buccaneers select in 2013? Or do you have a free agent tight end you think the Buccaneers should consider? Let us know in the comments below.
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