Wide Receivers (6)- Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin, Adam Humphries, Justin Watson, Jesus “Bobo” Wilson
Even with the tight ends aside (we’ll get to them shortly), Jameis Winston has a ton of options at his disposal. The lack of a consistent running game somewhat held back the passing game in 2017. This year, though, that should change. Mike Evans, fresh off his big contract extension, can be counted on for another big year. Behind him, there’s a lot of depth.
DeSean Jackson was fairly disappointing in his first year as a Buc, mostly because Dirk Koetter didn’t seem to wholly figure out how to use him. He and Winston never seemed to get on the same page with the deep ball, but there weren’t many adjustments made. When Jackson gets in space, he can be dangerous. In 2018, there needs to be more of the short slants that allow him to find space. The expectations for Jackson are higher this year, and the veteran should be able to follow through.
Chris Godwin had an excellent rookie season, despite the fact that it seemed like he was just being eased into the NFL. He is the future No. 2 guy for Tampa Bay and that could mean even more targets and production this year. Adam Humphries is back as well, serving as a solid slot receiver that complements the rest of the group well.
Beyond the first four, it gets interesting. Fifth round pick Justin Watson, a Penn product, has the build (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) to be a receiver in the NFL. He will need to show that he can shake off coverage at the line of scrimmage and hold his own against professional corners, but if he can do that, he’ll find himself on the team. And, for reasons that will become clear in the next slide, there could also be room on the roster for Bobo Wilson, who gained valuable experience on offense last year and could be a candidate to play special teams in 2018.
Tight Ends (4)- O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, Antony Auclair, Donnie Ernsberger
When the Bucs drafted O.J. Howard in the first round of the 2017 draft, we knew they would run plenty of two tight end sets. In doing so, the team got great production from its top two guys. Cameron Brate caught 48 passes for 591 yards and six scores, while Howard added six touchdowns of his own on 26 catches and 432 yards. That combination is deadly. We should see more of the same this year, with Howard getting even more looks in his second season.
Tampa Bay was high on Antony Auclair last offseason and it was clear why. He eventually found some playing time, catching both of his targets for a total of 25 yards. His build and physicality both as a blocker and receiver will help his case. The fact that the coaching staff appears to be invested in him is a plus as well. He has some competition, but as of now, he should be able to stick on the roster.
Alan Cross is another guy that has been productive for the Bucs in the past. However, he could be close to the end of his time in Tampa. The team signed Western Michigan’s Donnie Ernsberger as an undrafted free agent over the weekend. His ability as a tight end is solid, but almost secondary to his projected role. Tampa Bay has gone without a fullback for a couple of years now, but given his size, he could work well in that role. His designation by NFL.com as a priority undrafted free agent makes it clear that there is something there. It’s no sure thing, of course, but he could be a guy that sneaks onto the roster out of training camp.