With Rob Gronkowski now retired (for real this time, we think) Cameron Brate is the penciled-in starter at tight end for the Bucs as of this writing. While this writer is perhaps admittedly a bigger fan than most when it comes to Brate thanks to his durability and availability coupled with his underrated ability as a receiver, it’s no secret that his blocking has left much to be desired.
Behind Brate are two rookies. The Buccaneers’ fourth-round pick Cade Otton out of the University of Washington, a school that’s become a factory of sorts for the Bucs in recent years, is getting the most pub due to his Gronk-like run-after-catch skills and being a natural receiver. He is also a pretty good blocker in his own right. Obviously this isn’t saying Otton will be Gronk, but the similarities are there from a skillset perspective.
With these two tight ends getting the glamour work with Tom Brady, another rookie will do the dirty work.
The Bucs also drafted tight end Ko Kieft Kieft out of Minnesota in the sixth round. Kieft is an absolute bowling ball of a tight end. He stands at 6’5″ and tips the scales at 265 pounds and is a throwback in every sense of the word.
Kieft’s biggest strength is his blocking. He’s been called a blocking specialist leading up to the draft, so it’s easy to see why the Buccaneers made him the second tight end they drafted. As it stands, it looks like Kieft can fill out the “Luke Stocker role” while Otton and Brate handle the majority of the receiving work, but that’s not to say Kieft isn’t a capable receiver when called upon either.
With new head coach Todd Bowles stating the Bucs will be running the ball more, and Byron Leftwich and Brady on board, Kieft’s skills as a blocker could pay off in dividends for Tampa Bay.
Now sure, it’s entirely plausible that Kieft could be on the outside-looking-in for the final 53-man roster, especially with the Bucs potentially shopping for another veteran at the position, but if they go to battle with these three tight ends, they’re in far from rough shape.
While a veteran with limited starting experience and two rookies may not seem ideal on the surface, with Brady anything is a possible, and it’s a tight end room makeup he’s found success with in the past anyway.
Ko Kieft may not be the dangerous receiving threat other tight ends are, but he doesn’t need to be. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted him to be himself, and his skillset is exactly what they needed, whether it’s at the forefront of people’s minds or not.