3 Buccaneers players who cannot afford to regress in 2023

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Cade Otton, TE

It might seem a little unfair to call out Cade Otton, especially after being one of the lone bright spots on a terrible Buccaneers offense last year. That last clarifier does a lot of work in explaining why Otton can't afford to regress, though, as he still has a lot to prove before he's anointed the obvious starter of the future.

Otton was great last year, but he wasn't so good that experts weren't mocking tight ends to the Bucs in the draft this year. Michael Mayer was a popular pick for the Bucs in early mocks, with Dalton Kincaid even getting some consideration depending on how the board came together.

It wasn't just the mocks that suggested the Bucs might want to look at a tight end, as the front office used a pick on Purdue's Payne Durham. It was a Day 3 pick and Durham seems to be more of a blocking-first tight end, but the team still used a pick at the position.

To be fair, Mayer was on the board when the Bucs went on the clock at No. 19 overall and they went in a different direction. How much of that was a commitment to Otton and how much Calijah Kancey was a better prospect is up for debate. What isn't, however, is the fact that Otton can't afford to have a season where he takes a step back.

Otton seems to be the starter, which means he'll have an opportunity to prove himself. There doesn't seem to be much to suggest he won't be replaced as early as next season if he doesn't give the Bucs a reason to keep him around. Tight End is one of the most uncertain positions on a Bucs roster full of uncertainty, and Otton must take full advantage of every opportunity he's given to prove himself.