There are more than a few Tampa Bay Buccaneers players who need to step up and carry their weight this season if the team is going to avoid a massive step backwards.
It's a tall task, as the odds are stacked against the Bucs landing on their feet as they prepare to enter the post-Tom Brady era. While the national media seems to be way down on the team, there's still enough talent on the roster to believe further regression can be avoided.
Guys like Mike Evans, Tristan Wirfs, Vita Vea, and Chris Godwin headline a top tier of talent filled with others like Antoine Winfield Jr., Jamel Deal, Lavonte David, and Ryan Jensen.
One of the most underrated aspects of the Bucs roster is its depth, which extends beyond top-heavy star power. Baker Mayfield is in Tampa Bay for a revenge tour, a handful of rookie are looking ot make a name for themselves, and a couple of second-year players are hoping to take the next step toward being valuable pieces of the future.
Unexpected Buccaneers player named as breakout candidate in 2023
NFL.com broke down the state of the team recently and made a few interesting observations. Aside from the typical bad joke and grasps at low-hanging fruit that has become typical of Bucs coverage at the national level, Adam Rank pointed toward a surprising candidate to breakout this upcoming season.
According to Rank, keep an eye on Cade Otton to take a massive leap forward in his second year with the team.
"I kind of like what I saw out of Otton last year. He had 65 targets and ended up scoring a pair of touchdowns. It might not seem like a lot of touchdowns, but that was as many as Julio Jones scored in 2022,” Rank wrote. ”Otton could be a like a better version of Cameron Brate, which isn't as headline-grabbing as saying you want to be like Gronk."
Otton is an interesting choice, if not a pretty deep cut prediction for a breakout player.
The stars certainly seem to be aligning for him to live up to this hype. He enters the season as TE1 after Cameron Brate was let go to help massage a $55 million salary cap situation, and showed some decent flashes last season with Tom Brady.
Of course, the biggest difference is that Brady is no longer in Tampa Bay but both of his potential quarterbacks this season are good news for his production. Young quarterbacks typically look for their tight end to bail them out, which is one of the reasons pudits were predicting Michael Mayer would be the BUcs draft choice back when it seemed like Kyle Trask might be the starter.
All signs point toward Baker Mayfield being the Bucs starter, though, which is fantastic news for Otton. Going back to his days at Oklahoma, Mayfield has loved throwing to his tight ends and his offenses have typically run through them. Back in 2021, Baker had the second-highest target rate in the league for throwing to tight ends and his production noticeably fell off when Carolina moved away from two and three tight end sets (which the Browns ran 405 times during Baker's final season with the team).
That seems like not only good news for Otton but guys like Ko Kieft and rookie Payne Durham. Otton is the guy in line to benefit the most, though, and Bakers tendencies to make tight ends the focal point of his offense plays into his potential as a surprise breakout candidate.