The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have added two massive pieces to their offense on the first two days of the draft, adding receiver Mike Evans and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Four notes on what this means for the team's offensive strategy going forward.
The Buccaneers love huge pass-catchers
Love them. Take a look at this chart:
|Wide receivers||Tight ends|
|Mike Evans||6'5"||231 lbs.||Steve Maneri||6'7"||280 lbs.|
|Vincent Jackson||6'5"||230 lbs.||Luke Stocker||6'6"||253 lbs.|
|Tommy Streeter||6'5"||215 lbs.||Austin Seferian-Jenkins||6'5"||262 lbs.|
|Louis Murphy||6'2"||200 lbs.||Tom Crabtree||6'4"||245 lbs.|
|Russell Shepard||6'1"||195 lbs.||Timothy Wright||6'4"||220 lbs.|
|Chris Owusu||6'0"||196 lbs.||Brandon Myers||6'3"||256 lbs.|
|Lavelle Hawkins||5'11"||194 lbs.||Josh Baker||6'3"||244 lbs.|
|Eric Page||5'10"||180 lbs.|
|Skye Dawson||5'9"||183 lbs.|
Speed in space? Nope. Just bleedin' huge players, or the Dunk-A-Neers, as Jason Licht told Rick Stroud. Not that these guys lack speed, mind you, but when Jeff Tedford described his offense we envisioned small, jitterbug players and pure speedsters like DeSean Jackson. Instead we have huge players who will do damage because, well, they're big. And big guys are tough to defend.
It's not just body size, either. Austin-Seferian Jenkins has 33 3/4" arms and 9 3/4" hands, while Mike Evans comes up with 35 1/8" arms and 9 5/8" hands. That's massive. For comparison's sake, Rob Gronkowski, the master of the contested catch, has 34 1/4" arms and 10 3/4" hands.
Contested catches rule
Vincent Jackson, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Mike Evans all excel at using their body to shield defenders, and making contested catches with their long arms and strong hands. They have huge catching radii. You can essentially throw up jump balls to them, and they'll come down with those catches.
All of this will help Josh McCown, Mike Glennon or any other quarterback succeed. It's a strategy to make life easy for the man under center, and to (try to) make sure that the offense can still function well without an elite quarterback. Receivers like this don't require pinpoint accuracy, outstanding anticipation or an excellent understanding of NFL defenses. They mostly require quarterbacks who will pull the trigger on downfield throws and contested catches.
It's all about the running game
This is about more than just contested catches, though. This is about run-blocking and versatility, too. One of the least talked-about traits of Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans is their prowess as physical run blockers. That comes with the size, of course. Austin Seferian-Jenkins is no different, and he's notable because he's perhaps the only tight end in this draft who showed the ability to both block and be a receiver at a high level in college.
The Bucs have stated repeatedly that they want to build their offense around the running game, and excellent run-blockers will help there. More than that, they'll allow the Bucs to do some interesting and versatile things with their formations and personnel groupings. Given their versatile tight ends and huge receivers they could line up in a 3-tight end look and a five-wide look with the same personnel, and run an effective offense from either formation.
That's a powerful weapon which will help both the running game and the passing game.
A quick note on Tim Wright
Will Tim Wright now move to receiver? I strongly doubt it, but this is more or less the wrong question to ask. Tim Wright lined up at tight end last year, but he also lined up as a receiver a lot. He still blocked (ineffectually), but he was effectively a large wide receiver who was running against safeties and linebackers, while other players were run-blockers. On passing downs, he simply lined up as if he were a slot receiver. That's similar to the roles most receiving tight ends play, with the exception of an elite few like Vernon Davis and Rob Gronkowski.
I would expect Wright to continue to operate in that role, while Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Brandon Myers should be more two-dimensional players who can both run-block and act as pass-catchers. In today's NFL, it makes more sense to think about players in terms of their roles on offense. Tim Wright will never be asked to be a predominant blocker, because he simply doesn't have the size to consistently block linebackers. If that means you call him a wide receiver, I won't argue against that. But what you call him is a lot less important than what he'll do -- and that shouldn't change going forward.