The offseason leads to fun questions like, who is the most underrated player on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster? According to Vincent Verhei of Football Outsiders, writing for ESPN, it’s fan-favorite tight end Cameron Brate.
With Austin Seferian-Jenkins often sidelined due to assorted bumps and bruises, the Buccaneers turned to the unknown, undrafted product from Harvard. Brate only saw 30 passes in 2015, but he still produced 23 catches, 288 yards and three touchdowns. On a per-target basis, he was one of the top five tight ends in Football Outsiders' DVOA. We'll see if he can match that success with what will likely be a bigger workload in 2016.
Brate had a pretty solid season, but I’m not sure I’d call him underrated. I might even call him overrated, at least in the eyes of some Bucs fans. Brate is a useful player, certainly. Someone who can reliably run some underneath routes and act as a bit of an outlet receiver. But we’re still talking about a relatively marginal tight end with very limited production and athleticism, one who also can’t block. Brate had 23 catches for 288 yards and three touchdowns in fourteen games last year — that’s okay production, but not something that should make you go "diamond in the rough", especially because his game film doesn’t really lend to that kind of evaluation.
That said, it wouldn’t surprise me if he had a much better season this year. Brandon Myers’ role on the team seems played out, Luke Stocker is never going to be a receiving weapon, and it remains to be seen whether Austin Seferian-Jenkins can stay healthy and bounce back. If he can’t, there’s a lot of room for Brate to resurface and take a bigger role.
On the other hand, there’s also a scenario where he almost becomes irrelevant, much like Tim Wright did after his outstanding rookie season. In this case, it involves fullback/H-back/tight end Dan Vitale stepping into the underneath tight end role, and outcompeting Brate on the fact that Vitale can be an effective blocker.