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Buccaneers have a Top-5 tight end group

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According to rankings of all 32 NFL groupings

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Carolina Panthers Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

There have been questions and even concerns over the future of tight ends O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate following the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ hiring of Bruce Arians and his staff. Noting the lack of prolific tight end performances in Arians’ history, some are worried the franchise may squander the ceiling and talent of two well-abled players.

But just how talented are they? According to recent SB Nation rankings, they’re Top-5 in the entire league.

According to Christian D’Andrea,

Howard is a mismatch creator who averaged nearly 12 yards per target last season and could be inching toward a true breakout in his third year in the league. Brate is still chasing his breakout 2016, but he remains a valued red zone target after tallying 20 touchdowns the past three seasons. They’ll each get more looks as part of a receiving lineup that features Mike Evans and little else.”

I think Chris Godwin might have something to say about the “little else” portion of that analysis, but nonetheless, what D’Andrea writes rings true.

Howard is a superstar in the making if he can find a way to stay healthy. The former Alabama star has played in 24 of a possible 32 games in his two-year career, and despite appearing in four fewer games in 2018 than he did in 2017 he eclipsed his previous reception and yard totals and came just one touchdown away from tying his rookie mark of six scoring plays.

The pace Howard was on prior to his season-ending injury in 2018 would have likely placed him near or in the Top-10 of NFL tight ends statistically.

Cameron Brate, on the other hand, has appeared in at least fourteen games every year since 2015 and has only missed one game in the last three seasons.

The 2016 performance referenced in the quote saw Bratre bring in 57-catches and 660-yards while scoring eight touchdowns. All career highs to this day.

Without a doubt, the tight end position has been one of focus in the Bucs offense in recent years. Just as it has been or has become with the four teams ranked ahead of them (Indianapolis Colts, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs).

Given Arians’ comments about his coaches scheming to roster strengths, there should be no reason Howard and Brate don’t continue to provide the Tampa Buccaneers with a tactical advantage as defenses are forced to truly cover sideline to sideline when facing this group.