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NCAA Football: College Football Playoff Semifinal-Oklahoma vs Louisiana State Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Draft Profile: Tight End, Thaddeus Moss

Tampa Bay appears set at tight end, but could it look toward the future by drafting one this year?

Considering he was a pretty significant part of LSU’s undefeated run to the College Football Playoff National Championship last season (plus the small fact that he’s the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy Moss), Thaddeus Moss is one of the bigger names available at the tight end position in this year’s NFL Draft. Despite being pretty stacked at the tight end position, could the Buccaneers look toward the future now?

Thaddeus Moss’ College Career

Prior to 2019, Moss didn’t have much to show for his college football career. He started it at North Carolina State in 2016, catching six passes for 49 yards and a touchdown. He then decided to transfer to LSU, which led to him sitting out the 2017 season due to the NCAA’s transfer rules. He then missed the 2018 season with a foot injury, but was given a medical redshirt.

Then came 2019, his redshirt junior season. The Tigers, led by Joe Burrow, ran through everyone on their schedule and won the national championship. On their way there, Moss had himself a strong season. In 12 games, he caught 47 passes for 570 yards and four touchdowns. On a team that featured breakout receivers Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson and Terrace Marshall Jr., it could’ve been easy for Moss to get lost in the shuffle. However, he didn’t.

He especially didn’t get lost in the shuffle in the LSU’s 63-28 playoff semifinal win over Oklahoma, as he caught four passes for 99 yards and a touchdown. He followed that effort up with a two-touchdown performance in the 42-25 title game win over Clemson. Incidentally, those two touchdown receptions helped Burrow tie and break the NCAA’s single-season passing touchdown record. It was a dream ending to his big season, and he made it the end of his college football career by declaring for the NFL Draft on Jan. 17:

Pros

Moss is an interesting prospect in that he really didn’t play much college football in the last four years. He played five games for North Carolina State in 2016 before missing back-to-back seasons. He wrapped up his collegiate career by playing in 12 games for LSU during the 2019 season. So, there really isn’t a ton of film on the 6-foot-2, 250-pound tight end.

But in the film that is out there, Moss showed some intriguing flashes of his talent. During the 2019 season, he showed a lot of big-play ability. In that semifinal game over Oklahoma, he caught just four passes, but averaged 24.8 yards per catch. Granted, a 62-yard touchdown did help that average, but he finished that big play with a pretty nice stiff arm:

So, Moss clearly has good hands, but his run-blocking ability is certainly notable as well. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein notes in his draft profile that “tape study shows he’s actually more skilled as a run blocker.” In the “strengths” section of the profile, Zierlein raves about Moss as a run blocker. He says Moss is “willing to get grimy as a run blocker” and that he “treats run blocking with conviction.” He went on to say good things about his technique, including the fact that he does well to adjust to moving targets in the second level of the defense.

But the last line of the “strengths” section seems to state where Moss is as a prospect: “plenty of room to grow and get better as a player.” His run blocking will get him some looks, as will his hands, but there are some factors (which we’ll get to next) that will drop him into the middle rounds of the draft.

Cons

Zierlein projects Moss, at least off the bat, as a TE3 in the NFL. His blocking ability, dependability on underneath routes and big-play potential will certainly help him find a place on an NFL roster. But he’s not a high-end, big-impact prospect largely due in large part to displaying middle-of-the-road athleticism and speed that isn’t anything extraordinary. His route-running could see some improvements as well. But a TE3 role could suit him pretty well early in his career, as it would give him a chance to develop the parts of his game that still need some work.

Why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Need Thaddeus Moss

“Need” is a strong word here. If you look at the current tight end group on Tampa Bay’s roster, you wouldn’t say they “need” to add Moss. But drafting a tight end in April could be a smart move for the future. Let’s break that down. Cameron Brate just restructured his deal on Sunday to stick around for 2020. O.J. Howard is obviously still under contract for this year as well.

As for Tampa Bay’s depth, Antony Auclair and Tanner Hudson are both set to return in 2020, albeit on low-end deals. Per Spotrac, Auclair has $800,000 in dead cap for 2020, while Hudson is on an exclusive rights contract.

So, how would Moss figure in this year, if the Bucs did decide to draft him? Well, considering where he’d be selected, he would likely take priority over Hudson. Maybe Auclair, too, but the coaches seem to like what he offers as a blocker—and for good reason. So, could the Bucs carry four tight ends? It depends on how the rest of the roster shakes out, as well as how high the coaches are on Moss’ skillset as a blocker. If they think he’s up to par, maybe they slot Auclair to the TE4 role or simply eat his dead money completely.

The Bucs might have some tough 2020 decisions to make if they draft Moss, but they might be happy to do so considering what the selection would allow them to do going forward. Brate has no dead money left, so if they want to, the Bucs can move on from him after this season. A decision on Howard’s fifth-year option hasn’t been made yet, so as of now, he’s set to be a free agent after this year. And of course, Auclair and Hudson are on one-year deals right now.

So, drafting Moss gives Tampa Bay some options. Perhaps the team goes into 2021 with Howard on his fifth-year option and Moss stepping into a bigger role as the TE2 in his second year, meaning Brate is gone. On the flip side, perhaps Howard walks and the Bucs stick with Brate and Moss as their two tight ends. Another option would be keeping both Howard and Brate for another year while letting Moss take over the TE3 role from Auclair. The point is, there would be some interesting 2021 options for Tampa Bay’s front office to consider if it decided to draft Moss in 2020. But of course the unspoken disclaimer: this alllll depends on how the staff views Moss right now and what they see for his NFL future.

Should It Happen?

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff National Championship-Clemson vs Louisiana State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Selfishly, as a lifelong LSU fan, the idea of the Bucs drafting Thaddeus Moss is one that I like. But based on what the roster looks like right now—plus the fact that the team is going all in by signing Tom Brady to a two-year deal—perhaps the third- or fourth-round pick would be better spent on someone who could figure more heavily into the 2020 plans. But for the reasons I outlined above, this would be an interesting future-oriented move. Moss could contribute some in 2020, but the options he opens up for 2021 and beyond are worth considering.

So, now we leave it up to you, Bucs Nation. What do you think about the idea of Tampa Bay selecting Thaddeus Moss? Be sure to vote in the poll and discuss your thoughts in the comments down below!

Poll

How Do You Feel About Thaddeus Moss For The Bucs In The 2020 NFL Draft?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    Draft Him No Matter What
    (17 votes)
  • 6%
    Trade Back Candidate
    (11 votes)
  • 25%
    I Wouldn’t Mind It
    (41 votes)
  • 23%
    There Are Better Options
    (38 votes)
  • 32%
    Nope
    (52 votes)
159 votes total Vote Now
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