The Buccaneers face the biggest amount of turnover they’ve seen in some time when it comes to the tight end position.
Rob Gronkowski remains undecided about coming back, though he’s confirmed it will be with Tampa if he does, but even then this would certainly be his last go-around in Tampa. Cam Brate will likely play his last season as well with the team as his career winds down.
With O.J. Howard already gone, the Bucs need to inject some young potential into this spot of the roster. While it might be difficult to grab the top tight end talent, which figures to go in the top half of the second round this year, there are good-quality second-tier options that should be available during late Day 2, early Day 3.
University of Washington’s Cade Otton profiles as such a player, and that’s who we’ll take a look at today.
CADE OTTON’S COLLEGIATE CAREER
Otton, who’s a Washington native and grandson of a legendary local high school coach, fielded offers as a 3-star recruit from several Power 5 programs and Ivy League schools before picking UW.
He operated in a generally anemic Washington offense as a four-year starter, and he was the lone bright spot more often than not.
He flashed as a redshirt sophomore with 32 catches for 344 yards and two touchdowns in 13 starts. Otton also played well during the incredibly shortened 2020 season, tallying 18 catches for 258 yards and three touchdowns in four games. His performance earned him first-team All-PAC 12.
A change in offensive approach saw Otton criminally underutilized in his senior campaign, as he caught 28 balls for 250 yards and averaged only 8.9 yards per reception in 8 starts before an ankle injury ended his season.
Said injury required surgery and has kept Otton from participating in the pre-draft process. He was invited to the 2022 Senior Bowl, however.
PRO DAY AND SCOUTING COMBINE
Otton’s recovery from surgery has prevented him from testing during both the Scouting Combine and the Washington Pro Day, though he did bench press 17 reps at the latter. He measured in at 6-foot-5 even, 245 pounds with 32 ¾” arms, 9 ½” hands and a 79 ½” wingspan.
Luckily, it looks like Otton will be ready for rookie mini-camp and beyond as he recently received clearance from his surgeon to resume full activities. He’s still meeting with teams, including the Buccaneers, as well.
University of Washington TE Cade Otton received full clearance recently from the doctor who performed his ankle surgery in November, source said. Otton has had in-person and/or virtual visits with 19 NFL teams over the past 2 weeks. One of few true “Y” tight ends in this draft.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) April 11, 2022
It’s worth noting the Bucs have reportedly met with him at the Combine, virtually, and hosted him for a Top 30 visit.
WHAT OTTON CAN DO FOR THE BUCS IN 2022
Well, Otton could potentially see a large role as tight end No. 2 depending how the Gronk decision shakes out.
As a traditional Y tight end, or more specifically an in-line tight end, Otton has the skills to be fairly useful as a rookie. The Bucs like to play a good amount of 12 personnel, meaning two tight ends in the formation, and they’re asked to block often. Otton is arguably the best blocking tight end in this draft class, as he shows the desired physicality and awareness in both the run and pass games.
Welcome to the Cade Otton (No.87) experience. He’s the best in-line blocking TE in the draft IMO. For further confirmation, check the Michigan tape. He’s on an island w/ presumably the best DE in the ‘22 draft. pic.twitter.com/MSo4x11y5P— Brandon Howard (@bhoward_81) March 14, 2022
Brate is pretty much useless in this area, and the Bucs don’t currently have anyone else who stands out either. Otton could play a huge part as a sixth blocker for Tom Brady or as an extra body mover for Leonard Fournette and the rest of the backfield. It’s hard to know how well or quickly a player will acclimate in this specialty at the pro level, but Otton’s NFL-ready frame and intangibles suggest that he could become competent – or better – fairly fast as he adds strength.
Otton might be looking at No. 1 tight end duties if Brate and Gronk are presumably out of the picture in 2023 and beyond.
Ultimately, that might be a role he’s capable, but not proficient, at handling. Otton is physical, competitive, and savvy with great size, qualities which always provide a boon to players who carve out long careers.
He possesses generally reliable hands, understands route running, and just finds ways to get open when his QB needs him. He’s got some nice ball skills with the ability to finish catches, along with smooth body control.
It’s hard to be definitive in Otton’s athleticism given his inability to test, but I feel good enough in saying that he’s certainly not a bad athlete. He’s smooth in all of his movements, and it never feels like he’s lumbering.
But he’s also not dynamically fast or agile in a way that pops out on film. His offense didn’t help him, but he doesn’t seem to be much of a threat downfield or after the catch. He’s a short-to-intermediate target who can get you first downs and be a dependable underneath target.
Cade Otton is already a favorite of mine for his run blocking… but he can dabble in the pass game too!— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) June 8, 2021
Not a blazer, but crafty/patient and plucks everything. Tough at catch point of taking hit after… True dual-threat Y-TE prospect pic.twitter.com/VurBT23lKC
He could definitely be a long-term Buccaneer, but it mostly likely will not be as the star of the show. He has the upside of a good role player, but the team might look to a future draft or free agency for a more threatening receiving presence.
Otton’s lack of testing hasn’t really hurt or helped his stock, which seems like a net positive when he has good film to rest on.
That said, his lack of presence may have caused him to be forgotten about in favor of flashier players like Trey McBride, Greg Dulcich and Jelani Woods – the latter of whom tested as one of the most athletic tight ends of all time.
Otton’s stock generally rests in the third/fourth round. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler has him as his fourth-ranked tight end, No. 92 overall (third round value). Bleacher Report has the same round evaluation, comparing him favorably to Jack Doyle (I agree completely with this).
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein is optimistic on Otton’s future, as he wrote in his scouting report:
He’s an ascending combination tight end with starting talent. He should become a more productive pro than college player as a likely Day 2 selection.
ON THE CLOCK...
Alright, Bucs Nation. With questions abound surrounding the position, do you think Cade Otton is the answer that the Buccaneers need at tight end? Let us know by voting in the poll and discussing in the comments below!
The Buccaneers should target Cade Otton...
This poll is closed
At current projection (3rd round).
Earlier than projected (2nd round or trade up in 3rd round).
Later that projected (4th round).
Never. He shouldn’t be on their board.