Returning Tight Ends:
Kellen Winslow – 5 years ($6.725 million, $8.29 million, then $16 million split between 3 years I think)
Jerramy Stevens – 1 year, $1.4 million
John Gilmore – 1 year, $1.25 million
Ryan Purvis – minimum
Winslow was easily the top receiver on the team last year and was quick to develop chemistry with Josh Freeman, catching at least 4 passes in each of the rookie’s 9 starts. Young passers tend to look to the tight end early on, and Freeman has one of the game’s best at his disposal. Assuming Winslow stays healthy, there’s no reason to think they can’t/won’t build upon that relationship.
Stevens had a really quiet year and wasn’t asked to do much with Winslow drawing so many targets. Gilmore’s playing time and stats suffered as well causing him to resemble the Chicago version instead of the one that was relied upon for clutch catches in ‘08.
We’re obviously set at starter, but both Stevens and Gilmore are entering the last year of their contracts. Sure, the Bucs should be able to get through the year with what they currently have, but it might be wise to take advantage of the depth at the tight end position this year.
Here’s how I rank the draftees:
1) Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma (6-6, 260)
really athletic TE; great size and length creates mismatches; terrific ball skills in space and in tight quarters; can get in a stance or play in the slot; effective run blocker; great red zone weapon; huge upside; hands are too inconsistent for his skill level; missed ’09 due to damaged knee cartilage
2) Aaron Hernandez, Florida (6-2, 250)
not a burner but always seems to be open; plus hands; productive; great eye for the sticks/endzone; plus footwork and agility; great short area quickness; not asked to block much in college; don’t like his size; routes need work
3) Dennis Pitta, BYU (6-5, 250)
not as big but reminds me of Jason Witten; really refined pass catcher; runs routes like a receiver; creates mismatches; not fast but pretty quick feet in tight spots; produced in college; he’ll be a 25 year old rookie; not a great in-line blocker
4) Rob Gronkowski, Arizona (6-5, 260)
another big, athletic TE; nice hands; decent blocker but need to see more in this area; impressive speed for his size; missed all of ’09 due to back surgery (herniated disk and nerve damage), huge red flag
5) Ed Dickson, Oregon (6-4, 244)
well built; good hands and quickness; strong runner; has some work to do on his routes and working in a pro style offense; not terribly aggressive when asked to block
6) Anthony McCoy, USC (6-5, 255)
big body; strong upper body; plus blocker; reliable pass catcher; long arms; works the middle of the field well; zero speed or quickness; no sudden movements; doesn’t take advantage of his size
7) Jimmy Graham, Miami (6-6, 260)
wonderful project to work with; huge upside; nice size for TE; impressive agility for his size; looks like an instant red zone threat; does a good job of consistently catching with his hands; very limited experience and production; needs some coaching
8 ) Tony Moeaki, Iowa (6-4, 250)
underutilized receiving option; good size; brings some versatility; impressive hands and concentration; I like his upside; pretty decent straight line speed; gets a nice push as a blocker; isn’t elusive; doesn’t make anyone miss
9) Colin Peek, Alabama (6-6, 250)
underrated; simply performs; nice all round game; one of the best blockers in this class; not a tremendous athlete the like the highly rated tight ends; isn’t going to run away from anyone
10) Dorin Dickerson, Pittsburgh (6-1, 222)
the definition of versatility, has played TE, WR, FB, and LB; might be too much of a tweener; not fast enough for anything more than a slot/situational receiver; too small for an in-line TE; likely too small for FB; like I said not big, but has impressive upper body strength; willing blocker; I like his quickness; certainly athletic but really raw and inexperienced; wasn’t asked to run any complex routes
11) Andrew Quarless, Penn State (6-5, 248)
one of the more athletic players at the position; no reason he’s not a better pro than collegiate player unless he just doesn’t try; only a decent run blocker, doesn’t seem to put a ton of effort into it; not impressed with his lack of production; his off field trouble is the main reason I have him so low; has the physical skills, needs to put it together and stay committed
12) Nate Byham, Pittsburgh (6-4, 265)
took a back seat to Dickerson this year; really nice size; tremendously slow feet from what I’ve seen; can’t see him getting open as a pro; an asset as a run blocker which looks to be his future as a pro
13) Garrett Graham, Wisconsin (6-3, 235)
reliable hands; productive short game; small and looks even smaller than he’s listed; not much speed at all; doesn’t separate; not impressed with his strength, seems to go down easy; is he an NFL TE?
14) Jeron Mastrud, Kansas State (6-6, 253)
experienced and intelligent; pretty good all-round game for a college TE; Josh Freeman’s college teammate; not much upside at all
15) Michael Hoomanawanui, Illinois (6-4, 267)
probably the best blocker in this class; limited receiving threat
My round for round favorite – Dennis Pitta
Gresham and Hernandez could go two full rounds before Pitta, but the BYU tight end has a chance to be comparably productive. He’s not nearly as athletic as the other two, but he’s a guy who consistently finds the open space in middle of the field and uses his body well against defenders. He’d be a fine compliment on a team with some deep threats outside. Teams like Arizona and New Orleans stand out to me as good fits.
Late sleeper – Tony Moeaki
Moeaki reminds me somewhat of Winslow. He’s a TE with athleticism rather than a WR lined up at TE. He doesn’t make a lot of wasted steps once the ball is in his hands and has some decent get upfield speed. Moeaki is my favorite option for the Bucs.
Most likely to be a Buc – Jeron Mastrud
I’m basing this 100% on the history with Freeman. Dickerson’s versatility and mid/late round grade might be enticing for the Bucs if he interviews well with them.
Bucs fans might not want to spend a draft pick on a TE since Winslow is featured so prominently in the offense, but like I said before, both Stevens and Gilmore are entering the last year of their contracts. I don’t see 4 TEs happening, so if one gets replaced, I’m guessing it’s Gilmore. That would mean that whoever the Bucs bring in would need to have some run blocking capability. Since posting my mock, I’ve revised my thoughts on TE just a bit. Moeaki, Pitta, and Peek are now my favorites of this draft class for the Bucs. I still like Jimmy Graham, but he’s a luxury we can’t afford. Given that we have Winslow and Stevens, I’m not sure Pitta is what they’re looking for either. If they were to draft a TE, I would prefer they spend a late pick on either Moeaki or Peek with Moeaki being my clear favorite.