The majority of the excitement right now is revolving around ol’ Jaboo. Jameis Winston looks even better every time a teammate posts a six second video of him buried in film. For as good as Winston looks, a fair portion of his success on going to hinge on the men catching what he’s throwing. No one is particularly worried if Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson can work with him, but it’ll take more than a few giants to turn this offense around. Let’s look at some of the players who could be catching touchdowns come the regular season.
Currently In Stock: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Luke Stocker, Brandon Myers, Cameron Brate, Taylor Sloat, Evan Rodriguez
Hot Commodity: Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Due to Expire: Brandon Myers, Cameron Brate, Taylor Sloat, Evan Rodriguez
Product Notes: There was a lot of hype on Austin Seferian-Jenkins going into the 2014 season, but none of that really came to fruition. The first hurdle for ASJ was not getting to participate in the rookie minicamp and getting a late start on things, but injuries kept him from ever catching up. Barring another injury, this could easily be a breakout year for him where ASJ becomes a household name and one of the premiere tight ends in the league.
Luke Stocker, for his consistency and blocking, will probably remain right at home. Brate and Sloat can fight for a backup spot or a practice squad spot, but the real person on the bubble is Brandon Myers. Myers is 27 years old with seven years in the league, and his clock is ticking. While he’s shown mediocre production at varying times, the youth of ASJ and consistency of Luke Stocker could make Myers an unnecessary aging veteran. Barring a bump in skill, he may not be in Tampa come opening day. See Fullback for Evan Rodriguez.
Currently In Stock: Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans, Louis Murphy, Kenny Bell, Kaelin Clay, Donteea Dye, Rannell Hall, Robert Herron, Adam Humphries, Tavarres King, Russell Shepard
Hot Commodity: Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans, Louis Murphy, Russell Shepard, Kenny Bell, Kaelin Clay, Rannell Hall
Due to Expire: Donteea Dye, Robert Herron, Adam Humphries, Tavarres King
Product Notes: Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of names here. Dirk Koetter will be looking to nail down a very solid receiving corps, and many of these younger names will need to perform on special teams to earn a roster spot. V-Jax and Mike Evans will anchor this unit, but little else is as clear as that duo. Louis Murphy can hold a spot if he continues or improves on what he did last year, but he’ll be fighting with fresh faces wanting to melt right into place with Dirk Koetter and Jameis Winston.
It’s already been said that the return job is Kaelin Clay’s to lose, but that’s not to say he won’t be in the fight at wideout as well. Clay may have been targeted for his ability to contribute to special teams, but he’ll be a force to be reckoned with if he can translate that dynamic playmaking ability into a connection with Jameis Winston.
Kenny Bell is likely to be a prime target for the slot, but that isn’t exactly what he’s built for. In the long-term, Bell could turn out to be the puzzle piece ready to be slipped in upon Vincent Jackon’s retirement. He needs to buckle down and absorb all he can, regardless of where Dirk Koetter chooses to use him for the time being.
Many of the names on here will be fighting to hold onto a backup or practice squad spot merely as a factor of numbers. Russell Shepard’s special teams contributions will likely keep him on the team, but the same can’t be said for Robert Herron. Since being drafted, Herron has not successfully made a case for himself as a receiver or a return man. Meanwhile, Kenny Bell and Kaelin Clay come in without that negative mark and the bonus of having been picked specifically for use in the new Dirk Koetter offense. Herron has neither, and may struggle to even make the practice squad.
Of the lesser known assets, Rannell Hall has the best shot so far of making due to his performance at the Senior Bowl and the Bucs’ Rookie Mini-Camp. If he keeps that up, along with special teams contributions, he could easily challenge for the fifth wide receiver spot. Dye, Humphries, and King are in a positional battle that has opportunity, but they’ll be fighting uphill to make their case from here.
When Training Camp and preseason finally arrive, try not to get too distracted by the way Jameis Winston throws. Instead, shift your eyes to the way everyone else catches. If even one more player steps up to anywhere near the level Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson are at and becomes a reliable weapon, they’ll be firing the cannons plenty in 2015. On Monday, our inventory continues with a look the pile of bodies the Buccaneers are going to attempt to turn into a functioning offensive line.