Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Is Team Set to Draft Tight End in 2013?

Caleb AbnerContributor IIIMay 24, 2012

JACKSONVILLE, FL - JANUARY 01: Tight end Dallas Clark #44 of the Indianapolis Colts grabs a warmup pass against the Jacksonville Jaguars January 1, 2012 at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Within a matter days, a player who had not missed a single game in three years as a Buccaneer was ousted from his job and shipped to the opposite corner of America. 

One can say that Greg Schiano defiantly asserted his authority as head coach. 

Still, the Kellen Winslow trade raises some questions for Tampa Bay.

First, one must wonder if the 32 year-old Dallas Clark can come onto the field in a new system and have the same impact Winslow had. Love or hate the son of the most influential tight end of all time, Winslow did have seasonal consistency as a Buc. Each season he managed roughly 800 receiving yards, and stayed away from motorcycle accidents.

The "soldier" was a key component of the offense, catching more balls than any other Buc in 2011, despite being targeted three times less than receive Mike Williams. One criminally underrated statistic he excelled in is first downs; Winslow racked up a more-than-solid 40, which could have been higher had he not caught five passes for 20-plus yards. 

In 2011, Dallas Clark played 11 games and averaged little more than 33 receiving yards a game. He has played a full season just once in his nine-year career. On top of this, he is as old as time itself.

I do not see Clark as the tight end of the future. 

No matter how much Schiano wants to play old-school football, he'll have to upgrade the tight end position. The NFL passing game is evolving around versatile, athletic tight ends, like Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski. Even if Schiano continues to focus on a ground-and-pound offense, a better blocking tight end is more than necessary. 


Beyond Dallas Clark, Tampa Bay has Chase Coffman, Zack Pianalto, Luke Stocker, Collin Franklin, Danny Noble and the newly drafted Drake Dunsmore. One can count fullback Erik Lorig in this group as well. 

It's hard to imagine any of these guys becoming a perennial Pro Bowler any time soon. 

It may be early to start speculating on the 2013 draft class, but as of this current moment, the tight end crop is fairly weak. Tyler Eifert (Notre Dame) seems like the only tight end who will be drafted in the first round, but even that seems like a stretch.

Rutgers' man D.C. Jefferson has a solid shot at becoming a Buc, thanks to his former coach Greg Schiano, yet he put up just 188 receiving yards on 12 receptions last season. Injuries or no injuries, the production was not there. 

To become a playoff contender, the Buccaneers must improve the team as a whole. At best, the Winslow trade kept the talent level exactly the same. Right now, tight end is a weak spot for the offense.

That has to change.