Mike Evans and Cade Otton

Mike Evans and Cade Otton


Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Mike Evans and TE Cade Otton.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t totally below the radar — especially when it comes to their skill positions.

When it comes to running backs, tight ends and wide receivers specifically, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell has the Buccaneers ahead of even the two-time defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs in his rankings of those three positions groups.

Barnwell ranked Tampa Bay’s RB-WR-TE group at No. 13 — one spot ahead of the Chiefs — and based almost entirely on the strength of the wide receivers and running backs.

“Mike Evans can’t keep doing this, can he? In his age-30 season and playing without Tom Brady, Evans rose to the occasion with a banner campaign,” Barnwell wrote. “His 1,255 yards were the most he has had since 2018, and he led the league with 13 touchdowns catches. With 10 straight 1,000-yard seasons on his résumé, Evans is going to have a viable Hall of Fame case in a few years. Receivers on the wrong side of 30 are always dangerous propositions, but he has been so remarkably consistent that it’s hard to expect much of a drop-off.”

The Buccaneers rewarded Evans with a 2-year, $52 million contract in the offseason — although he’s not the only reason why the Buccaneers leapt up five spots from No. 18 in Barnwell’s 2023 RB-WR-TE rankings.

Godwin, White Other Elite Options in Offense

Veteran wide receiver Chris Godwin and third-year running back Rachaad White are the other two instant-energy options in the Buccaneers’ offense, although both have serious holes in their games that Barnwell pointed out.

For Godwin, who has three consecutive seasons of at least 1,000 rushing yards, it’s his inability to get in the end zone. Godwin had 6 touchdowns through 14 games in 2021 before tearing his ACL and missing the final three games of the season.

Godwin has just 6 touchdowns over the last two seasons, including just 2 receiving touchdowns in 2023 — his lowest total since having just 1 receiving touchdown as a rookie in 2017.

“He has 10 (touchdowns) across 285 catches over the past three seasons, which is comfortably the worst mark in football for any wide receiver with 150 catches or more over that timeframe,” Barnwell wrote. “Get this man into the end zone in 2024!”

White had 1,539 yards from scrimmage in 2023 but averaged a paltry 3.6 yards per carry.

“There’s value in being able to take a ton of touches, but White isn’t appreciably moving Tampa Bay forward on a regular basis,” Barnwell wrote.

Can Buccaneers Have Decent Tight Ends?

What’s amazing about the Buccaneers being ranked so high on Barnwell’s list is that there is zero mention of the team’s tight ends in his analysis — not a single word.

That could change moving forward — 2022 fourth-round pick Cade Otton started 11 games as a rookie in 2022 and finished with 42 receptions for 391 yards and 2 touchdowns. Otton started all 17 games in 2023 and had 47 receptions for 455 yards and 4 touchdowns.

““Cade Otton is a guy that if you look at his body of work in such a short time playing in the NFL, you take for granted that he played 98 percent of the snaps last year,” Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Liam Coen told The Pewter Report in April. “That’s something we need to take off his plate a little bit, but you gain more of an appreciation for a guy that is playing 98 percent of the snaps in this weather, in this league, at a position where you are playing really two.”

Tony Adame covers the NFL for Heavy.com, with a focus on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington Commanders and Denver Broncos. A veteran sports writer and editor since 2004, his work has been featured at Stadium Talk, Yardbarker, NW Florida Daily News and Pensacola News Journal. More about Tony Adame

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