Now that Rob Gronkowski has retired the Bucs tight finish room simply received lots thinner. Gronkowski’s departure isn’t the one one from the Bucs 2021 tight finish group. 2017 first spherical draft decide OJ Howard additionally moved on in free company, signing a one-year cope with the Buffalo Payments. That leaves nine-year veteran Cam Brate and Cody McElroy because the lone holdovers from final 12 months.
Basic supervisor Jason Licht has additionally tried to restock the cabinet by the draft this 12 months deciding on Cade Otton out of Washington with the primary choice of the fourth spherical and Ko Kieft out of Minnesota within the sixth.
However what can we anticipate out of this group in 2022? How a lot of Gronkowski’s manufacturing could be replicated within the combination by this group? Let’s check out among the numbers.
Much less Motion Round The Formation
Final 12 months Gronk was used all around the offensive formation per Professional Soccer Focus. Whereas he lined up in-line as a conventional tight finish on 55.9 % of his snaps he was used as a slot receiver 123 instances (28.7%) and even lined up out extensive 59 instances (13.8%). This is because of Gronkowski’s means as a non-traditional weapon. Regardless of restricted velocity he was nonetheless a downfield menace who posed mis-match issues for nearly any defender on the sector.
The Bucs present crop of tight ends simply don’t have the identical bodily skillsets to create related mismatch points for defenses. And whereas Cam Brate was used within the slot over 40% of the time final 12 months, a lot of that was attributable to Gronkowski’s presence. With Otton lacking a lot of the offseason attributable to ankle surgical procedure, Brate goes to have to maneuver right into a extra in-line function limiting the Bucs use of tight ends within the slot in 2022.
Much less Targets
Gronkowski’s means as a high-end receiving menace meant he was used as a major goal fairly a bit. In 2021, Gronkowski was focused 86 instances on 384 routes run. That works out to a goal on 22.4% of his routes. For comparability, Cameron Brate was focused simply 50 instances on 319 routes (15.7%). Between Gronkowski, Brate, and Howard the Bucs tight ends ran 850 routes final 12 months and acquired 156 targets.
That works out to an 18.3% goal charge. Search for the routes to cut back to someplace between 650-700 in 2022 because the Bucs focus much less on 12 personnel and extra on blocking when in that grouping. As for goal charge I might anticipate it to fall extra in direction of 17%. That works out to 110-120 targets.
Much less Verticality
One of many issues that makes Gronkowski so distinctive amongst tight ends was his means to be a deep menace. Final 12 months alone his common depth of goal of 10.9 ranked second within the league amongst tight ends with no less than 50 targets. The place did Cam Brate rank? thirteenth with an aDOT of seven.8. Gronkowski was a unicorn. And you may’t substitute unicorns simply.
A Step Again In Blocking
Final 12 months Gronkowski registered a PFF cross blocking grade in 9 of his 12 video games performed. In these 9 contests solely as soon as was his grade beneath a 65 (mid-sixties is taken into account to be barely above common in PFF’s grading scale). As a matter of truth, he had 5 video games the place his cross blocking grade was above a 70. And throughout his profession Gronk’s cross block grade has been above a 65 in eight of his 11 years enjoying. In the meantime, Brate posted a pass-blocking grade of 46.7 in 2021. And he has a grade over 65 in solely two of his eight seasons.
In the meantime, Otton is called a good blocker in faculty. I even famous it as a part of Pewter Report’s “Grinding the Tape” profile on him. And whereas I anticipate Otton to be a strong blocker on the NFL degree, there isn’t any means anybody can or ought to anticipate him to be on the degree of Gronkowski in 12 months one. Identical goes for Kieft who was drafted singularly for his blocking prowess.
Dropping a Corridor-of-Famer whereas they’re nonetheless working at a excessive degree will damage any franchise. That is no totally different fort the Bucs tight finish room now that Gronkowski is looking it quits. 2021 noticed the Bucs tight finish room produce 157 targets that generated 100 catches for 1,182 yards and 11 touchdowns. Anticipate 2022 to be a step again to a way more modest line. My projections for the room are 120 targets for 80 catches that produce about 725 yards and 6-8 touchdowns.