The Tampa Bay Buccaneers started Day Three of the 2022 NFL Draft on Saturday by selecting Washington tight end Cade Otton with the first pick of the fourth round, and just like they did with three selections on Friday night, they added a player who has a clear opportunity to contribute immediately as a rookie.
First and foremost, the Buccaneers believe Otton has the size, strength and attitude to line up as 'Y' tight end and contribute to the team's blocking schemes.
"That's probably where we would see him starting, being that Y tight end, but he's athletic enough to do some of the move stuff we do with our tight ends," said Vice President of Player Personnel John Spytek. "He's just a good football player…I keep saying that about our picks like I'm a broken record, but he's just a good football player. He loves football, competes his ass off on every play."
Indeed, Spytek and General Manager Jason Licht have noted the competitiveness and love for the game for all of their additions so far in the 2022 draft, which included defensive lineman Logan Hall and guard Luke Goedeke in the third round, followed by Arizona State running back Rachaad White in the third frame. Otton's hard-nosed approach to the game is particularly important considering the position he plays.
"We talk about this with our scouts, seeing a guy straining to finish every player, taking pride in blocking the guy in front of you and doing your job," said Spytek. "He fits into what we're looking for around here, especially at that position. I think it's kind of an underappreciated position for how hard it is to play. You're asked to do the run stuff and then do the pass stuff, run a pass route then come back and block a 280-pound defensive end. It take a special kind of guy to want to do that, and he fits that for sure."
Otton also has skills that can be utilized in the passing game. He earned first-team All-Pac 12 honors in 2020 after leading the team with 18 catches for 258 yards and three touchdowns, and he also had a 32-catch campaign as a sophomore in 2019. Last year, Otton missed time due to COVID protocols and a left foot injury but was able to haul in 28 passes for 250 yards and one score.
"He's just another really reliable target," said Spytek. "He's got really good hands, he knows where to go and he's got some natural football instincts to him. He's savvy."
The selection of Otton hits an obvious area of need on the Buccaneers' depth chart, where the only tight ends currently under contract are Cameron Brate and Codey McElroy. Rob Gronkowski, the Bucs primary starter and top producer at the position over the past two seasons, remains an unsigned free agent, and even if he does return to team up with Tom Brady again the Bucs will still have plenty for Otton to do.
"We don't have a lot of depth there right now," said Spytek. "There's two guys on the roster. And the need also happened to match up with the best player available, and you kind of like when that happens.
"He's a big guy, he's strong and he gives effort, and those things together are great for a tight end. Tight ends are asked to do a lot. It's one of the few positions on the field that are really an integral part in the run game and an integral part in the pass game. So you've got to understand all the different fronts that you're seeing. If you're asked to be in pass-pro, there are a lot of different blitzes that can come at you. You also have to know coverages and where to go, and he's a trustworthy kid that way. He's really smart, he's detailed and he loves to play."