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Second-Year Scouting Report: Cade Otton

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Nick Makowitz

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June is underway, and we’re getting closer and closer to the 2023 regular season. Best ball leagues have been drafting for months now and they are getting more popular now that we understand landing spots for veteran free agents and rookies.

 

Every year, rookie fever emerges and the previous class gets pushed aside by the shiny new NFL toys. This usually results in a rookie surge of ADP, which opens up pockets of value, especially with players from the previous class who may not be as established as some long-time veterans in the league. This happens even though most fantasy analysts (and players) understand the largest leap occurs from year 1 to year 2.

Throughout the summer, FTN will be releasing second-year scouting reports to keep these players fresh in fantasy managers’ minds. The series shifts today to Cade Otton, the second-year tight end with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This article is a breakdown of Otton’s first season and what fantasy managers can expect from him going forward in 2023 and beyond.

Cade Otton, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Cade Otton played four seasons at Washington, where he accumulated 91 receptions and 1,026 receiving yards in 31 career games. While his production didn’t jump off the page, his tape showed enough athleticism and ability as a pass-catcher to get him drafted in the fourth round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

As a rookie, he sat low on the receiving totem pole in Tampa, with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Leonard Fournette getting the overwhelming majority of Tom Brady’s looks. Even fellow tight end Cameron Brate was on the field more than Otton for the first couple weeks. But the rookie tight end eventually carved out a nice role for himself. In total, he racked up 42 receptions for 391 yards and two touchdowns on 65 targets. As is typical for rookie tight ends, Otton’s season was a rollercoaster with some learning curves and some evident growth.

What Went Wrong

While Otton did get on the field more often after the first few weeks, he didn’t always do much with his opportunity in the form of big plays. Per FTN’s Player Utilization Stats, of tight ends with 40+ targets, he ranked second to last in targets per route run (15%) and yards per route run (0.88). The low targets per route run can be attributed to Otton being at best the fourth option behind some elite receiving weapons, but the yards per route run number is more concerning.

He registered the third-lowest aDOT among qualifying tight ends largely due to Brady’s dink-and-dunk nature but also finished below the median in YAC per reception at just 4.3 yards. Without seeing downfield targets and without being an elite playmaker after the catch, there was no way for Otton to generate big plays or significant yardage. As a result, he needed to haul in near-double-digit touchdowns to be fantasy relevant, but he only caught two.

What Went Right

Despite less-than-ideal receiving metrics, there are a few positive takeaways from Otton’s rookie season. Most notably, his production increased when Cameron Brate — who is no longer on the team — missed time. According to our Splits Tool, with Brate out of the lineup, Otton saw an extra two targets, brought in an extra reception and increased his overall fantasy production by more than 50%.

The former Washington Husky also showed that he could be a viable option over long stretches and not just a one-week wonder. From Week 5 through Week 13, he averaged 7.25 half-PPR points per game which would’ve ranked him 14th for the season. Those numbers aren’t astronomical, but that’s while scoring just two touchdowns and splitting time on an offense that struggled mightily. 

 

Prognosis Entering 2023

While Otton’s rookie season lacked excitement, he had a solid foundation because of Tom Brady and because of how much the Bucs threw the ball. Even if Brady wasn’t his best last season, it’s unlikely that Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask puts up better numbers this year. That said, there’s a naturally built-in ceiling over Otton. If the Bucs’ offense is shockingly great, it’ll almost certainly be Mike Evans and Chris Godwin reaping the benefits. If it’s not great, then everyone suffers. As it stands, the second-year tight end sits third in the pass-catching pecking order – at best – and will be playing with a quarterback whose upside is severely limited. Although he should dominate the tight end snap share in Tampa, managers will be relying on a huge increase in touchdowns, as is the case with most tight ends. Don’t fade Otton completely, because there should be some opportunity for him, but don’t get too excited.

Dynasty Outlook

With a below-average quarterback, two better pass-catchers on his own team and underwhelming receiving metrics, Otton’s dynasty outlook is uninspiring. He could very well end up a good player and solid fantasy option, but it’s impossible to rank him anywhere near today’s stars at the position or other young guys who actually produced like Pat Freiermuth and Greg Dulcich. Overall, he’s in no-man’s-land. He’s young and atop the depth chart which is great, but he doesn’t have the athletic gifts that modern elite tight ends have, and he isn’t paired up with a great quarterback. If you’re an Otton manager, hold on and see if he makes a year two jump, but not too tightly.

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