TAMPA – The Buccaneers game plan for the 2017 NFL Draft always included drafting a tight end at some point in the process. Listening to Bucs coach Dirk Koetter, you get the feeling the original plan called for them to draft one rather late in the process.
Koetter admitted again this weekend that the Bucs were surprised to see Alabama tight end O.J. Howard fall to them at No. 19 overall, and as you might suspect the very wise decision to grab the top tight end in the class altered their game plan regarding the position.
What’s most interesting, though, is that in addition to getting the tight end the Bucs always hoped they’d get but never really thought they would, they also got one of those they apparently targeted as part of their original plan.
That would be Antony Auclair, a Canadian college product out of Laval whom the Bucs signed as an undrafted free agent. Though he clearly was not among the top tight ends in the draft, it’s apparent the Bucs had a draftable grades on him.
“We did a lot of work on Antony,’’ Koetter said. “Watching the Canadian film was interesting. We were looking to improve our depth at our ‘Y’ tight end position but we didn’t know at that time that O.J. was going to fall to us in the draft.
“So we were excited about maybe drafting him in one of the later rounds. The fact that we were able to get him as a free agent – I think when you just look at our tight end group that we have out here, it’s a good- looking group. So, we’re excited about Antony.”
The presence of Howard, of course, will make it difficult for Auclair to make the Bucs roster but he’s clearly a developmental player and so there’s a good chance he sticks at the very least as a member of the practice squad because there’s a lot to like about him.
Auclair has ideal size (6-6, 254 pounds) for the position and scouts love his long arms, big hands and the fact he plays with an edge as a blocker. He’s got a difficult transition ahead of him in terms of competition but if he can clear that hurdle he could prove to be quite a find.
“I’m very surprised he wasn’t drafted,’’ said Koetter, who first noticed Auclair during East-West Shrine Game workouts in St. Petersburg in January. “That’s why we feel very fortunate to have him. You look at him and O.J. standing next to each other and that’s two good looking guys.