Stocker lined up as the starting fullback during seven-on-sevens in last Thursday's open OTA practice, Joe Kania of the team's official site reports. With last season's starting fullback Jorvorskie Lane departed, the Bucs have a job opening, and Stocker appears to be getting first crack at filling it. Verastile rookie Dan Vitale, who Tampa tabbed with the 197th pick in the 2016 draft after a successful career at Northwestern, would certainly appear to bring a much greater degree of offensive potential to the position, considering his 49 games as a "superback" for the Wildcats during his college career. However, Stocker's established track record as an above-average blocker-- a key to him retaining a roster spot over the first four years of his career-- appears to have afforded him the first opportunity at helping clear the way for tailbacks Doug Martin and Charles Sims. The 27-year-old brings some limited pass-catching ability as well, having secured 44 of 68 targets to date in his career.
Brate secured his sole target for three yards in Sunday's 38-10 loss to the Panthers. Although he secured at least one reception in each of the season's final three games, Stocker was once again an afterthought in the passing game. He totaled nine receptions on the season, although he did manage his second career touchdown. The 27-year-old was once again primarly deployed as a blocker and pass protector, two tasks which he once again carried out well in 2015. Signed through the end of the 2017 campaign, Stocker figures to open 2016 offseason workouts behind the emerging Cameron Brate and starter Austin Seferian-Jenkins on the depth chart, but with a clearly defined role as the team's blocking tight end.
Stocker secured his sole target for seven yards in Sunday's 26-21 loss to the Bears. After a failing to secure a catch in all five November games, Stocker now has at least one catch in three of his last four contests. The reserve tight end is mainly valued for his blocking ability however, and has only amassed eight catches in 2015.
Stocker secured all three of his targets for 25 yards and a touchdown in Thursday's 31-23 loss to the Rams. The Bucs' tight ends had a particularly prominent presence Thursday, with the Rams sporting an aggresive pass rush and top-tier secondary. Stocker's three receptions equaled his season high, and the touchdown was notably his first since Week 3 of the 2012 season against the Cowboys and only the second of his career. The early-fourth-quarter end zone visit was well deserved, as it came a play after Stocker bailed out teammate Donteea Dye by recovering the rookie's fumble inside the Rams' five-yard line. Despite the modestly productive effort, Stocker is typically third on the tight end totem pole behind Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Cameron Brate in terms of looks from Jameis Winston
Stocker participated on 42 snaps in Tampa's Week 13 victory, Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Tampa's blocking tight end participated in a healthy amount of plays, and even logged a catch for the first time in three weeks. Stocker's playing time may remain largely unaffected despite Austin Seferian-Jenkins' return, since his main value comes from helping open up holes for the running game.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|3||09/25||Los Angeles Rams||25||8.25|
|7||10/23||@San Francisco 49ers||7||6.13|
|11||11/20||@Kansas City Chiefs||5||5.67|
|13||12/04||@San Diego Chargers||22||8.00|
|14||12/11||New Orleans Saints||33||12.38|
|16||12/24||@New Orleans Saints||33||12.38|
|3 Year Avg||8||5||34||0||2||6.80||3|