The Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense is built around the vertical passing game, but a lot of the deep passes aren't possible without the presence of Cameron Brate. The No. 2 tight end in the Buccaneers offense, Brate is the primary blocking tight end in "12 personnel," giving Tom Brady plenty of time to throw the football and execute those plays downfield.
Brate entered the season as the No. 3 tight end, the forgotten man in the Buccaneers' stacked group at the position. Brate played just 16 snaps in the first three games of the season before O.J. Howard suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in Week 4 -- prematurely ending his season. Elevated to the No. 2 role, Brate finished the year with 28 catches for 282 yards and two touchdowns (10.1 yards per catch). One of the longest-tenured players on the Buccaneers roster, Brate has 223 catches for 2,438 yards and 29 touchdowns in seven seasons.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is the most well known Harvard player in the NFL, but Brate also went there -- finishing as one of the school's all-time leading pass catchers. He split time with Kyle Juszczyk at tight end in 2011 (Juszczyk ended up becoming a Pro Bowl fullback with the San Francisco 49ers, grabbing a touchdown in Super Bowl LIV). Undrafted in 2014, Brate had a tryout with the Minnesota Vikings but the franchise didn't have any room for him on the 90-man roster. He signed with the Buccaneers days later and has been with the team ever since.
Brate, who is questionable for the Super Bowl, plays a pivotal role in Tampa's success on offense. The Buccaneers were third in the NFL in completions of 20-plus yards (67) this season and were successful over the final stretch of the year due to Brate giving Brady more time to throw in the "12 personnel" package.
While Brate doesn't put up the receiving numbers, his value to the Buccaneers offense goes well past the box score.