Chris Godwin’s breakout game against the Panthers is just the latest proof that the Buccaneers found a gem in the third round of last April’s draft. How do his overall numbers stack up with other rookie receivers around the league, and what does his future on the Bucs look like?
When the 2016 season ended, the off-season mission was crystal clear for the Buccaneers: get Jameis Winston more weapons. This so-called “Weapons For Winston” campaign led the Bucs to making three key additions: star receiver DeSean Jackson in free agency, do-it-all tight end O.J. Howard in the first round, and an underrated receiver from Penn State in the third round, named Chris Godwin.
With just one game remaining in the season, Godwin’s stat line of 27 catches for 414 yards isn’t anything to go too crazy about, but when stacked up with his fellow rookie receivers we can see that he’s actually been among the three best this year. Corey Davis, John Ross, Mike Williams, Zay Jones, Curtis Samuel, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Cooper Kupp, Taywan Taylor, ArDarious Stewart and Carlos Henderson were the ten receivers taken ahead of Godwin in the 2017 draft, and just two of them have enjoyed more success during their rookie campaign than Godwin. Pittsburgh’s Smith-Schuster and L.A.’s Kupp both have more receptions, yards, and touchdowns than Godwin, and both will get opportunities in the playoffs to continue making plays.
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Injuries, bad coaching, and some flat out busts have contributed to what is an overall poor rookie receiver landscape, but that shouldn’t take too much away from Godwin as he’s had to overcome some legitimate hurdles. For the majority of the season Godwin has had steep competition for targets in a crowded array of Buccaneer receiving options; Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries, Cam Brate and O.J. Howard all began the season ahead of Godwin in the pecking order, and it took a combination of injuries and suspensions to get him on the field. When the targets have been there, Godwin has produced.
With Mike Evans on the bench against the Jets, Godwin parlayed ten targets into five catches for 68 yards. Against the Lions three weeks later Godwin was targeted six times and once again reeled in five of them for 68 yards. Last week against the Panthers, with DeSean Jackson out, Jameis Winston threw six passes to Godwin, three of which he snagged for a career high 98 yards. Oh, and one of those three went for 70 yards, the longest play of the entire Buccaneer season.
Koetter, or whomever is calling the shots for the Bucs offense next year, will have a tough decision to make with his wide receiver depth chart. Mike Evans is of course the penciled in “X” receiver, but who will start opposite him at the “Y” spot? Chris Godwin looks to be the complete package as a pass catcher and someone that needs to be on the field a lot, but DeSean Jackson remains one of the league’s most deadly deep threats when lined up out wide. The obvious solution is “throw one in the slot”, but it gets a little complicated.
Godwin played very little of the slot position in college and his best plays this season have seemed to come when lined up outside. DeSean Jackson moves into the slot on occasion on drag routes and bubble screens, but with his age, smallish frame, and lethal ability when lined up outside, will he give the “ok” on playing in the slot a majority of the time? I can’t speak for Jackson, but I’m not so sure. This type of thing will work itself out somehow, but one thing is certain: Chris Godwin deserves to see a major amount of playing time in 2018.
What’s been your take on Chris Godwin’s rookie season, Buccaneer fans? Are you surprised to see how many rookie receivers he’s out-performing, or did you see this coming? Fire away in the comments!