With speed, elusiveness, and quickness to boot, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may have hit the bullseye with Jaelon Darden.
Coming out of North Texas, and a 2020 Associated Press Second Team All-American with lightning (Scotty Miller-like) speed, although not quite the vertical threat Miller is, the Buccaneers traded a 6th round pick to move up to snag a wide receiver. Now that’s saying a little something about this kid, and the Buccaneers may have struck gold with Darden as their fourth pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Another smaller school prospect, something the Bucs scouts seem to be able to sniff out, Darden made enough of an impression that Bruce Arians and Jason Licht didn’t want to miss out on him. Can you say Ali Marpet and Alex Cappa?
Darden was the focus of the Bucs right about this part of the draft and nabbed in the fourth round. If he turns out to be anything like they are hoping, he will bring a new dimension to Special Teams in the return game, where Jaydon Mickens is pretty much the sole option. It’s always good to have some depth to push players and also in case of injury, of course, and Darden gives the Bucs just that.
With Mickens having some competition now, he could very well lose that returner job as well if he’s not playing his best ball. Although he has the experience over Darden, and similar speed, he could very well be passed by with Darden’s elusive quickness, which may make him more difficult to take down, something Mickens is not quite as adept at. Darden was quite successful in college as a punt and kick returner and Licht and Arians hope that will translate into the NFL.
Unfortunately for Darden, and unlike many of the other draftees, he will be relegated down the depth chart behind, of course, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Miller, Tyler Johnson, and possibly Mickens and Justin Watson, not to mention the tight ends, when it comes to playing the pass-catcher role. But with special teams being maybe the biggest Bucs Achilles Heel, it’s an important enough role he could actually see more playing time in his first couple years more so than fighting for the fifth or sixth receiver spot.
This crowded yet talented wide receiver corps will be tough to crack, but if he can hang in there, by the time next year rolls around, there may be a couple of openings he could then occupy. It always a good thing to have speed on the team, and Darden fits that bill quite well.
The Buccaneers may have hit the bullseye with Jaelon Darden, and if things go well, we could hopefully chalk up another ‘draft win’ for not only Licht but the Buccaneers in general.