Buccaneers: How does the Jaelon Darden pick work in year 1?

Jaelon Darden, North Texas Mean Green and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Jaelon Darden, North Texas Mean Green and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images) /

Jaelon Darden helps the Buccaneers plenty in 2021.

Jaelon Darden may not have the same pomp and circumstance surrounding his draft status with the Buccaneers as Tyler Johnson did last season, but he still has the ability to contribute on this roster.

Darden’s impact may not be huge in 2021, but there may be some truth in the belief that there is no such thing as overkill.

The obvious initial use for Darden is on special teams. The Bucs have been without a consistent kick returner for years, and Darden has the physical tools to be the lead man on kick and punt return duties despite mostly serving as a punt returner in college.

Given the names already on the roster and their inability to contribute in deeper areas, Darden should be a sure bet to be the guy for one of these roles by the end of training camp.

Jaelon Darden is almost too good for his role on the Buccaneers

The one area of issue for this pick is that special teams aren’t even the best part of Darden’s game. Darden was a touchdown machine during his final two years in college with an astounding 31 to his name, but it will be quite difficult to replicate any semblance of that success on this offense.

As it stands, Darden is in a competition for the sixth role. Sixth. A fourth-round pick that the Buccaneers traded up for in the draft with 31 touchdowns over two seasons isn’t even in contention for a starting spot.

This is more a testament to the depth of the Buccaneer offense than a slight against Darden, but the truth remains that it will be very difficult to even make the field in year one. Just to put this in perspective, Justin Watson and Jaydon Mickens, the fringe receivers for the Buccaneers last season, had 21 targets total on the entire season.

These 21 receptions came without Antonio Brown to start the season and injuries to Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, which doesn’t inspire confidence that Darden will see the field much at all in 2021, especially with Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson building so much chemistry with Brady as depth pieces.

Jaelon Darden should be the best WR6 in the NFL this season, perhaps one of the best of all time. The Bucs have so much depth in their pass-catching department that Tom Brady should never be short of a high-caliber option, even with injuries, and Darden is just the icing on the cake.

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Expect for the newest receiving rookie to make a couple of big plays that makes a lot of people ask, “why doesn’t he see the field more?” and to be one of the most exciting offensive players in the league during the preseason.

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