Jaelon Darden Seems Perfect For Bruce Arians, Bucs

May 2nd, 2021

Bucs rookie fourth-round pick, receiver Jaelon Darden.

A lot of folks think of a slot receiver as a guy who may not be a burner, but has sure hands, runs crisp routes and can take punishment catching balls inside.

The posterchild for this was slot receiver Adam Humphries who had a nice little career with the Bucs.

When Bucs Super Bowl-winning coach Bucco Bruce Arians was introduced to the team two years ago, at the same news conference, AC/DC-loving general manager Jason Licht said he would do everything in his power to re-sign Humphries, who was about to hit free agency.

Arians, however, didn’t want him. Arians is big on speed at the slot and he moved Chris Godwin there. What happened? Godwin blew up and is one of the better receivers in the game.

If Godwin, who the Bucs kept by franchise-tagging him, leaves next offseason, it seems to Joe that fourth-round draft pick Jaelon Darden has potential to beat out Tyler Johnson to be Godwin’s replacement.

Per the PFF tribe, Darden led the nation last year in touchdown passes from the slot position.

Of course, with Darden’s speed, he could play outside as well. But Darden’s future at slot is something to keep in mind. That, and how Arians told SiriusXM NFL Radio that Darden is “fearless” over the middle.

Enjoy the latest Ira Kaufman Podcast, presented by Bill Currie Ford.

61 Responses to “Jaelon Darden Seems Perfect For Bruce Arians, Bucs”

  1. SB~LV Says:

    I hope that he has his head on straight… other than that he has a huge opportunity in his career!
    I saw some stats on his drops in college, the other side of the coin is who was throwing him the ball. Brady will deliver him catchable bald.
    Very excited about this kid !

  2. Mitch Says:

    Everything I’ve read has Jaelon as a humble extremely hard working kid with a chip on his shoulder because of his size.

    I saw in his press conference that he is hyper focused on the mental side of the game because without it he can’t be successful. I like that. Overall a very intriguing pick and I hope his style of play translates to the NFL.

  3. Pick6 Says:

    Fearless or not, he’s about 30% less body mass than Godwin (don’t quote me on the math)….it’s alot to ask of a guy that size to do the stuff an Arians slot guy is supposed to. Seems lazy to project him in the slot where he’d be tangling with LBs and DEs on occasion

  4. Pick6 Says:

    His future would appear to be on the outside in this offense, unless they have plans to use the slot the way the Patriots did

  5. geno711 Says:

    I thought I remember a story on Arians convincing Larry Fitzgerald to move to more a slot position than outside receiver knowing that Fitzgerald was not fast but could use his superior body positioning skills and strength to be effective in the slot.

  6. Bird Says:

    One analyst said he can create separation in a phone booth


  7. geno711 Says:

    Arians used Hines Ward in the slot.
    Then when he moved from Pittsburgh to Indy, he moved Reggie Wayne from the outside to the slot.
    When he moved to Arizona, he moved Fitzgerald from outside to more slot.
    When he moved to Tampa, he took Godwin from more outside to more slot.

    Feels like Wayne, Fitzgerald and Godwin have a little more bulk than high end speed to me.

    I am ok with whatever these guys do.

  8. Medicated Pete Says:

    Bucs should be favored in every game next year which will be another first

  9. SKBucsFan Says:

    Darden I’d on the right team to be successful. This wouldntvhave been the case a few years ago. He should be able to use his speed to get in the right position to catch the well thrown ball from an accurate passer like TB12 or possibly Trask. Could you imagine Jaymiss throwing the ball to him? He may have actually gotten himself killed trying to catch one of JW’s errant thrown balls in the slot.
    This kid should be pumped about his new opportunity.
    LFG Bucs!

  10. #1bucsfan Says:

    The good thing is he isn’t a finished product yet but what better room to be in to learn and soak it all up from ME13, CG, AB, scooter and gets some advice from TB12. Deff got a full season to learn. Soak it up young blood

  11. ModHairKen Says:

    Slow down, Joe. First, Chris Godwin ain’t going anywhere. And this guy hasn’t even laced up a cleat yet. Let’s just get to rookie camp before we anoint the guy a future starter.

  12. Ron says Says:

    Hopefully he is the answer to our return game as that is his best chance to make the team and play. If that happens he would be a great change of pace player to have on the bench and the more opportunities he gets the more comfortable he will get playing at this level.

  13. K2 Says:

    Arian’s offense will continue to evolve, but I don’t see Johnson and Darden as competing players. They have very different skills and situational applications for making contributions. I think good coaches find a way to use both effectively. They both can win…if they develop.

  14. King C Says:

    Green and gold til the Glazers are out!

  15. Allbuccedup Says:

    Very good pick Scooters the burner now you add another good route runner to go along with Evans,Godwin,Johnson and maybe a year more of Brown plus he’s probably the second fastest receiver behind Miller.

  16. Defense Rules Says:

    All of our draft picks had excellent college stats and have nice talent, but the big question is always ‘How will that translate to the NFL?’ For some (Ryan Leaf anyone?) it doesn’t translate at all. For others (Suh & JPP as examples?) it translated extremely well. Some of that had to do with coaching to be sure, but even more-so I think it’s the individual player’s DESIRE TO BE THE GREATEST AT HIS POSITION that makes all the difference in the end. And yes, Tom Brady is very possibly the greatest example of that BTW.

    All 7 of our draft picks are starting off with the same advantages. They were drafted by the Super Bowl champions and will be surrounded and encouraged by the best. They’ll all have excellent coaching from this point on. The rest is up to them. Personally rooting for ALL of them to make it and to make it BIG. Time will tell.

  17. Anonymous Says:

    King C. a bunch of wankers storming the pitch today will do nothing. Now you want to switch back to green and gold? The Glazers should show up in Rowdies jerseys then and really get your knickers ruffled.

  18. kyle Says:

    HAHA LATech is hardly the Rams, Saints, Packers, or Seahawks… How about the kid catch a couple punts first before replacing Chris Godwin, Joe?

  19. Bird Says:


    Can i make it to 4 hours moderation?

  20. Marine Buc Says:

    Hopefully we finally found our kick returner. Also was very productive last year with over 70 catches and 1100 yards…

    I hope he can put on a few pounds and stay healthy.

    Overall I really liked our entire draft… KJ Britt was a steal in the 5th round as well.

  21. Joe Says:

    One analyst said he can create separation in a phone booth

    That’s a good line.

  22. Joe Says:

    HAHA LATech is hardly the Rams, Saints, Packers, or Seahawks… How about the kid catch a couple punts first before replacing Chris Godwin, Joe?

    Calm down. Joe trusts Arians. There are all kinds of receivers who went to smaller schools who are good. Ever hear of Antonio Brown for example? The receiver Arians compared Darden to, Emmanuel Sanders, went to SMU, not exactly a Big Ten or SEC school.

    Chris Godwin will be a free agent next offseason. Not saying anyone will “replace” him but if Godwin (for whatever reason) wants to play elsewhere, it is out of the Bucs’ hands unless they pay out through their arses and noses.

    Never knew it was a sin in the NFL to cover yourself in case you lose players in free agency.

  23. Ash Says:

    I just thought he was special teams guy if he can help the return game that’s a win his elusiveness looks good

  24. CChead Says:

    Best receiver of all time, Jerry Rice went to a small school. Mississippi Valley State.

  25. m0j0 Says:

    Darden will be an impact player for the Bucs, both on ST and as a gadget type player they can rotate in and out of the game.

  26. SufferingSince76 Says:

    King C, this is an American football site and the Glazers are the cheese right now. Off you go.

  27. Colonel Angus Says:

    Gonna make his mark this season as a return man and the occasional gadget play. Should be fun watching him on those quick WR screens. I don’t worry about the size, seems like he is shifty enough to avoid the big hits. Man it would nice to have a true threat in the return game. Nothing, except for a defensive score, changes the momentum of games like a big kick/punt return.

  28. lambchop Says:

    Woah, pump the brakes on Darden replacing Godwin. LOL. The dude is tiny. Tyler Johnson is more of a Godwin clone.

  29. lambchop Says:

    Speed is great, but as Cheetah found out, double coverage and physicality can derail speed.

    This isn’t some small town college team Darden’s going to be playing against on Sundays. I could see him and Scotty being clones of each other more than anything else.

  30. Bucamania Says:

    Darden is no Godwin but he does bring a new dimension to this offense. He can turn those quick screens and end arounds into big gains plus he’s so quick he’s virtually uncoverable 1-on-1 in the red zone.

  31. orlbucfan Says:

    Bucs need a decent kick/punt returner. JL went and picked Darden even though Bucs were the last team to choose in each round. How sweet that is! 😊 Sure beats finishing last in the division and the league. Now, has Licht signed his UDFAs yet? He has a true 6th sense there.

  32. Natural Selection Says:

    People must not watch our offense much to think Darden is going to play early down slot receiver. That is a blocking position in BA offense. Look who he’s put there through the years and who he plays most for us. I’m sure if Darden is a player, they’ll find a role for him though.

  33. MadMax Says:

    “Slow feet dont eat” (Jaelon quote)

    Im glad we got a burner for KR/PR….and dude can break ankles, Im loving this pick!!

    Thumbs up Mr. Licht, you found a sleeper.

  34. Leighroy Says:

    I think this guy is more a PR/KR guy who can be the 6th WR, and provide some injury/AB suspension insurance as such in 2021. What he is for whom is anyone’s guess (and simply just that) in 2022 and beyond.

    Brady was excited over this guy though, that’s probably the only opinion I care about.

  35. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    There is speed and then there is quickness…..Scotty Miller has a 40 time faster than Darden.

    Miller 4.36…..Darden 4.40

    But all you have to do is watch the tape to know that Darden is much quicker & more elusive than Miller.

    I will love seeing Darden on screens & end-arounds.

  36. Joe Says:

    “Slow feet dont eat” (Jaelon quote)


  37. BradyBucs Says:

    Top-end speed rarely translates into a dominating WR in the NFL with Tyreek Hill being the exception.

    John Ross had a ton of hype after running the fastest time at the combine his year with an insane 4.22. Ross has had some injury issues so how his career turns out is still unknown, but he certainly didn’t ‘dominate’ NFL Defenses.

    What’s more important than speed is SEPARATION QUICKNESS and SHIFTY AFTER-THE-CATCH running. Darden possesses BOTH.

    Darden has that top-end speed but he’s also very elusive (like Tyreek) and that’s what makes him so dangerous.

    The big question is whether his small size will be an issue in the NFL.

  38. unbelievable Says:

    As others have said, at his size, I think he’d be used more on the outside a la Scotty Miller, as well as on slants (maybe from the slot).

    Sounds like they are really hoping he’ll be a return man though. He okay at it in college, so it will be interesting to see if he can get better in the NFL.

  39. unbelievable Says:

    *He was okay at it in college,

  40. firethecannons Says:

    first things first, let us get this kid returning kicks and punts and see how that goes any blowout games let him and Trask play, we need to rest our starters much more than we did last year.

  41. rrsrq Says:

    @SK Bucs fan – still dreaming of an errant JW pass to the slot, the errant JW got his slot Adam Humphries paid and Chris Godwin had his best year in the slot with JW throwing to him the ball. But that is old news, the GOAT is in Tampa, receivers stats are Down but the wins are up, that’s what matters

  42. 6throundpick Says:

    Somebody mentioned size and (30% body mass than Godwin. But take a look at the size of TB12′ slot receivers for 20 years in NE…and all were very, very successful. And with the 6’5″ WRs, TB12 has been just as successful (eg Moss). Note: TB12 didn’t have many over-the-top WRs in NE…one of the reasons he was so excited about working with AB. When TB12 worked with good WRs- that were truly up for getting better every game -their careers trended upward…Deon Branch comes to mind. Edelman was a QB, and came into the NE franchise by working special teams. So, ask yourself this question: Why was a guy like Edelman so successful? Yup, that’s what ya gotta do. Just sayin…

  43. Cainishere Says:

    With how crowded the wr room is, I feel it is safe to say this guy will get very little production for years to come.

  44. JimbobBucsFan Says:

    Defense Rules,

    It would really be something if all seven of our picks make the roster and actually contribute something of worth for our next Super Bowl run. Even better if they are all here next year also.

    This was our “We really don’t know how to act!” draft after so many years of picking at the other end of the rounds.

    First looks say it could be a solid draft. Time will tell indeed.

  45. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    IMO barring injury or some fantastic showing from UDFAs…all 7 should make the roster….here’s why.
    Tryon, Trask & Hainsey are a given…..depth & backups.

    The other 4 were drafted (IMO) to replace specific players.

    Wilcox/Ryan Smith
    Stuard/Andrew Adams

    Adams/Cichy & Smith are gone & Mickens $920K is not guaranteed

  46. Brandon Says:

    Man, Joe. Are you seriously that dense? Arians likes big slots. Always. Godwin, Fitzgerald, Ward. These dudes better be tough and able to block a LB. Darden? Seriously? Where have you been the last two seasons? If Darden is to play offense he would be the 3rd WR… the outside guy. Perriman, Miller, Brown… please pay attention.

  47. Brandon Says:


    Stuard was drafted as a LB, not safety.

    Also, to the others.. Darden ran 4.46. He’s more quick than fast. Not a sprinter.

  48. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    I realize he’s a LB….but he has played some Safety…& depth & ST pieces don’t always get matched by position.

  49. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Checked into Stuard’s background….he played Safety in HS…..and at Houston until his Senior year……then moved to LB…
    His speed compares to Adams 4.54…..Stuard has run a 4.52….
    He very well could be looked at as a possible Safety…..(a big one)

    But, we will see.

  50. JimmyJack Says:

    Trading up for Darden was our all-in move. It was a bold move to ensure we got a return specialist.

    I do actually like this as a longterm move as well if he can become a quality reciever. It keeps a position of strength strong and gives us better flexibility in future drafts(if he pans out).

    Right now this pick looks like it has the best chance to give us a bigtime impact in 2021. Exciting stuff!!

    GO BUCS!!!!

  51. JimmyJack Says:

    Tbbf Usually I dont think it means much when a guy played other positions in HS but when you factor in his speed you might be onto something…….Plus we have Bowles whose not affraid to move guys around and even create positions for guys like the moneybacker position.

    But Id guess it mught be a while before we see Stuard taking live snaps. Hes probably way far behind in developement as a 7th rounder.

  52. ocala Says:


    You do know Arians wants large receivers at the slot that are able to block linebackers and even sometimes defensive linemen?

    I am a big fan of the pick, but if the Bucs put him in the slot to block an NFL defensive lineman on a run play we may never get to see Jaelon Darden again.

  53. SB~LV Says:

    Ocala.. Darden will never be asked to block a linebacker as part of a designed play

  54. JimmyJack Says:

    I would expect Darden to not even line up as a reciever til he first prooves himself as a returner. Let him focus on that. We got plenty enough good WRs here that can hold down the fort. And I dont expect Scotty to forget how to run a go route. It kinda puts us into a great situation where we can bring guys up slowly…….Unlike most NFL teams that rely on rookies to step in and contribute Day 1

  55. I CARE NOW Says:

    Jaquez Green anyone??? LOL, JK…… OR AM I?????

    Love the guy though. I am rooting hard for him!!!

  56. Hope springs eternal Says:

    Godwin takes the big hits and keeps on ticking. I love Godwin play.. Darden won’t last long playing slot. Use him the way the Chiefs use their small quick receivers. Lots of motion, screens, quick outs, crossing routes, etc. Classic slot routes thru the middle that Godwin runs will get the kid killed. Scotty has straight line speed to blow by defenders on deep routes. Darden will be a shifty darting change of direction with instant acceleration type receiver.. More of a jitterbug like several of the Chiefs receivers. Miss a tackle on Darden and its off to the races. End around plays would suit him too.

  57. I CARE NOW Says:

    I want to see him take a screen that normally goes to Scotty. I have a feeling that is gonna be AMAZING to see!!!

  58. I CARE NOW Says:

    With Gronk CG and ME blocking…. Oh and let Stuart play FB for that play!!!

  59. JimmyJack Says:

    I heard Darden can even handle a few throws. Former QB. Darden to Scotty, running free, sounds fun.

  60. I CARE NOW Says:

    JimmyJack with the FANTASY of the DAY!!!

  61. I CARE NOW Says:

    IT WOULD BE FUN IF…… The Fans got to call a play a game…. The Team would decide when to run it….. I want to see Darden to Scotty…..