Mb Nfl Lock Of The Szn Pewter 728x90 Jpg

As if the Bucs didn’t have enough weapons at receiver in their vaunted passing attack with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and Scotty Miller, Tampa Bay added another one in the draft in Jaelon Darden.

The Bucs traded up in the fourth round to draft the North Texas star, who caught 74 passes for 1,190 yards (16.1 avg.) and scored 19 touchdowns as a senior.

After the Bucs mandatory mini-camp, Evans came away impressed with Darden.

“I watched him when he was in college, and I liked his game a lot,” Evans said. “Then I saw we drafted him. We ran routes together a little before we came to mini-camp. He has a lot of juice, a lot of quickness and really good hands. He just wants to learn.

Bucs WR Jaelon Darden

Bucs WR Jaelon Darden – Photo by: USA Today

“He’s a really good young player. I feel like he’s going to help us a lot this year. We’re in the same city in the offseason, so hopefully I can help him out as much as possible and he can have a fantastic rookie season.”

More quick than fast due to his 4.46 speed, the 5-foot-8, 173-pound Darden has drawn comparisons to Brown and NFL receiver Emanuel Sanders.

“He’s super quick and fast,” Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said. “He’s a little thicker than I thought he was going to be when I watched him.

“I think of Scotty and he wasn’t quite as thick. He is now, but he got bounced around by bigger, stronger corners. I don’t see Jaelon having that difficulty – just the body type is different.”

Darden is competing with Jaydon Mickens for the kick and punt return specialist job, and made a favorable first impression this spring in the OTAs and the mini-camp.

“He catches punts very easily and catches the football extremely easily,” Arians said. “He can be very explosive.”

Special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong agrees with Arians’ assessment.

“Darden does a hell of a job getting under the football and catching punts,” Armstrong said. “It has only been off a JUGS machine right now, and they’re in shorts, so I don’t want to go into it too deep and send anybody to Canton or anything, but he does a really good job of catching the ball. You don’t hear it when it’s being caught – he’s got soft hands and he’s sudden when he catches the ball, so he has done a nice job.”

Darden’s ability to make defenders miss and get yards after the catch should not only help him on punts and kick returns, but also find a few reps on offense. The Bucs could use him on end-arounds, wide receiver screens, slants and other plays that would take advantage of Darden’s quickness.

“Lots of explosiveness,” Arians said. “He’s very, very explosive when he puts his hands on the ball – that’s for sure.”

Share On Socials

About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3 months ago

Darden is a very exciting rookie for us Bucs fans.

3 months ago

He’s the kind of receiver Brady will make a star out of. Darden, and Gio be working over safetys’, and linebackers.

3 months ago

Amazing, can’t help but be excited about great Draft picks and the help it provided to the Bucs future. Can’t wait to see us hit the ground running on Week 1 this year!

3 months ago

Hoping he’s a sponge and sleeps at Mike’s house between now and the start of camp. lol

3 months ago

I think of the first 4 draft picks this year? This is the one who will likely see the most time on the field. He is explosive and I know they see him as a punt returner, but I bet he sneaks in on a few pass plays too.

3 months ago

This kid is in line to replace AB after this season. The cap is gonna get tight and here’s hoping he lives up to the way too early hype

3 months ago

Lets hope we bring him along slowly, constructively. Quote Mike Tyson, everyone have a plan until they got hit, — similarly– every rookie looks good until against veteran NFL player.

3 months ago

As great as Evans is, hes almost the polar opposite of Darden in terms of skill set. Hopefully AB and Miller can give him some pointers too even though theyre competeing for snaps.

Mb Nfl Lock Of The Szn Pewter 728x90 Jpg