The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Jaelon Darden, a wide receiver out of North Texas, in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Darden wasn't one of the high-profile receivers having played at North Texas, however, he was able to shine on the field and the Bucs' brass and scouts thought highly enough of him to bring him into the organization and develop.
During his four-year college career, Darden got better every year season. His best was during his senior season of 2020 when he posted 74 catches for 1,190 yards and a staggering 19 touchdowns on his way to leading the CUSA Conference in total points scored (114), total touchdowns (19), receiving yards (1,190), receptions (74) and earning the CUSA Most Valuable Player award.
His promise did not necessarily translate in his first season as he was limited from the wide receiver position but made somewhat of an impact in the return game.
Looking into his second season with the Bucs, some NFL executives around the league think Darden has a breakout opportunity in 2022 according to Matt Lombardo of Heavy.com.
“He really dove into the playbook this offseason and is playing really fast,” the Bucs official said per Lombardo.
Lombardo reported that “multiple members of the Buccaneers’ coaching staff and front office” described Darden as “among the standouts during 2022 OTAs and minicamp”.
“What I love about his game is he has instant speed and quickness,” a rival executive told Heavy’s Lombardo. “He’s the type of player who could make a rapid improvement in Year 2.”
Darden still has work to do to move up the Buccaneers' stacked wide receiver room, but it appears he is doing everything in his power to be able to do so. With the likes of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin (when he returns from injury) and Russell Gage set as the Bucs' top 3 weapons on the outside it will be important for Darden to beat out Tyler Johnson, Scotty Miller, Breshard Perriman and Cyril Grayson Jr. to become WR4 for Tampa Bay.
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