Which Bucs Rookie Will Be the Biggest Steal?

Which first-year player will outplay their draft slot in Tampa Bay?
Author:
Updated:
Original:

Tampa Bay's 2020 rookie class could yield several successful players, including potential starters in offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs and safety Antoine Winfield Jr. However, the one player who could give the Bucs the biggest bang for their buck likely won't start for Tampa Bay at any point this season: wide receiver Tyler Johnson.

The Bucs selected the former Minnesota receiver in the fifth round at the tail end of one of the deepest wide receiver classes in recent memory. Though Johnson was a highly productive receiver for the Gophers, his lack of athleticism likely precipitated a fall during the draft.

However, Tampa did not draft Johnson for his 40-yard dash. He is a proficient route-runner who snatches balls out of the air. It was this polish that propelled Johnson to 3305 career receiving yards and 33 career touchdowns, both school records. Johnson's consistently excellent play earned him first-team All-Big Ten honors in 2018 and 2019 as well as Pro Football Focus' highest grade for a wide receiver in 2019:

Johnson may have fallen in the draft, but his potential ranks among the receivers taken in the first three rounds. He enters the NFL with many of the tools necessary for a successful career, even if he won't see much action early on.

The biggest obstacle to Johnson's emergence in the NFL will be his own teammates. Tampa Bay boasts arguably the best receiver tandem in the NFL with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.

Johnson also must compete with a stacked tight end group, including Rob Gronkowski, for looks from new Bucs quarterback Tom Brady. It may take some time before Johnson can prove his value on an NFL field.

That makes Johnson all the more a steal. Though their starting lineup is monstrous, the Bucs were badly in need of depth behind Evans and Godwin following the departure of Breshad Perriman. If Johnson translates his quality of play at Minnesota to the NFL, he could make the Bucs' receiver corps the best in the NFL.

Expectations for a fifth-round pick are never high, but Tyler Johnson possesses the right qualities to be a diamond in the rough in Tampa Bay. Even from the middle of the depth chart, Johnson's impact could be comparable to his contemporaries, particularly in future seasons.