Bucs wide receiver competition could go all the way to the wire

On August 30, each NFL team must submit its final roster of 53 players.

So, like all teams, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have a number of tough decisions to make over the next week. But unlike every other team, the Buccaneers will have to eliminate several wide receivers capable of playing on an NFL roster this year.

For the Bucs, a combination of superstars, proven veterans, late draft picks and undrafted free agents make up one of the most impressive collections of wide receivers in the entire league.

Players like Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Russell Gage and Julio Jones are unlikely to be cut.

That leaves only two (maybe three) spots available for a whole bunch of different players with plenty of juice.

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There are a number of returning Buccaneers, such as Tyler Johnson, Scotty Miller, Jaelon Darden, Breshad Perriman and Cyril Grayson. Of these receivers, none is guaranteed a place on the team.

With Grayson and Perriman both having been bumped around throughout training camp – and the emergence of several younger receivers – I think both players are more likely to be cut than part of the squad. crew.

As for Tyler Johnson and Scotty Miller, neither is able to relax going into the final roster cuts. Of the two, I think it’s clear that Tyler Johnson has had the biggest impact so far this offseason. After receiving a lot of praise for his play in training camp, Johnson was the Bucs’ top receiver in two preseason games. Of the two, he was certainly the one who helped his cause the most.

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Scotty Miller remains a curious case. Although he possesses game-changing speed and contributed to a number of big plays for the Bucs in their 2020 Super Bowl-winning season – he clearly fell out of favor with the coaching staff the year last. Upon returning to the lineup after a turf toe fight, he was unable to establish himself as a factor. This trend has continued into this pre-season, where despite a significant number of snaps, Miller hasn’t found a way to contribute in attack – despite often being up against opposing teams’ reserve defensive backs. . Going into the final year of his rookie contract, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Scotty Miller ends up being the odd one out.

From his performance in training camp, it looks like Jaelon Darden has improved since last season, at least as a receiver. After being drafted in the fourth round in 2021, he saw the majority of his work come as the team’s main returning man in his rookie season. There’s no doubt that Tampa Bay fans expected more from Darden in this area. Darden has already scored a touchdown this pre-season, and reports coming out of camp indicate that coaches have been happy with his development – although he will need to take a big leap forward as a kick returner. Similar to Tyler Johnson, I think Darden has a good chance of capturing one of the last elusive wide receiver spots on the Bucs’ 53-man roster.

There are still several days of training camp left, as well as one last preseason game against the Colts. But if I had to predict the top six receivers to make the team at this point, it would be Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Russell Gage, Tyler Johnson and Jaelon Darden.

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In that case, the first question should be, would the Buccaneers seriously consider keeping seven receivers?

I believe the answer is yes.

Which brings us to the next question, which receiver would earn that last spot on the roster at wide receiver?

I believe that player will be Utah State’s 5’8″ 155 pound UDFA Deven Thompkins.

Despite his modest stature, Thompkins has been electric since the day he arrived at rookie camp. He has the athleticism and short distance speed to open up at all levels. He’s got good hands, an amazing ability to get down with popped balls and an all-around trickery that makes it hard to believe he’s just started his first season as a pro.

After a dominant senior season for the Aggies, which saw Thompkins amass 102 receptions for 1,704 yards and 10 touchdowns, he also proved to have plenty of juice in the rematch, where he averaged 23 yards per return. After continuing to shine during an NFL training camp, it’s obvious that Deven Thompkins is an all-around player.

Thompkins isn’t the only UDFA to have impressed. Jerreth Sterns (Western Kentucky) and Kaylon Geiger (Texas Tech) both looked like receivers who should have been drafted in April. Which speaks to the Buccaneers player recruiting/personnel services.

If the Bucs end up keeping seven wide receivers, my prediction is that Scotty Miller is out and Deven Thompkins is the successful one.

That said, these decisions are not up to me. Nor should they be. And it’s important to note that with one pre-season game still to play, the team’s final decisions are likely not set in stone just yet. And with the proximity of a race throughout training camp and pre-season, who’s to say one last push from someone couldn’t influence the end result for each of them?

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