The Buccaneers have taken North Texas WR Jaelon Darden in Round 4 of the 2021 NFL Draft. Darden is undersized at 5’8 and 174 pounds but clocked a 4.46-second 40 time at his Pro Day, along with a 91st percentile 3-cone and 79th percentile short shuttle. Those traits show up on tape. Darden toyed with Conference USA defenders last year on his way to an 1,190-yard, 19-TD 2020 campaign. He faces a huge step up in competition moving to the NFL, of course. So we’ll see if that athleticism translates. He lands, of course, in a crowded receiver corps with at least Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and Tyler Johnson currently ahead of him.
ESPN's Jenna Laine highlighted rookie WR Jaelon Darden as the biggest surprise of Bucs minicamp. QB Tom Brady reportedly had a say in Tampa's decision to take Darden in the 4th round of this spring's draft, and the rookie has drawn comparisons to Emmanuel Sanders and John Brown from HC Bruce Arians. "He's super quick and fast," Arians said. "He's a little thicker than I thought he was going to be when I watched him. He catches punts very easily and catches the football extremely easily. He can be very explosive." Darden has an extremely difficult path to playing time in a Bucs WR corps that also includes Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Tyler Johnson and Scotty Miller. But he's at least worth monitoring this summer and is a nice dynasty stash.
In a Saturday interview on NFL Network, Buccaneers HC Bruce Arians called rookie WR Jaelon Darden "kind of a combo" of Emmanuel Sanders and John Brown, each of whom he coached early in their careers (Sanders with the Steelers; Brown with the Cardinals). Brown might be the most hopeful comp for Darden's upside. Brown stood just 5'10, 179 as a 2014 prospect but also ran a 4.34-second 40. Darden still checks in even lighter (174) and shorter. The height of 5'7 and five-eighths at his pro day places the North Texas alum in the 1st percentile, according to Mockdraftable. Darden is fast, but also falls short of Brown in that category (4.46 pro day 40). We'll see how he fares in Tampa but aren't betting heavily on Darden's fantasy future.