Bucs hope they make a catch in Johnson

by Gary Shelton on April 26, 2020

in general

Can Johnson be the Bucs' slot receiver?/Photo courtesy of Minnesota Gophers

Sunday, 4 a.m.

We know he can identify the best quarterback in NFL history.

We are assured he can find the best tight end, too.

But can Jason Licht find himself a sleeper? A steal? A diamond in the bucket of rocks?

For Licht and his Tampa Bay Bucs, that is the next objective. He has to find extraordinary in the middle of a collection of ordinaries. He has to supplement his roster by finding a player the analysts didn't expect to be great.

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Davis hopes to be a rotational player for Bucs./Photo courtesy of Nebraska Cornhuskers

He needs to find a Terrell Davis (sixth round), or a Deacon Jones (14th). He needs to find a Shannon Sharpe (seventh round) or a Bart Starr (17th round).

Now that the Bucs are the richest in talent they have been for a while, they need to find another guy to grab greatness.

Despite all the holes that the Bucs have had in recent seasons, that hasn't been one of Licht's strengths. After the fourth round, the Bucs have precious little to show for their drafts. Jeremy McNichols? Kenny Bell? Drake Dunsmore? Danny Vitale?


The Bucs took another stab at it Saturday, picking up Minnesota wide receiver Tyler Johnson in the fifth round, Nebraska defensive tackle Khalil Davis in the sixth and Temple linebacker Chappelle Russell and shifty Louisiana Lafayette running back Raymond Calais in the seventh round.

Any stars there?

Russell should help on special teams./Photo courtesy of Temple Owls

Okay, okay. This season, maybe the Bucs are less reliant on a sleeper than on any team since the 2002 Bucs. The tenor of questions to Bruce Arians have changed. So too have the conversations. People are expecting many things from these Bucs.

"I love it," coach Bruce Arians said Saturday. "I embrace it. I want our guys to feel that we're a team to beat. Everyone who left our locker room in the last meeting knew that we should have been playing in the playoffs and we beat ourselves. And if we could correct the turnover ratio we'd have a chance. I think everyone who walks into our building is expecting to win."

Starting won't be easy for any of the Day Three picks. Johnson will be behind Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Davis will be behind Suh and Vea. Granted, over the years, the Bucs have done a representable job in the fourth round. They found Kwon Alexander there, who was a good linebacker before he left to break the bank. William Gholston has been solid. Mike Williams was all of that for a while.

But under the Licht regime, there has been precious little in the fifth round or later. Scott Miller was a sixth-rounder last year, and caught 13 balls. Justin Watson was a fifth the year for last, and he caught 15 balls. But, no, the Hall of Fame isn't calling.

"It’s going to be amazing," Johnson said of playing with Tom Brady. "It’s a very surreal moment. I saw (Antoine Winfield Jr.) get picked up yesterday [and] got a chance to call him, talk to him and congratulate him. We all know that right now it’s back to business. We celebrate (and) we take these moments in, but the next day on, we move forward.”

Johnson holds most of the Minnesota receiving records, but he slipped in the draft because of lack of explosiveness.

"I’ve been working on my speed like crazy this offseason, honestly," Johnson said. "Whenever we got the news, I was pretty hurt, honestly, just because of all the work I put into this entire offseason. But at the same time, I’ve been praying heavy that God’s going to put me in the best situation possible. Throughout the whole time, I never looked at it if it was a good thing or a bad thing. I knew that God would put me in the best situation possible for me as a person and as a player as well. Like I said, just going off of pretty much my entire life and working hard and being humble it’s definitely going to go a long way. I think that’s pretty much what was my mindset and that’s going to continue going that way.

“It’s amazing, man. Honestly, it’s very amazing. Knowing I can bring a lot into this offense and I’m expected to bring a lot into this offense. Pretty much what I’m going to do is play my role. I’m looking forward to going out there and making plays. Whenever I have to block, I have to block. Whenever I have to catch the ball, I have to catch the ball. That’s pretty much what’s going into my mindset throughout this entire thing. Like I said, I’m just very excited and very blessed to be in this moment.”

Arians watched Minnesota in the Outback Bowl, where Johnson had a huge day.

"Oh, man, I can't tell you how long I was waiting to see that," Arians said. "I was just shaking on that one because I actually sat out there watched that game with my son. I said 'I've got to get this guy.' We really wanted him, and we had a high grade (on him). Guys were coming and going. It was like "phew, we got finally got him. I was really, really excited."

If the sleeper isn't Johnson, maybe it's Davis, who will compete to be a rotational player (backing up Vita Via and Ndamukong Suh) as a rookie and then take over for Suh.

He's, well, hungry. So hungry that he and twin brother Carlos -- also a Nebraska player -- forced their parents to buy a second refrigerator when he was in high school. Every night, he said the two would eat "eight or nine" boneless chicken thighs and a can of corn.

With the Bucs, Davis will be playing with Nebraska legends Suh and Lavonte David.

"They told me I’d be playing with (Ndamukong) Suh and Lavonte David," Davis said. "It’s an honor – it’s an honor to play with them. I’ve looked up to them just being a ‘Blackshirt’ for five years. It’s awesome. I can’t wait to get to work and just learn from both of them.”

In the final round, the Bucs picked up Russell, who will be an inside linebacker behind Devin White and David. He'll play a lot on special teams.

Calais, the final pick, is interesting. He's a kick returner and a gimmick player. Arians calls him "a joystick."

Was it a good draft? Find a team that doesn't think it had a good draft. But the Bucs addressed their biggest needs -- a tackle, a safety, a running back and a slot receiver.

Assuming the team can get back on the field, it should be interesting.

How Did They Do?

The analysts speak:

Organization Bucs' Grade

Sporting News A

SBNation A

CBSSports A

Sports Illustrated A-

Washington Post A -

Pro Football Focus A-

USAToday B+

NY Post B

Calais will be an interesting goy for Arians./Photo courtesy of Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns

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