-Pro Football Focus identified Tyler Johnson as one of 10 underrated draft picks that could end up being big steals from this year's overall class. Without a fourth-round pick, the Bucs had already addressed offensive line, safety and running back in the first three rounds and were waiting for another shot in the fifth round. No one thought they'd end up with Johnson, who was projected to go much higher, at pick no. 161.
His fall is a head scratcher. Johnson's senior year at Minnesota was his most productive, catching 86 passes for 1,318 yards and 13 touchdowns. He's the school's all-time leading receiver now, holding records in pretty much every major category. His strength lies in his ability to come down with contested catches, using his 6-2 frame to help him.
"That skill set translates well to the slot, where Johnson spent 661 of his 817 snaps last season," wrote PFF's Mike Renner. "It also translates well to the routes Tom Brady loves to throw. The future Hall of Fame quarterback has gotten an unfair "dink and dunk" label over the course of his career, but it's because he's elite with his ball placement underneath over the middle of the field, which leads to more yards after the catch for his receivers. Johnson's ability to make plays in those tight windows will fit in nicely, as he hauled in 17 of his 26 contested-catch opportunities last season."
And it's not just PFF who see Johnson favorably. He was ranked just behind Michael Pittman, Jr. on The Draft Network's wide receivers list at 15. Pittman was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the second round.
Johnson is also walking into a situation where he will have a chance to learn from some of the best. The Bucs' receiver room includes Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, along with young players like Justin Watson and Scotty Miller. Johnson also has a pretty good quarterback throwing him the ball now, too.
-You know what retiring then coming out of retirement does? Other than the obvious, of course. It sets you up for a heck of a storyline, like winning Comeback Player of the Year, for which Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski is now the favorite*.* The veteran tight end will be entering his 10th NFL season this year with the Buccaneers after taking the past year off from football. He retired after the 2018 season following nine years with the New England Patriots. During that time, he became one of the most decorated tight ends in NFL history, winning three Super Bowl championships while being selected to five Pro Bowls and earning four All-Pro honors. He had been fighting injuries throughout his career and in Gronkowski's own words, his love for the game just wasn't there anymore. So he retired.
Well, now that love is back with a vengeance and he's back with his quarterback. He's also healthy. That undoubtedly adds to the reasoning behind why OddsChecker has him as the favorite to win Comeback Player of the Year, according to Luke Easterling of Sports Illustrated. And what a story it would be.
"It remains to be seen if Gronk can be the player he once was after taking a year off and dealing with all the injuries over the years, but as arguably the most dominant tight end in NFL history, he's sure to make a significant impact in Tampa Bay," writes Easterling.
-Quarterback Tom Brady's All-In Challenge package that includes being flown out to the Bucs' home opener to see the game, spend time with Brady himself and go home with his game-worn jersey sold for $800,000. It was the highest-selling auction item in the Fanatics founder's fundraiser for COVID-19 relief efforts. The bidding closed on Tuesday night along with other packages like golfing with the Manning brothers and Meek Mill's Rolls Royce Phantom.
The fundraiser is still going on with other packages to bid on and raffles to enter. The challenge has raised over $25 million so far. Visit https://www.fanatics.com/all-in-challenge/x-12589906+z-9713580-3838082054 for more info.
-Bucs General Manager Jason Licht held a private conference call with Bucs Season Pass Members on Wednesday. Members were invited to submit questions for the GM. The over-30-minute call addressed everything from free agency to the draft. Licht even told the story of how the trade for Gronkowski came about.
"It was more of an idea that [Tom Brady] let us know that he and Rob were very close," said Licht. "They have a great relationship and there's no really 'selling' Rob Gronkowski, who is one of the best tight ends to ever play the game, to a general manager or head coach. But he did let Bruce and I know that Rob was very interested if he ever came out of retirement, that he would want to play for the Buccaneers and with him and for Bruce. So, it was a pretty easy sell. When we had the opportunity to get him, we were very excited."
Licht also talked about wanting to keep wide receiver Chris Godwin a Buccaneer for life and stressed what an integral part of the offense Godwin is and will continue to be going forward.