The Twitterverse is going crazy already anointing Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie WR Tyler Johnson as the next Julian Edelman. “Tyler Johnson plays the slot. Julian Edelman played the slot. Tom Brady loved Julian Edelman, Tom Brady is going to love Tyler Johnson!” I know you’ve seen it; it reminds me of the old High School math logic proofs. But in this case, “if P then Q” does not mean it is true in THIS truth table! Pump the brakes a little bit people!
First thing first, Julian Edelman never had to share targets with a duo like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin for a whole season. In addition, it is just lazy to assume that because Evans and Godwin are the top two receivers on the team, the WR3 is the slot guy. This is not a game of Madden people! In fact, Chris Godwin is an EXCELLENT slot receiver and lines up in the slot quite often. In 2019, Godwin lined up 34% of the time in the right slot and 28% of the time in the left slot. If you want to say Brady loves his slot guys, maybe you should bump Godwin up your rankings a bit and not assume it will be Johnson in the slot.
Then there is another major problem, there is only one football and there are several solid receiving options on the Tampa Bay offense for Tom Brady to throw to. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, OJ Howard, Cam Brate, Ronald Jones, Ke’shawn Vaughn, Dare Ogunbawale, Scotty Miller, Justin Watson and Tyler Johnson. That is A LOT of mouths to feed. Johnson must first earn the starting WR3 spot by beating out Miller and Watson. That is not too tall of a task, but there are certainly some Scotty Miller and even some Justin Watson truthers out there who believe!
Starting with Scotty Miller, the fact that he is a 4.30 40 time guy still excites people. Some say that the Bucs could use Miller as a field stretching guy, sort of what DeSean Jackson was supposed to be. In 2019, Miller was only active for 10 games and accumulated 200 yards receiving in those games. He is a guy who has good speed but is not an advanced or precise route runner at this point in his career. He does not excite me.
Justin Watson was a fifth round pick in 2018 after a solid career at Penn. As a 6’4, smart WR, Buccaneers fans thought there would be a chance for him to make a name for himself in 2019 beside Evans and Godwin. However, Watson was active for all 16 games and only brought in 15 receptions on 26 targets with a whopping 159 receiving yards. He is smart, he is a good blocker, but he is not fast, he is not quick, and he is probably nothing more than a special teams guy who can fill in and take some snaps at WR if needed. TJ should have no problem passing him on the depth chart.
So now Tyler Johnson, who I do believe can beat out both previously mentioned WR3 options, should have the upper hand for the WR3 job in the Bucs offense. He is not as fast as Miller, he is not as big as Watson, but if you watched him in college at Minnesota the past couple of years, you could see he is a legit wide receiver. He knows how to attack a defense and did a great job finding the open space in zone defenses. He was excellent at reading coverages and putting himself in the best position to be open for a pass. Even in man coverage, his body control and contested catch ability still allowed him to be successful even at 6’2. With the ball in his hands, TJ was very calm and calculated making plays happen in open space and making defenders miss tackles. He should be the most complete receiver of the group and should be able to win the starting job as WR3.
Ok, so he wins the job, now what? ANNOINT HIM JULIAN EDELMAN! Oh wait, he will probably be playing a decent amount on the outside while Godwin lines up in the slot, AND, there’s still that problem of the one football and all those receiving options! Let’s look at how many 2019 targets were vacated in the offseason.
The Bucs only lost Breshad Perriman and Peyton Barber from their starters, who combined for under 100 targets in 2019. Looking at Perriman, who played the WR3 role last year, his exit leaves 69 vacated targets up for grabs. Of those 69 targets, 26 of them(nearly 40%) came in the final 3 weeks of the season when both Mike Evans and Chris Godwin were out with injuries and Jameis Winston was just looking for anyone with a pulse to throw the ball to. Speaking of Evans and Godwin, the dynamic duo combined for 239 targets in 13 and 14 games, respectively. They’re going to be the main reads on most of Brady’s drop backs.
The tight end tandem of Howard and Brate combined for 108 targets on an offense that most would agree totally underutilized the tight end position last year. This year, the tight end room gets a very welcome addition in Tom Brady’s bestie, Rob Gronkowski. Not only will Gronk eat at some of the snaps and targets that Howard and Brate would get, but he is also a guy who will operate in the middle of the field and take targets from the wide receivers as well. Especially with how comfortable Brady is with him already, he will certainly rely on him in big spots just like he always has.
There simply will not be enough volume in this passing offense to deem Tyler Johnson anything more than a nice receiver in this coming season barring a significant injury. He will certainly play a role in the offense, but he is NOT going to be Brady’s new Edelman. Anybody selling you that potion simply is not doing their homework. I would LOVE shares of TJ in dynasty leagues, and I will certainly take a flyer on him late in redraft leagues, but with tempered expectations. If Evans and Godwin stay healthy, he will be a nice role player. If there is an injury to one of those two guys, Johnson can certainly become a solid asset to have on your fantasy rosters, BUT, he is not Julian Edelman!