Chris Godwin Is NFL's Next Breakout Star WR Nobody Is Talking About

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistJuly 29, 2019

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin during practice at the NFL football team's training facility Tuesday, May 14, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

Nine NFL wide receivers had three or more 100-plus-yard games in the second half of the 2018 season. One of those wideouts was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Chris Godwin, who was on a nearly 1,000-yard pace during that stretch despite the fact that he was on the field for just 69 percent of his team's offensive snaps. 

With Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries leading the way, Godwin was usually the No. 4 receiver in Tampa last season. Yet he quietly scored seven touchdowns as a 22-year-old sophomore. 

And that might be a major reason the Bucs traded Jackson and let Humphries get away as a free agent in March without making any significant moves to replace either departed key pass-catcher. 

Godwin now moves into the No. 2 role, where he could benefit substantially from the presence of the frequently doubled-teamed Evans and excel in a new-look, high-ceiling offense. 

I polled a few friends who are casual NFL fans this weekend, and zero could tell me anything about Godwin. For obvious reasons, he's been the subject of quite a lot of fantasy-football-related hype this offseason, but Godwin still isn't a household name. Hardly anyone is Googling him compared to players who put up similar statistics last season, like Alshon Jeffery, Calvin Ridley or Jarvis Landry

Most critically, Godwin has shown the ability to play a Jackson-like role outside (albeit with less speed and more ball skills) or a Humphries-like role inside (he spent plenty of time in the slot as both a rookie and a sophomore). 

It explains why new Bucs head coach Bruce Arians has said he sees Godwin as "close to a 100-catch guy" who'll "never come off the field."

Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

"[Godwin] should fit perfectly in what we're doing because he's a physical guy," Arians said recently on The Jim Rome Show. "He's a big guy. We can use him in the slot. We can use him out wide. So he'll never come off the field, and he's going to get a lot of single coverage because they're not going to let Mike Evans be over there one-on-one."

And you have to feel damn good about Godwin in those one-on-one matchups. Per Austin Gayle of Pro Football Focus, the 23-year-old Penn State product has hauled in 54.5 percent of contested catch opportunities since coming into the league, which ranks fifth among 49 receivers with at least 30 such opportunities. And in naming him an honorable mention on its top 25 under 25 list, PFF noted that Godwin's two-year overall grade of 84.5 ranks 15th among 186 qualified wide receivers. 

TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 30: Wide receiver Chris Godwin #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrates his touchdown in the second quarter of the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Raymond James Stadium on December 30, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Will Vrag
Will Vragovic/Getty Images

What's more, he'll now get to work under Arians, who ran a top-10 offense in two of his last three seasons with the Arizona Cardinals and oversaw units that ranked in the top 12 in terms of either yardage or scoring every year between 2009 and 2013. 

Arians is a famed quarterback guru who was Peyton Manning's quarterbacks coach during the first three seasons of Manning's career, spent eight years grooming and developing Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, played a pivotal role in launching Andrew Luck's career and even got a career year out of a 35-year-old Carson Palmer in 2015. 

If Arians can get 2015 No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston to play his best pro season, Godwin and his cohorts will benefit greatly. 

And Godwin just might gain the most, because Arians loves his No. 2 receivers. 

"Over the past 10 seasons," wrote PFF's Scott Barrett, "Arians' WR2 has averaged 104.3 targets per season, or what would have ranked 25th-most last year."

No. 2 receiver John Brown went over 1,000 yards with the Arians-led 2015 Cards, Michael Floyd did the same thing as a No. 2 wideout in 2013 and Antonio Brown broke out with over 1,100 yards as the No. 2 option in Pittsburgh in 2011. Both Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward put up big numbers several seasons in a row earlier in Arians' tenure with the Steelers. 

That could be Godwin's fate, and it helps that his quarterback sees it. 

"[I'm] excited for Chris Godwin," Winston said early in training camp, per the team's official website. "He's such a workaholic. He does his job. When you do your job and you find a way to get open, somehow you get the football."

      

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012.

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