It was not even a year and a half ago that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were almost completely barren of wide receiver talent. It was Mike Evans on the outside and an undrafted second year player with a lot to prove in Adam Humphries. Fast forward to present day and the Bucs added DeSean Jackson through free agency and drafted Chris Godwin in last years draft. As a result, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have one of the deepest and most talented groups of receivers in the league.
Now with the 2018 season approaching and training camp just around the corner, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have some decisions to make regarding their group of pass catchers. While the group of Evans, Jackson, Godwin, and Humphries are all as close to locks as it can get, there will be quite a bit of competition after that.
Whoever wins that fifth receiver job will have an impact not only on the 2018 season, but will likely be a factor in how the Bucs handle the offseason and view the position moving forward.
There are two candidates I really see winning this job. The first is Freddie Martino who has been with the Bucs since 2016. The second is rookie Justin Watson who the team drafted in the fifth round of this years draft. I like these two as favorites to win the job because I believe they have the versatility to play on the outside as well as step into the slot if that’s where they’re needed.
But which one has the edge? Here’s how I see it.
One big advantage Martino has is his experience. He has been with the Bucs for two years and has to be pretty well versed in Dirk Koetter’s offense at this point. This is big for his chances of winning this camp battle. It was just last year we saw a fifth round player get cut, running back Jeremy McNichols, because he couldn’t learn the play book. Familiarity is a critical aspect between player and coach and that’s something Martino brings to the table.
Martino also brings some chemistry with Jameis Winston. Familiarity is not just important between player and coach. Perhaps it’s even more important between quarterback and receiver.
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While Martino’s on field experience has been limited, he’s been productive when targeted. In the last two years he’s averaged over 18 yards per catch and has a touchdown from Winston. This is the kind of production you want when you call upon your fifth receiving option.
What Watson lacks in experience he makes up for in potential. He’s got great size at 6’3″ and 225 lbs. This gives him the ability to win jump balls and box out smaller corners to put himself in position to catch the ball. He’s also very fast.
At his pro day he was clocked at a 4.42 40-yard dash. That’s the same speed as Panthers first round pick D.J. Moore had been clocked in at his combine workout. That’s a great combination of size and speed and should translate to the NFL level.
Who Has the Upper Hand?
With all that being said, Watson is more than just a raw athlete. He has also proven to be very productive on the field. In fact he is one of the greatest receivers in the history of the Ivy League. He recorded three straight 1,000 yard seasons at Penn and holds the all time record there in receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, and several other school records.
Watson also ranks second in Ivy League history in receiving yards as well as third in both receptions and receiving touchdowns.
So who has the edge between these two? In this battle of experience vs potential I give the nod to Watson. I believe his potential and a lot of the things he was able to do in college will translate to the professional level. I also believe his size and speed will translate well to special teams.
Another reason I project Watson to make the team over Martino is the fact that the Bucs will probably lose Watson if he doesn’t make the team. If he goes to the practice squad other teams will have an opportunity to sign him to their roster. I have a hard time believing a team in need of play makers would take a chance on Watson’s upside.
Whereas Martino has been up and down from the Bucs practice squad for two years and no other team has stolen him away. It’s more likely the Bucs can keep him on the practice squad as opposed to Watson, which would only add additional depth.