NFL Draft 2017: Tampa Bay Buccaneers valued Penn State’s Chris Godwin for his speed and ‘dirty work’
Penn State wide receiver Chris Godwin was an “awesome pick” who filled a specific need for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their offseason pursuit of speed, head coach Dirk Koetter and general manager Jason Licht said after the 2017 NFL draft.
Tampa Bay selected Godwin in the third round at No. 84 overall, which felt like a bargain to Licht. Other NFL executives, he said, agreed.
Godwin slipped into the late third round in a draft that went heavy on wide receivers early with three in the first nine picks. The Buccaneers watched with delight as the draft unfolded and Godwin fell on their lap. He was the 11th receiver off the board in all, which was a mild surprise given Godwin’s stellar NFL combine.
“I got a lot of texts from other personnel guys and GMs saying ‘awesome pick,’ ‘great pick,’ ‘we had him in the second round,'” Licht told SI’s Monday Morning Quarterback. “He’s one of those guys, once you get to a certain point in the draft, it doesn’t surprise you when guys go a little earlier than you thought. And it doesn’t surprise you when guys go a little later.”
The Bucs caught a break when Godwin fell to them. Beyond the trio of Western Michigan’s Corey Davis, Clemson’s Mike Williams and Washington’s John Ross, who went off the board in the first nine picks in the first round, beauty was in the eye of the beholder for teams in pursuit of wideouts. Godwin slipped through the cracks as teams targeted other receiver types.
The Bucs had similar luck in the first round when talented Alabama tight end O.J. Howard slipped to them with the No. 19 pick.
The additions of Howard and Godwin continued the Bucs’ offseason plan to add speed and stretch the field for young quarterback Jameis Winston. Tampa Bay also signed veteran speedster DeSean Jackson in free agency to boost an attack that ranked in the middle of the NFL pack in passing and scoring.
Godwin figures to compete with Adam Humphries for the No. 3 job behind Jackson and Mike Evans. But the former Nittany Lion’s skill set bodes well for him making the roster and suiting up on game day, at the very least as a contributor on the Bucs’ special teams. Godwin makes contested catches and has speed that surprised Koetter, but he’s also a blue-collar worker who is unafraid to block down the field.
“He was definitely willing to do the dirty work,” Koetter said. “It’s great to have all these little, fast guys. That’s all well and good, but at some point, you’ve got to have a wideout that will block the safety. He will do the dirty work. He will play special teams. If you’re going to have five or six guys up on game day at wideout, they can’t all be clones of each other. Somebody’s going to have to play special teams. Somebody’s going to have to block.”
Godwin had a standout career at Penn State and developed a reputation for his strong hands and ability to out-duel defensive backs for 50/50 balls. He caught 59 passes for 982 yards and 11 scores as the Lions surged to win the Big Ten and play in the Rose Bowl. Godwin finished his career ranked fourth on Penn State’s career list with 153 catches for 2,404 yards and 18 receiving touchdowns (tie).
“We are very excited for Chris to hear his name called during the NFL Draft,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “He was a terrific leader for us and made tons of big-time plays during his Penn State career and I expect him to do the same with the Buccaneers. He has terrific leaping ability and ball skills that allow him to come down with a majority of contested catches. I believe Chris will add his name to the list of Nittany Lion wide receivers to excel at the next level.”
Godwin delivered a stunning performance at the NFL combine in February, running a 4.42 in the 40-yard dash to go with a 36-inch vertical, 19 bench reps and position-best 20-yard shuttle time (4.00 seconds). He also turned heads with his effort in position drills, all of which served to validate Godwin’s game film.
Koetter liked what he saw but counted himself among those surprised by Godwin’s 40-yard dash.
“When I watched his tape, I liked his tape,” Koetter said. “I had already written my report before the combine, and his 40 time was probably faster than I would have guessed watching the tape, even though he did get behind the defense. I think he surprised a lot of people with that 40 time.”
What won’t come as a surprise to Koetter and the Tampa Bay staff is Godwin’s ability to play a supporting role, make every catch in the book and play his best when the spotlight gets bigger.
“He wasn’t afraid to go inside and catch the ball over the middle, and he played his best football in big games,” Koetter said.