By the time the third round of the NFL draft rolls around many teams are simply looking for players who can come in and be a solid starter or depth piece. It’s rare to find a superstar at any position past the first two rounds, but just because it’s rare doesn’t mean it’s impossible. When Tampa Bay took Chris Godwin with the 84th pick in 2017, it’s doubtful anyone in the front office realized the gem they had just unearthed. As he enters his fourth season, Godwin has developed into a bona fide star in this league.
The one trait that separates Godwin from the rest of the upper echelon receivers in the league isn’t his size, speed, or quickness. It’s his toughness. Godwin said, “Whatever I have to do to get the job done. I’ll get real dirty in there. I’ll block linebackers, safeties, and defensive ends sometimes. After I catch the ball I’m not trying to go out of bounds, I’m trying to get as many yards as possible.” Obviously, there is more to Godwin’s game than just his toughness. The precision with which Godwin runs his routes, combined with how efficiently he gets in and out of his breaks, makes him one of the most unguardable receivers in the game.
Despite putting up monster numbers in his first couple of years, Godwin was still underrated as a receiver. Part of that can be attributed to playing in Tampa Bay, which isn’t a huge media market, and the fact that the team just missed out on the playoffs his first two seasons. The narrative surrounding the team changed last season when Tom Brady signed to be the new starting quarterback. Suddenly there was a ton of hype, Super Bowl expectations, and more eyes on Godwin than ever before. Meanwhile, he was focused on developing chemistry with his new quarterback, made all the tougher by the pandemic.
Godwin said, “I think over the course of the season we really got closer and closer and really spent that extra time. By the time we got to the playoffs we were clicking on all cylinders.”
Godwin also learned some big lessons from Brady, who has been in the league since Godwin was in daycare. “I think the biggest lesson I learned from him was just how simple you have to make the game. A lot of people try to make the game too complicated. Some coaches are so used to sticking to their formulas and philosophies, but really it just comes down to percentages. You’re trying to put yourself in the best position to be successful by adjusting plays at the line, being on the same page as your quarterback.”
Despite the challenges the pandemic brought to every team throughout the season, Tampa Bay was able to finish with an 11-5 record and head to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. The team would then march through the playoffs defeating Washington, New Orleans, and Green Bay in a thriller before facing off against Kansas City and Patrick Mahomes. Though the game wasn’t very close or exciting, you won’t catch any Tampa Bay players or fans complaining about winning in a blowout.
As the next season approaches, Godwin is looking forward to having fans back in the stands. “We played New Orleans Week 1 last year, and it felt like a glorified scrimmage. It was so weird. We really noticed then just how much energy we get from the fans.” He’s continuing to develop his skills this offseason, particularly getting more separation at the top of his routes and getting in and out of his breaks even more efficiently.
If Godwin continues to grow his game and skillset there is no reason he can’t become a consistent All-Pro, and be one of the most devastating receivers in the league for years to come.