Weight: 209 lbs
School: Penn State
High school ranking: .9266 (4-star)
Despite posting the second highest receiving total in the Big Ten in his sophomore season, Chris Godwin played the majority of his college career considerably under the radar. This all changed in the 2017 Rose Bowl against USC where Godwin played the game of his life, catching nine passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns, making crazy play after crazy play, and putting the football world on notice.
Three and a half months later, Godwin entered the NFL draft as one of the most complete, well-developed receiving prospects in the draft, something that hit me immediately when watching him.
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Godwin worked in a part-time role for the Nittany Lions as a freshman, catching passes in eleven of twelve regular season games but never racking up more than 31 yards. Suddenly, he broke out in Penn State’s bowl game against Boston College, taking in seven balls for 140 yards and a score. This breakout game proved to set the tone for the next season, as Godwin overtook DaeSean Hamilton and Geno Lewis for the primary receiving role in 2015.
The latter two saw their combined targets almost halved as Godwin enjoyed his number one role in the passing game. With an inefficient Christian Hackenberg at the helm, Godwin posted the second-best receiving tally in the Big Ten with 1,101 yards.
Godwin’s final season actually saw a slight downtick in production. The phenomenon appears strange at a glance, as Trace McSorley attempted essentially the same number of passes as Hackenberg. However, the decrease can be attributed to the passing game adding more receiving options. The 2015 attack was essentially a one-two punch with Godwin and Hamilton, while Mike Gesicki and DeAndre Thompkins burst onto the scene in 2016, thus causing targets to be spread out much more. Despite the fall in volume, Godwin scored eleven touchdowns, good enough for second in the conference.
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Godwin possesses requisite size and build to play split out both on and off the line, but little more. Players like Mike Williams and Corey Davis gain additional trump cards through bodily build and height, respectively, but Godwin’s body will fare just fine as a split-out receiver.
In the five games of his I observed, Godwin didn’t drop a single pass. Similarly, Matt Harmon noted a drop on just 2.3% of passes. He’s sure-handed and routinely catches passes away from his body.
Route running polish: A-
The former Nittany Lion exhibited essentially everything you’d like to see out of a route runner. He displayed mastery on nearly every route in the tree–with constant precision–and on a number of double moves. He sinks his hips and makes tight cuts as well as anyone in the class (aside from the otherworldly Davis). This attention to detail allows him to create separation against tight coverage before a pass is thrown (as I’ll explain later, he can do so with the ball in the air too). He understands how to set defenders up to lose positioning, get burned deep, or simply cover a route he isn’t running (nice catch, eh?). As any good route runner does, he combines precision with a good sales job, and the results are pretty. He gets a slight knock for limited work against zone coverage in the sample I watched, but he worked well in that sample and his zone-busting graded well in Harmon’s charting.
The Buccaneer’s combine testing is strange when placed next to his on-field play; the former provided much more polarized results (36th, 78th, and 92nd percentile scores in quickness/agility measures) while he showed good-not-great quickness and solid agility on the field. I tend to trust his in-game work more, as it’s possible for players to utilize their athleticism differently between combine testing and actual games. Thus, he gets a decent, above-average score, with approximately C+ quickness and B-level agility.
His footwork is not the focal point of his play style but more an avenue through which he can run routes and adjust to passes proficiently. He gets to spots relatively quickly but gets through his cuts even better (as can be seen throughout the prior section).
After the catch: B-
With decent aforementioned feet and decent strength, it makes sense for Godwin to also be decent after the catch. He shakes tacklers when given the opportunity but will not make something out of nothing. His high motor allows him to take advantage of sloppy tackling and generate a couple extra yards per catch. Altogether, he brings a very high floor and pretty low ceiling to the table with the ball in his hands.
Ball skills: A
Despite a fine-tuned collection of talents, Godwin’s ball skills stand out from everything else. Jump ball ability, positioning, high-pointing, contested catching, catch radius, body control, ball tracking: Godwin checks every box. He integrates these traits seamlessly, and can be seen:
- Jumping and twisting in a complete 180 and extending his arms fully for a catch way behind him while taking a shot, then pulling away for extra yardage
- High-pointing over a corner to ensure that either he gets the ball or no one does and using incredible focus to twist and keep the ball on his fingertips simultaneously
- Adjusting his path and leap according to the path the ball takes to him while shielding a defender on his back, then cradling the pass and carrying the tackler five more yards
- Extending over his outside shoulder, decelerating, and tapping his feet on the ground three times before stepping out of bounds
- Almost channeling Odell Beckham on a line drive on one of the most physically-impressive incomplete passes you’ll ever see
- Using strength and savvy maneuvers (that’ll almost never be called for pass interference) to gain positioning he had no business attaining against a corner in perfect coverage for the route and, finally, drawing a pass interference call.
- Leaping and twisting 360 degrees in air in order to get above his man, secure the ball without contest, and shield himself from the defender, then landing well inbounds. This one was my personal favorite.
With plays like these, he is one of the most aesthetically-pleasing receivers in the class.
He has made some mistakes on occasion. However, such events are variance bound to happen with any receiver, and given the sheer volume of tough throws he’s been targeted with, he’s bound to have some blips. Even then, the rate at which he attacked passes correctly was profound.
Godwin saw more press coverage than most receivers I observed, and handled it quite well. He displayed strong understanding of his opposition’s technique, leveraging alignments in concert with his agility to consistently get favorable positioning against pressing corners. With that positioning, he dials up his quickness and uses strong hands to pull past his defenders. After getting off the line so easily, he has an immediate upper hand as the corner scrambles to recover lost ground.
Chris ran a 4.42 second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, obviously an impressive mark. Similar to his shuttle testing, his 40 time doesn’t hit you when watching him on the field, however. He has the speed to keep defenders from catching up to him, but he doesn’t blow by them the way you’d see other players with 4.42 speed do so. He still has enough speed to be a threat on go routes, but speed is not the focus of his game.
Godwin made hard cuts consistently when running routes, and showed plenty ability to rise for passes, but he has a more passive explosiveness to his game; a player like Corey Coleman blows past defenders while Godwin’s athleticism proved much more subtle. As was noted in the footwork section, it was much more of a means for him to run routes and go for passes with added proficiency.
Godwin exerted himself on every play. He ran almost every route crisply and bursted off the line routinely, but where he really showed his terrific mentality was in the running game. He consistently executed blocks from the start of a play to the finish and did not shy away from contact. I don’t care too much about a receiver’s run blocking ability, but in this case, it pointed to a greater level of undying effort.
Chris Godwin is well-developed in every area of his game, and when you look at his work ethic, it makes a ton of sense. You wouldn’t expect anyone to master the finer parts of his craft–route running, ball-catching technique, and release–more than him.
When looking at how his skills fit together, things get weird. He’s shown mastery in every technical field, but lacks the exceptional bodily gifts to be dominant in any one area. He is a route-running technician, but without excellent footwork, he won’t be a part of the “always-open club.” He’s as polished as just about any pass-catcher you’ll find with the ball headed his way, but standing at a mere (relatively) 6’1”, without a thick build like Williams, and unable to get up like Josh Doctson, Godwin won’t be an automatic winner at the catch point.
This creates a weird situation where you can’t really type-cast him into any specific role. I’ve been playing with a receiver archetype rating system, which rates a player’s ability to carry out some stereotypical receiving roles (burner, slot possession, manufactured touch, etc.), and the system essentially comes to the same conclusion; he rates very well in almost any category but does not post a great number in any role.
As a result, Godwin’s role should be decided by his landing spot, where he could be a prototypical split receiver, chain mover, or target man. A lot comes down to the players he’s complementing and the system he’s playing in. Well, what about those factors?
I obviously would’ve prefered Godwin to have been taken in the second round, but as a day two pick, I feel confident that Tampa Bay believes in him and would like to put him to good use, especially when those second round picks should be used on important positions like kicker.
Some might be concerned about Godwin in an offense with Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, and OJ Howard, but I’m not because I like the situation they create. Evans will be the number one receiver until he’s gone. Jackson will be a key component of the offense for the next two-to-three years, guiding the young unit as it develops. He’ll be well past his peak soon, allowing other secondary receivers to enter behind Evans. Howard will take some time to develop into a likely-terrifying weapon at tight end and in the slot. What kind of a scenario does this create for Godwin?
Projecting a likely level of progression from Jameis Winston and the rest of the offense, the Buccaneer offense will likely be a high-powered unit. Evans will be a dominant number one, with plenty of volume to go around after his targets. I imagine Howard and Godwin will coexist well in a 2a/2b sort of situation, as both will likely play very separate roles, with Howard inside and Godwin complementing whatever Evans (another highly-versatile receiver) is up to. Both Howard and Godwin will probably have their share big games every season that eats into the other’s production, but aside from those games, I think both reap the benefits of being secondary receivers without defensive focus (taken away by Evans) in an explosive offense. Neither offer the best of upsides (Howard probably won’t reach a Rob Gronkowski level with Evans in the offense), but both should probably provide plenty production. Overall, this is a very exciting offense to look forward to in the coming years with deadly weapons all over the field and a quarterback capable of taking advantage.
Chris Godwin has used his indomitable work ethic to develop excellent technique in every facet of the receiving game. Relative physical limitations have lowered his ceiling a touch, but he is still overqualified for his projected number two role in the Buccaneer offense once Jackson steps aside. He promises to post steady production and his fair share of memorable performances while pleasing fans with absurd catches and delighting football nerds with expert route running.
Godwin is slotted into the tenth spot in my rookie rankings, behind Curtis Samuel and OJ Howard and in front of Juju Smith-Schuster in my considerably tightly-packed second tier (you could take any four of those guys in any order and I wouldn’t take exception). As things stand now, that’s seven spots ahead of the DLF rookie rankings which place him firmly as a mid-second rounder. This presents Godwin fans some options in how to grab their shares. They can make a move for a late first rounder and sit back while he likely falls into their laps or gamble and try to maximize value, trading back to nab some extra talent while grabbing him closer to the middle of the second round. I’ve utilized both of these strategies so far, and have been quite happy with the results, with him or a similar undervalued stud on my roster either way.
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