With wide receiver Anthony Schwartz being put on the injured list due to a concussion, the Cleveland Browns added an intriguing young player to their roster.
On Wednesday, they added Jaelon Darden, a 23-year-old wide receiver who had played in 12 games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season.
Darden has been used chiefly as a kick and punt returner in his two NFL seasons, but in college, he was able to evade many tackle attempts.
Highest missed tackle rate per touch in 2020 (WRs)
1. Jaelon Darden – 31%
2. Kadarius Toney – 30% pic.twitter.com/8rAYQXvtmE
— PFF College (@PFF_College) March 27, 2021
Darden Showed Promise In College
In four seasons at the University of North Texas, a smaller school that plays in the less-heralded Conference USA, Darden put up some very solid numbers.
In 2019, his junior season, he had 736 yards and 12 touchdowns, and he improved those numbers the following year to 1,190 yards and 19 touchdowns while averaging 16.1 yards per reception.
On Pro Day, he registered a strong 40-yard dash time of 4.46 seconds and was taken in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft by the Bucs.
He has caught only eight passes in the pros so far, but he has had his moments as a kick/punt returner.
So far this season, he leads the league with 330 yards on punt returns while averaging 10.6 yards per return attempt.
It seems unlikely the Browns will use him much as a wideout, especially since they have ample options there in Amari Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones and rookie Davis Bell, as well as tight end David Njoku.
But this signing will give the Browns an opportunity to evaluate Darden and see if he provides any real value moving forward while also giving him another opportunity to find a situation where he will stick.