The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will play in the NFC Championship game this weekend and Minnesota football fans have adopted the Fighting Tom Brady’s for reasons beyond a shared hatred for their opponent, the Green Bay Packers. Former Golden Gopher footballers, Antoine Winfield Jr and Tyler Johnson, were both drafted by the Bucs last April.
Tampa Bay got their hands on Winfield Jr and T. Johnson after the Minnesota Vikings passed on each guy multiple times. But even if Spielman didn’t think they were fits back then (they were), he’d be hard-pressed to deny how much better they’d make this roster look right now, just one year later.
Antoine Winfield Jr.
If the Vikings had drafted Antoine Winfield Jr over Jeff Gladney, he would’ve gone much earlier than he did (at #31 instead of #45). The other option would’ve included Rick moving up from #58 in the second round, where he drafted Ezra Cleveland.
I don’t think there would have been very many football fans in Minnesota upset with drafting Winfield at the end of the 1st round. His season in Tampa certainly lived up to that.
In his rookie year with the Bucs, Winfield played in all 16 games, had one interceptions, two forced fumbles, three sacks, and 64 tackles. According to PFF, Winfield was the NFL’s 35th ranked safety, two spots ahead of Vikings veteran safety Anthony Harris. His final PFF grade was 66.5 and Jeff Gladney finished at 50.1.
You tell me who would’ve been the better pick at #31..
With Anthony Harris set to hit free agency after a bad season, Winfield could have slid right in as his replacement. A safety duo of Smith and Winfield would have made every Vikings/Gophers fan extremely happy.
Plus, he brings this kind of energy.
“Made some grown men cry last night… that was for my pops back in ’09.” ☠️☠️☠️— SKOR North (@SKORNorth) January 18, 2021
– Antoine Winfield Jr. with a *SAVAGE* Instagram post after Tampa Bay’s win over New Orleans! pic.twitter.com/2PTmBkZvti
WR Tyler Johnson
The Minnesota Vikings did find a receiver in the same round that Tyler Johnson was drafted in, drafting KJ Osborn 15 picks after TJ was selected. Osborn got some snaps on special teams but wasn’t near the kick/punt returner the Vikings had hoped he’d be.
On day 2 of the April draft, there were fans begging Spielman to take Johnson from the third round, until he was eventually drafted in the 5th round by Tampa.
The fit would’ve been perfect for the Vikings and obviously so was the talent. This is a team that spent all of 2020 looking for a reliable WR3, to play next to Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson, but now that search will continue in 2021.
Johnson’s biggest problem, during his rookie campaign, was the presence of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and Scottie Miller at his same position. That’s before you get to Tom’s favorite target, Rob Gronkowski at TE. Consequently, Johnson didn’t get the same opportunity he would’ve gotten in Minnesota.
Poor decision making
But even with that crowded WR room, TJ posted 12 passes on 17 targets for 169 yards with two touchdowns. Tom Brady has raved about Tyler and expressed his regret in not getting the ball more often. You can see why, when you watch the catch he made vs the Saints last weekend, in the NFC Divisional round.
Rick Spielman has no excuse for these misses, especially when both guys were playing right in his backyard. He should have taken Winfield and Johnson over Gladney and Osborn. Of course, they both might win a Super Bowl in their rookie campaigns while Minnesota Vikings fans might wait forever.
On second thought, I’m sure they’re doing just fine in Tampa.
Cooper Carlson | Minnesota Sports Fan