Tyler Johnson, WR, Minnesota
Johnson elected not to work out at the Combine and didn’t have a Pro Day due to the Coronavirus.
Johnson’s production profile is as impressive as any WR in this year’s draft class.
The high school QB and DB moved to WR when he arrived at Minnesota. After a quiet freshman campaign, Johnson broke out as a 19-year-old sophomore. He easily led a bad Gophers passing offense in catches, yards and TDs. In fact, he had more than double the catches and 5 times more receiving yards than any teammate. And that was despite missing the final 2 games of the season with a hand/wrist injury.
Johnson’s numbers really popped in 2018. Minnesota still ranked just 88th in passing yards and 64th in TDs, but Johnson ranked top 21 nationally in catches, yards and TDs. His market shares were massive: 41.4% of the catches, 43.1% of the yards and 60% of the scores. Johnson was named First Team All-Big Ten.
His raw numbers climbed again this past year — and the market shares remained huge. Johnson accounted for 40.6% of Minnesota’s receptions, 40% of the receiving yards and 41.9% of the TDs. Those marks rank 1st, 1st and 5th among 23 of this year’s top WR prospects. His 3.64 yards per route run ranked 3rd, behind only CeeDee Lamb and Tee Higgins. And no WR garnered a higher receiving grade from PFF in 2019.
Johnson topped 100 yards in 6 of his final 8 games, including a monster 12-204-2 line in the Outback Bowl vs. Auburn. He finished 7th in the country in receiving yards, 7th in TDs and 12th in catches. Johnson set single-season school records in all 3 marks and was again named First Team All-Big Ten. He’s also Minnesota’s record holder in career receiving yards and TDs.
Courtesy of @WhatsOnDraftNFL
Games watched - Purdue, Penn State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Auburn
Johnson doesn’t jump off the tape. He’s not gonna ‘wow’ you with speed, big separation or after-the-catch ability. There’s nothing truly special about his skill set.
But there are no real weaknesses, either. Johnson is just a solid receiver who can line up outside or in the slot. (He played 41% of his snaps on the outside and 59% in the slot over his last 3 seasons.)
Johnson has enough athleticism, technique and football IQ to create separation on short and intermediate routes.
Because he’s not an elite separator, though, Johnson needs to make contested catches and plays in heavy traffic. He does.
I was surprised to see that Pro Football Focus charted Johnson with 24 drops on 238 catchable targets (10.1%) for his college career. He improved his 2019 drop rate to 6.3%, and the tape is chock full of off-target grabs.
It’s been a strange pre-draft process for Johnson. He wasn’t even invited to the Senior Bowl, which suggests the NFL isn’t very high on him. Draft capital matters, so that’s a concern.
Then Johnson elected not to work out at the Combine. That probably means he didn’t expect to test well, which makes sense when you watch his tape. Johnson was just athletic enough to gain separation and make contested catches against college CBs. Whether he has enough juice to beat NFL CBs is a fair question.
But that production! If that’s what we should care about most with incoming WRs — and it is — Johnson needs to be someone we’re interested in. We’ll see when and where he goes in the NFL Draft. In the right spot, he has a chance to be an efficient short- and intermediate-range receiver, likely playing primarily out of the slot.