Tyler Johnson Player Profile
Arm: 30 7/8
The story of Minnesota’s star wide receiver Tyler Johnson, can be best depicted by one simple quote; “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. This should be a moment of hope for all 2020 NFL Draft prospects, but instead, as the weeks draw on and the news gets grimmmer we start to see the real life impact of sports. Remarkably, Johnson is one of the rare skill athletes nowadays that decided to pass on his opportunity to enter the NFL Draft after his electric Junior season. His name was buzzing around all media even drawing comps to Davante Adams by some, but then it all just stopped. Everything besides the production of course! Statistically speaking, Johnson had a better season in 2019, which has solidified his name upon the top of his schools record books. The decision, by Johnson, to pull out of the Shrine Bowl and NFL Combine to focus on his Pro Day, have led analysts to question his competitive nature foolishly. With this breakdown of the pros, cons, expectations, and draft projection, my hope is to squash any doubt of Johnson as I believe that he is one of the underrated gems of this deep wide receiver class.
Pros: By displaying phenomenal route running, athletic ability to win contested matchups in the red zone, and willingness to learn the position, Johnson has proved to be a “jack of all trades, but master of none” type player. Loves to set up defensive backs with a patient approach and then beat them with quickness, even though Johnson himself has come to out to say “that’s not my game”. The best part about Johnson’s game to me is how naturally the adjustments look on tape to track the football and expand his catch radius. This unique tracking ability amounts to success in the contested catch field, aggressively attacking the football when in the air, and when playing in everyone’s favorite zone...the red-zone. With following Johnson, it’s going to be amazing to see which skill an NFL team wants to expand upon because at the end of the day there are certainly many different routes to go. To end this section I wanted to share two jaw dropping stats that were found via Twitter and courtesy of Pro Football Focus. The first is backing up my belief in the ability of Johnson in the red-zone, as it is of a chart that shows all red-zone receptions in 2019. Johnson stands tall at 19 receptions, the most in college football, even beating out my previously showcased athlete, Justin Jefferson. I wanted to take this stat a bit further, so I carefully analyzed how many of those receptions went for a touchdown. The results are shocking! 8 out of 19 receptions went for touchdowns which is a staggering 42% touchdown rate in the red-zone for 2019. This next stat is honestly even crazier and only focuses on draft eligible wide receivers. Within the chart it covers the reception percentage of targets that are 20+ yards, which again Johnson leads the group, at 72.2%. These numbers are concrete evidence that Johnson not only has the ability to beat you on a fade in the red-zone, but can stretch your offense downfield time and time again.
Cons: There are two main reasons that I believe Johnson isn’t getting the love and attention that his numbers deserve. The first is partly due to his own decision, but also equally to be blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic. The second reason is the uncontrollable decision by the Minnesota coaching staff to change Johnson from quarterback, his high school position, to wide receiver. When you marvel at the amazing highlights that Johnson displayed during his college career, you’ve got to realize it’s only with two full seasons of playing wide receiver. For many NFL scouts and coaching staffs, this ALONE would be enough to draw them away from the “project” aspect of a player such as Johnson in such a deep wide receiver class. But we’re forgetting the first reason; which boils down to being the actions that Johnson boldly has taken after his Senior season entering the NFL Draft. Typically, we know that players looking to improve their draft stock and display their competitive nature will participate in the Shrine Bowl, NFL Combine, and their respective schools Pro Day. Two out of three events were skipped with (what I believe to be) valid reasoning, which was simply to prepare for his Pro Day. From my understanding schools will no longer be able to hold a Pro Day due to the social distancing measures in place. Aside from those unfortunate occurrences, on film we can see from a skill level that Johnson lacks explosion and dynamic play making ability. It’s evident that he definitely doesn’t have the speed to break away after the catch, but even worse I don’t think Johnson has the speed to even beat physical NFL corners on the outside in man to man coverage. Lastly, Johnson must improve his strength and become a better blocker at the next level or, like many in this class, will fail to have a long lasting NFL career.
Comparison/Expectations: I know this is said about every NFL prospect, but in a draft class that is as deep and as loaded with talent as the 2020 class is, it’s truly going to take an NFL team that trusts the tape of Johnson in order for him to succeed. Johnson is still learning how to play wide receiver, but even still has perfected the craft in ways some players never will. My hope is that a team has realized the potential of Johnson and will take the gamble on him with a day two pick because, in my opinion, that would solidify the nagging question of if the NFL usage will be there. The best comparison for Johnson is a player that I think he should embody, even in the media, Marvin Jones. When’s the last time you’ve heard about the latest tweet that Jones put out? Never, because Jones goes to work does his job well and leaves it on the field. In fact, consistently year after year Jones is a sneaky fantasy threat, the numbers never lie. There are numerous teams could use the type of work ethic, skill, and star potential that Johnson brings to the table, but for some reason my gut is telling me that it’ll be the New York Jets as they decide to draft defense in the first round instead.