Rookie Rundown: WR Tyler Johnson, Minnesota

Rookie Rundown: WR Tyler Johnson, Minnesota

Fantasy Football Rookie Analysis

Rookie Rundown: WR Tyler Johnson, Minnesota

By

(Jesse Johnson, USA TODAY Sports)

Minnesota wide receiver Tyler Johnson is coming off of two of the most complete seasons over the past two years, displaying a wide array of abilities along the way.

In 2017, as a sophomore, Johnson missed two games with a hand injury and still earned an honorable mention for the All-Big Ten team after landing seven touchdowns. He exploded the next season, going for 78-1,169-12 and receiving first-team All-Big Ten recognition. If setting school records for receiving yards and scores weren’t enough, Johnson’s 2019 campaign saw him break his own marks and claim another first-team conference honor.

Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 206 pounds
40 time: 4.55 seconds (estimated)

The former high school quarterback wasted little time figuring out the wide receiver position at the collegiate level and enters the 2020 NFL Draft with an alluring blend of traits.

Table: WR Tyler Johnson NCAA stats (2016-19)

Year
Team
Rec
Yds
Avg
TD
Long
2016
Minnesota
14
141
10.1
1
34
2017
Minnesota
35
677
19.3
7
67
2018
Minnesota
78
1,169
15.0
12
52
2019
Minnesota
86
1,318
15.3
13
73

While Johnson isn’t a burner, he has enough speed to stay ahead of most defenders against whom he has a step. Averaging 15-plus yards per grab over the past three seasons for the Golden Gophers should be satisfying enough to most detractors. That said, speed isn’t his game, nor should it be overtly held against him.

Pros

  • Insanely competitive — cannot teach fortitude and determination of his degree
  • Instinctual, especially in traffic — body control and sense of timing are among the draft’s best
  • Highly productive once given the chance
  • Background in basketball is evident in his ability to fight for a contested catch and box-out defenders
  • Excellent hands and focus
  • Has a good feel for route concepts and nuances, such as when to return to his quarterback
  • Tough to take down after the catch despite not being particularly elusive
  • Effort blocker
  • Plays up to his potential within his skill set — an example would be how well he exploits zone coverage vs. man
  • Time as a quarterback helps him understand defenses pre- and post-snap
  • Far better football player than athlete, which tends to get lost on some evaluators

Cons

  • Lacks elite physical skills and isn’t going to “wow” too many people in comparison to top-end NFL receivers
  • Separation windows tend to be small
  • Needs to improve burst coming out of a break
  • May be system-limited as a possession receiver vs. zone coverage

Fantasy football outlook

Johnson reminds of Tennessee Titans WR A.J. Brown, whose rookie season couldn’t have gone much better, all things considered. There’s maybe some Marvin Jones and even a little Anquan Boldin to be found in his game, too. Jones is probably the best NFL comparison, though — similar traits in the red zone and tracking the ball, occasionally flashing just enough athleticism after lulling a defender to sleep.

The senior receiver likely comes off of the board no earlier than Round 4 but is more reasonably a Round 5 or 6 pick. At any rate, climbing into Day 2 will require the right coaching and system fits.

Johnson, depending upon where he lands, ranges from being an intermittent Year 1 fantasy football option to a name gamers stash for 2021.

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