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Tyler Johnson Has Great Contested Catch Ability (2020 NFL Draft)

by Kyle Yates | @KyleYNFL | Featured Writer
Apr 14, 2020

Tyler Johnson, Minnesota

Height: 6’1″
Weight: 206 pounds
40-yard dash: NA
Vertical Jump: NA
Broad Jump: NA
3-Cone Drill: NA

(Games Watched: New Mexico State (2018) | South Dakota State (2019) | Purdue (2019) | Iowa (2019) | Penn State (2019))

Tyler Johnson does three things really well…He has incredible receiving ability with some of the stickiest hands in this class, he consistently makes tough catches in tight/contested windows, and he can track the ball very well downfield.

While those are very important traits for a NFL WR, there are other traits that are needed to succeed at the next level. For everything that Johnson does well, he struggles to display the necessary athleticism to separate against corners in the NFL.

Johnson chose to not run at the NFL Combine, which was very suspicious given that he was fully healthy. He banked on running at his Pro Day, but due to Covid-19 that was unfortunately cancelled. Now, the NFL doesn’t have any sort of testing numbers on Johnson to determine whether or not the average athleticism concerns are warranted. While Johnson certainly has a lot of fans on Draft Twitter, his draft stock is all over the place right now and there are questions about where he’s going to be selected. (It’s worth noting that he also was not invited to the Senior Bowl)

Will Johnson have the draft capital necessary to be a factor for fantasy football? How will he succeed in the NFL?

Those questions are answered here in my detailed scouting report on Tyler Johnson (ratings out of five stars):

Size/Versatility 

Johnson has the proper size to compete in the NFL, but his best projection is as a “big-slot” receiver. He played the majority of his snaps at Minnesota in the slot and he may not have the necessary speed and athleticism to beat press coverage on the outside. Instead, he can line up in the slot off the line of scrimmage and win in contested situations in the short passing game.

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐

Route Running/Ability to Separate

Simply put, Johnson didn’t excel in creating separation in the Big-10. He relied heavily on his ball tracking and contested catch ability to succeed and put up impressive numbers. Over recent years, we’ve seen the NFL de-value players like this (Kelvin Harmon last year, for example) and their draft stock has taken a hit because of it. The NFL is valuing speed and separation more and more. For some WRs, they aren’t necessarily top-tier athletes, but they can create separation through skilled and nuanced route-running. While Johnson is certainly not a poor route-runner by any means, he lacks elite traits here to offset the average athleticism.

RATING: ⭐⭐

Speed

As mentioned previously, we don’t have the hard data from the Combine to validate what I saw on tape, but it’s hard to imagine Johnson running anything faster than a 4.60 in the 40-yard dash. While long speed isn’t everything for a slot receiver at the NFL, he lacks elite twitch or burst to create separation as well. It’ll be very difficult to justify spending a high draft pick to bring in someone who will have to rely on “low-percentage completions” that have to be made in tight windows.

RATING: ⭐⭐

Hands

This is how Johnson will stick around in the NFL. He’s as sure-handed of a player that you’ll find in this class and is able to reel in some jaw-dropping catches. He excels at tracking the ball over his shoulder and is able to go up and play “above the rim” when it’s required of him.

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2

Ball-Tracking/Awareness

As mentioned above, Johnson excels at tracking the ball in the air over his shoulder and deep downfield. He has great awareness too when facing zone coverage and knows how to find the soft spots in zones and sit down in them to help his QB.

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

After the Catch

While Johnson is smart and savvy in the open field, it’s difficult to find consistent plays where he’s making defenders miss in the open field. He’ll be able to break away the occasional play, but he’ll be a possession type receiver at the next level that can help move the chains.

RATING: ⭐⭐

Projected Draft Spot

Due to Johnson’s limited athleticism, combined with the fact that we don’t have testing numbers on him, we’re likely going to see Johnson go off the board no earlier than the 5th round. (If he goes earlier then that, I will be shocked) Because of that, it’s hard to see Johnson being an immediate fantasy contributor. He’ll have to work his way up the depth chart to be given a role, but I believe that he still has several things to work on if he’s going to succeed in the NFL. GMs are going to view him as a slot only type of player, but one who lacks twitch or explosiveness off the LOS. With that limited of a skillset to bring to the NFL game, it’s hard to see his draft stock being elevated. Johnson could be the type of player that contributes once he gets to the NFL, but it’s going to be a very hard path to get there, barring a surprise early draft pick.

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Kyle Yates is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Kyle, check out his archive and follow him @KyleYNFL.

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