The Oakland Raiders sit at .500 nine weeks through the 2019 season. Quarterback Derek Carr has put up respectable numbers despite lacking a true leading receiver. Coach Jon Gruden and staff need to find several, as they deal with in-experience and injuries in the receiving corp. The 2020 NFL Draft has been highly touted at wideout, and for good reason. Led by Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, the class has been compared to the legendary 1996 and 2014 groups. Oakland won’t have to trade up for Jeudy or reach for a potential star. Minnesota wideout Tyler Johnson is one of many in the class who can become a star in Las Vegas. Videos courtesy of Deluded Yinzer, Jesse Fritsch, and the University of Minnesota
Coming in at 6’2”, 205 pounds, Johnson has the size to play outside the numbers. This season, he’s shown more physicality getting off the press and in run blocking. Johnson is a fighter, especially when the ball is in the air. Has good strength and flexes his muscle through the whistle on blocking downs. Disciplined player at all times, very rarely lets opposing players get him out his character. Fights through the press against defenders and is determined to come down with the ball.
The great thing about Johnson is his attention to detail and consistency on every route. Minnesota has mixed it up, with Johnson playing outside and in the slot. Similar to guys like Keenan Allen and Cooper Kupp, Johnson has shown the ability to get off a jam and get open on a free release in the slot. Johnson really sells his head fakes and shoulder shrugs, running through the route with a purpose. The footwork to change directions in his route is commendable.
Like I said before, Johnson gets physical, and plays with a love and passion for the game whether or not he’s getting the ball. Scouts and team personnel will love the run plays when he is driving a corner into the ground through the whistle or making blocks 40 yards downfield. Has sound technique when engaging; squares his body and attempts to guide opponent into the ground or the sideline. Plays through the whistle consistently, always aware of the ball carrier.
Johnson’s athleticism is always on display, especially when it comes to making the ridiculous catches (in traffic) he’s known for. Plus, Johnson was a two-sport athlete in high school. Chose to go to his neighborhood school, which was suffering through years of losing seasons. Johnson helps to usher in new era, leading basketball team to Minneapolis State Championship appearance in basketball and a title in football. Serious redzone threat, should test well at the Combine.
Reliability for Johnson isn’t a problem. He will give you 6 catches on 8 targets. Those 6 catches will be remarkable, SportsCenter worthy. However, the other may be a flat out miss by the quarterback. But you can bet on the occasional concentration drop, a seemingly easy catch that’s dropped. Johnson was the most reliable wideout in the country in the fourth quarter or overtime in 2018 with 16 receptions, three touchdowns and no drops on 29 targets.
Tyler Johnson is the real deal, and should be a Top-50 pick. With that said, it’s not his fault that Minnesota doesn’t utilize him properly, or the best wideout on the team is an underclassman. The question for Johnson, like many big-body wideouts will be in regards to his speed. While he exhibits the ability to get free, he’s not put in position to show his straight-line speed as much as some other receivers in the class. Whoever drafts Johnson gets a leader on and off the field, with experience in turning around programs. The Raiders could get a steal without having to use a high pick.