Why the Slide?: Tyler Johnson

Why the Slide?: Tyler Johnson, WR, Minnesota
By Charlie Campbell, @draftcampbell

Six years ago, we started a series of articles on why certain prospects went undrafted. In that series, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. We got a lot of positive reader feedback about the series, so we decided to expand in the genre to investigate why some prospects slid in the draft. Four years ago, we started the Why the Slide? series, and this year it is back. Feel free to email me requests for Why the Slide? and Why Undrafted? at [email protected]. I can’t promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely will respond to the email.

Any person who watched a significant amount of college football last year saw that Johnson was one of the best wide receivers in the nation. He produced some huge plays in one of the best seasons in Minnesota Gophers history. Johnson notched 86 catches for 1,318 yards with 13 touchdowns in 2019 after recording 78 receptions for 1,169 yards with 12 touchdowns as a junior. Thus, it was surprising that Johnson slid to the third day of the 2020 NFL Draft.

In speaking to team sources, they say the reasons why Johnson slid to the fifth round were speed and separation concerns. Many thought Johnson could have a hard time getting open against NFL cornerbacks, and they felt that press man coverage in particular could give Johnson problems. Thus in a talented and deep receiver class, Johnson slid to the third day when he may have gone a round or two higher in a typical year.

Tampa Bay ended Johnson’s fall and the team was fortunate to land him in the fifth round. It would not surprise me if Johnson develops into a starting-caliber outside receiver, but the Bucs have two excellent starters in Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, so it could be difficult for Johnson to become a starter. Johnson may not have the speed and separation skills to be a slot receiver, but he could rotate into the game on the outside with Godwin or Evans while also running some routes out of the slot. Even if Johnson doesn’t become a starter, I think he could be a very good depth receiver for Tampa Bay. In a passing-driven offense, Johnson could carve out a role as a rotational receiver and have a solid NFL career.

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