Perhaps the most underrated wide receiver in this entire draft class, KeeSean Johnson seems to be getting far less love than he deserves. With the expectation at the position, it is understandable. A guy like Johnson doesn’t have the glimmer and glam of an N’Keal Harry, Kelvin Harmon, or even D.K. Metcalf. But he does play some damn good football.
For those who do not know, KeeSean has been one of the most productive college wide receivers over the past three years. Not only does he show out on the stat sheet, but he also shows some real promise on the tape. Johnson had to be my next prospect breakdown. The more I dug into him, the more I was convinced that people are sleeping on this kid. Do not let my opinion sway you though, let the evidence speak for itself.
KeeSean Johnson: All Game, No Hype.
- School: Fresno State
- Height: 6’1
- Weight: 207 lbs
- D.O.B: 10/09/1996 (age 22)
- College Dominator: 37.1%
- Breakout Age (BOA): 19
Johnson came into Fresno State as a two-star recruit out of Palo Alto High School. He played in all 12 games and even started 10 of them his first season with the Bulldogs. From the jump, Johnson stood out as he logged 37 receptions, the second most on the team, in his freshman season. In 2016, he followed up the momentum with an even better sophomore campaign. Johnson bested himself in every major statistical category and led Fresno State in receptions, yards, and touchdowns with a 66/773/6 stat line. He went on to receive an All-Mountain West honorable mention for his accomplishments that season.
Johnson’s production only began to ascend from there as he had yet another productive season in 2017. Johnson once again led the Bulldogs in receptions, yards, and touchdowns but this time he received All-Mountain Second Team honors. He ranked third in the MW and 29th in the nation for receiving yards on the year with 1,013. He also ranked 3rd in the Mountain West and 42nd in the nation for receiving touchdowns with eight. Upon many other accolades such as being one of three receivers in the Mountain West to record three touchdowns in a single game in 2017, it was clear that Johnson was becoming a stud.
His senior season put the cap on what was an alarmingly good college career for Johnson. His senior season ended with 95 receptions for 1,340 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, once again besting himself from his previous season. Johnson’s 95 receptions and 1,340 yards were ranked both fourth and sixth in the NCAA last year. Johnson also played his entire career at Fresno State without sustaining any major injuries. Production and health are extremely favorable heading into the 2019 draft.
#4 Brett Rypien (QB, Boise St) hits #3 KeeSean Johnson (WR, CSU Fresno) in stride. pic.twitter.com/5gMOxcv0oj
— PewterReport (@PewterReport) January 14, 2019
Johnson may be one of the best route runners in this class. He is incredibly smooth in and out of his breaks and has phenomenal technique on how to execute within the route tree. Johnson does not possess extreme athleticism which leads me to say he has more refined route running skills rather than remarkable ones. He operated with knowledge of a full route tree at Fresno State and did so from a variety of spots on the field. His heightened technique in this area allows him to constantly beat both press and man coverage with efficiency.
Another one of Johnson’s strengths is his release. He rarely misreads the coverage and takes a false step or has wasted movements. Johnson has a great first step against press coverage that allows him to come to balance faster than most. Despite lacking some athleticism, he does have a good speed release to move upfield with savvy technique. He does a good job at stemming his routes against zone coverage after identifying leverage of defenders and getting to his breaking point. Johnson is very technical at every point of his release on the field.
Johnson has incredible hand strength and some would say the best of this class. He catches everything and seldom drops it if he does get even a few fingers on the ball. Johnson does not make incredibly “difficult” catches but his natural ball skills and strong hands make almost every catch look routine. He has far from elite high point ability but he does track the ball well, especially along the boundary. Johnson does not possess some of the circus-like ability of other receivers in this class. But one thing is for sure if you throw Johnson the ball, he is going to catch it.
— The Draft Network (@DraftNetworkLLC) January 16, 2019
This may be the only rock solid thing I can pin against Johnson. This is not even necessarily a knock in that Johnson has enough athleticism to keep him afloat. However, compared to other wide receivers in this class, Johnson projects to be more of your average athlete in the NFL. He has less than noteworthy speed and burst but gets away with it due to sound technique. NFL teams will always look for prospects to uphold some level of athleticism which is why this is a concern. He likely will not blow away any teams looking for a big, strong, fast receiver. That is just not his strong point.
Not only does Johnson have it on tape, but he pops on the analytics side as well. Johnson was a major producer from his sophomore season on. 2016 was Johnson’s “breakout” year when he had a 38.2% market share of receptions/touchdowns at Fresno State. Very much exceeding the 20% threshold considered for a wide receiver to have, as shown above, he made a significant jump from year one to year two at Fresno State.
After his sophomore season, Johnson continued to impress in terms of statistical production. In 2017, at age 20, Johnson’s 77 receptions for 1,013 yards and eight touchdowns garnered an impressive 36.3% market share of Fresno States offensive production.
2018 was Johnson’s best season yet from all statistical categories. He topped himself in all areas and maintained above 30% market share of the Bulldogs’ offense. He also snagged the highest reception average of his college career with 14.1 in 2018. As you can see in the chart above, Johnsons’s age/market adjusted production is among those who are highly praised in this draft class.
Keesean Johnson is one of the most technical receivers in this class. He displays well above average route running skills and excels at being a solid possession receiver. Johnson has incredibly strong hands with good ball skills that will allow him to be a reliable and consistent receiver at the next level. He has an incredible release in all coverages and areas of the field and is extremely technical off the line of scrimmage. Johnson does not possess above average athletic ability but makes up for it with football IQ and fluid technique. He profiles as a Z/Y receiver with the versatility to be effective both inside and along the boundaries. Johnson may not have the flare or more glam of other prospects in this class, but he presents a very high floor player whose consistency can be a game changer in the NFL.
Johnson is ranked inside my pre-combine top-three wide receivers of this class. I love the level of a technicality he plays with and although he does not present as much explosiveness as other prospects, I think his floor is very high from a fantasy perspective. I really believe that he can come in and make an impact on your fantasy team as a low end WR2 at worst in 2019 (pending situation). His production at the college level tells me he can be successful at the next level and it tells me he can do it quickly.
I will likely be holding off picking Johnson with a first-round pick and hoping he slips to the second round of rookie drafts. With the influx of talent at the position in this class, Johnson may go under the radar and slip to you at the back half of the second round. If my projections are close to what I believe he can do, that is a steal in your rookie draft.
Thank you for reading. You can read some of my other work and thoughts on Twitter @JesseReevesFF. Follow FFStatistics on Twitter @FFStatistics_. Please check out everything that FFStatistics has to offer. New statistics and data are being added constantly. Find more of my Prospect Breakdowns and other articles from the FFStatistics writing staff here. Listen to the FFStatistics family of podcasts here. Stay tuned for my next Prospect Breakdown!