After the Buccaneers traded one of their fourth-round picks to the Patriots for Rob Gronkowski and sent the other to the 49ers to move up in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft on Thursday, it took a long while for them to have their first selection on Saturday.
But when they were finally on the clock in the fifth round—with pick No. 161—they added yet another weapon for Tom Brady, selecting wide receiver Tyler Johnson out of the University of Minnesota. He becomes the second notable Tyler Johnson in Tampa, as you may recall that there’s another who has played for the Tampa Bay Lightning since 2012... Anyway, here, we have three things you need to know about the newest Tampa Bay receiver.
Like Antoine Winfield Jr., Johnson finished his storied collegiate career at his new home stadium
With their second-round pick on Friday, the Bucs selected Minnesota’s Antoine Winfield Jr., and in his “three things to know” we looked at the interesting fact that he finished his collegiate career in the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium, the stadium he will now call home in the NFL. Well, of course, the same can now be said for Johnson, who remains a teammate of Winfield’s and certainly has fond memories of Ray Jay. In Minnesota’s victory over Auburn back on New Year’s Day, Johnson caught 12 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns, winning the game’s MVP award.
However, while Johnson and Winfield both ended their time with the Golden Gophers in Tampa on the first day of 2020, how they got to that point was pretty different. In fact, the fact that Johnson was even with Minnesota for that game—and the 2019 season—is a departure from what we often see from collegiate prospects these days. He could’ve entered the NFL Draft after his junior season, but instead, he chose to return for his senior season to become the first in his family to earn a college degree and set an example for his sisters and the community he comes from. He explained the reasoning behind his admirable decision last summer with Saturday Tradition (whose story on his decision is definitely worth your time):
“I just thought it would mean a lot to my siblings and people in my community. Not a lot of people where I’m from get a college degree,” Johnson told Saturday Tradition at B1G Media Days. “I just took all that in and made it a priority.”
That kind of dedication drew praise from Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck, who said Johnson’s focus for his senior season was about his degree first, the team second and then himself. And boy, did he make even more of a name for himself. The Gophers had a great season, going 11-2, and they did so in large part because of their star receiver. He set single-season program records for receptions (86), receiving yards (1,318) and receiving touchdowns (13). Plus, he left Minnesota as the program’s all-time leader in receiving yards (3,305) and receiving touchdowns (33).
So, it was pretty fitting for Johnson to steal the show and win the Outback Bowl MVP in his final game with the Gophers. After the game, Fleck absolutely raved about his stud receiver:
MUST WATCH:— GopherHole.com (@GopherHole) January 1, 2020
Coach Fleck is brought to tears at the end of today’s press conference when talking about Tyler Johnson and the legacy he is leaving at the University of Minnesota. #Gophers pic.twitter.com/YxYcvkRsey
He played on both sides of the ball in high school, but didn’t play wide receiver
Interestingly enough, Johnson—now an NFL wide receiver—wasn’t even playing the position in high school. At Minneapolis North High School, he played on both sides of the ball, serving as the team’s quarterback and one of its defensive backs. In his senior season, he led the Polars to an 11-2 record and a state championship appearance. He threw for 2,606 yards and 36 touchdowns while adding more than 1,100 yards and scoring 20 touchdowns on the ground. According to his Minnesota profile, he averaged a touchdown every six snaps he took. EVERY. SIX. SNAPS. That’s domination. Oh, and on the defensive side of the ball, he came up with three interceptions.
As a three-star prospect out of Minnesota North, Johnson chose the University of Minnesota over Iowa, Iowa State and Wisconsin, per his ESPN recruiting profile. With the Gophers, he obviously converted to play wide receiver. But he said Saturday that his time as a quarterback has helped his game as a receiver:
Bucs new wide receiver Tyler Johnson says being a quarterback in high school helped him see the game differently. He then realized the timing and what it takes for receivers to get open once he got to college.— Carmen Vitali (@CarmieV) April 25, 2020
Not to mention, Johnson helped the Polars to a state championship as a member of the basketball team as a senior as well. So, yeah, he’s a pretty impressive athlete.
Pro Football Focus LOVES him
When the Bucs drafted Johnson with the draft’s 161st selection, many took to Twitter to applaud the choice and question how it took so long for him to come off the board. He could turn into a true steal for Tampa Bay, especially given his ability to play in the slot. Plus, considering the fact that he’ll start his career by catching passes from Tom Brady, it wouldn’t be any surprise to see him develop into a great pro.
But that’s not just one writer’s opinion. Pro Football Focus absolutely adores the guy. You can question PFF’s grading system all you want, but there’s no doubting that the staff that puts them together works extremely hard to do so. So, it’s notable that this group of analysts collectively viewed this guy as one of the top receivers in the country last year. With a 91.8 grade in 2019, Johnson was PFF’s highest-graded receiver in college football. They also have him with a 94.7 grade against single coverage since 2017, which was the best mark among this year’s stacked class of receivers.
If you don’t like the publication’s grading system, just consider these stats instead:
Most 15+ yard receptions 2018-2019— PFF (@PFF) April 23, 2020
1. Jerry Jeudy - 64
2. Justin Jefferson - 61
3. Tyler Johnson - 59 pic.twitter.com/2kV0xrlZUJ
Most receptions of 15+ yards since 2017— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) April 23, 2020
1. Tyler Johnson - 80
2. Denzel Mims - 78 pic.twitter.com/xOuXziQrUr
Tyler Johnson has 32 contested catches since 2018— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) April 25, 2020
2nd most in college football pic.twitter.com/Kwj4DMgRPX
The fact that Johnson was still available on day three—much less the fifth round—speaks to the quality of this year’s class of receivers. Because man, it sure feels like the Bucs got a really good one with the No. 161 pick. Trevor Sikkema, formerly of Pewter Report and currently with The Draft Network, had this to say about the pick:
True. So, what do you think of your new receiver, Bucs fans? You can find him on Twitter at @T_muhneyy10. Be sure to take some time to congratulate him and welcome him to Tampa Bay!