Arizona Cardinals’ sixth-round pick Keesean Johnson brings versatility, and well-roundness to the table.
The 2019 Arizona Cardinals draft class has quickly taken the NFL landscape by storm. To couple with the team’s drafting of Kyler Murray is an abundance of coveted receiving prospects. Among those prospects are Andy Isabella and Hakeem Butler; two players that the draft community fell in love with. But many forget about Keesean Johnson, a highly coveted prospect in his own right.
Johnson took the same path to the NFL as Packers’ two-time Pro Bowler Davante Adams. From Palo Alto High to Fresno State, Johnson watched Adams break records, and then he beat them himself. He broke Fresno State’s career receptions (275) and yardage (3,468) records during his four-year tenure.
Now, as a pro, the former Bulldog hopes to follow Adams in the same path to stardom. Though he doesn’t possess Adams’ killer press-beating techniques, he has the game to be productive from the get-go in the desert.
Measuring in at 6-foot-1 and 201-pounds, Johnson is well-built but isn’t physically intimidating. The same can be said for his athletic profile, as at the combine, he didn’t entirely turn heads. The receiver’s testing results include a 4.60 second 40-yard-dash, 30-inch vertical, 117-inch broad jump, and 7.28-second three-cone-drill.
But, that’s not who Johnson is. Instead of earning recognition for his athletic testing, the wide receiver’s tape tends to do the talking. After re-watching his game film, here are my notes on the player:
- Versatility in his route-running may be Johnson’s best trait. He runs a full route-tree and does so well. Though he could stand to speed up his footwork, he takes clean, horizontal breaks on his shorter routes, and can create vertical separation on deep ones.
- He’s not a freak athlete, but he’s a functional one. Johnson’s game is smooth, well thought-out, and you can tell effort is consistently given.
- Not a particularly nuanced route-runner, and that’s not a bad thing. He runs his routes smoothly and is technically refined.
- Natural receiver with the steady hands to boot. Though contact can throw Johnson off, he’s a contested catch ace and doesn’t struggle with concentration drops. In 2018, he had a catch rate of 74.2%, per Pro Football Focus, and it’s easy to see why that number is so high.
- Johnson’s versatility doesn’t end with his route-running. Whether he’s in the slot or outside, he’s able to create separation and can use his broad route-tree to his advantage.
- He’s not a YAC menace, due to his lack of quickness and speed, but he’s a creative and hard-nosed runner; this earned him several snaps on screens, drags, and slants.
- Plus blocker. The effort that was noted earlier as a receiver translates well to the more-forgotten about part of his game. Johnson approaches his blocks with physicality, and well squared off form.
- Lack of quickness is evident when trying to create separation. Though he’s built up a solid array of release techniques, his footwork must be sped up to create consistent separation in the NFL.
- He’s a possession receiver through-and-through with the ability to play both inside and outside. Though this may limit Johnson’s game, his route-running and pass-catching skills should translate well to the NFL.
Two key-words best describe Johnson’s game; versatility, and production. Again, he’s not an athletic prospect, but his route-tree, versatility, size, and hands should equal instant production in the next level. This equates to a high-floor, low-ceiling prospect that differs from the other, high-upside receivers taken by the Cardinals.
Johnson is a cerebral receiver with little junk in his game. The play below reaffirms that, as he runs an “out and up” route properly without many nuances. Instead of selling fakes with his head or feet, he attacks the cornerback with a cleanly ran route, fluidity, and body movements to sell and gain proper inside leverage.
At the end of the day, Johnson was a value pick for the Cardinals at No. 179 overall. Though his lower draft positioning signifies a backup role for the team in 2019, his game tells the opposite. The Fresno State product is a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none receiver with the game to transition well to the NFL.
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