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Vikings Next Man Up: WR Bisi Johnson

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Second in a series on promising young players on the Vikings roster

Detroit Lions v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

Olabisi Johnson is what became of one of Rick Spielman’s treasured 7th round picks last season. The #247 pick overall, Johnson competed for a roster spot with a handful of other Day 3 picks, veteran free agent pick-ups, and former first-round pick Laquon Treadwell. But when the final cuts were made, those guys came up short and it was Johnson who emerged with a coveted roster spot.

But Johnson wasn’t done yet. He ultimately parlayed that roster spot into third on the WR depth chart, and ended the season with a total of six starts, most of them in relief of the injured Adam Thielen. His receiving yard production eclipsed that of first-round pick Laquon Treadwell in any of his seasons with the Vikings.

Okay, it’s not saying much to have produced more than Treadwell, but for a guy just a few picks away from going undrafted, he made a lot of progress in his rookie year.

#81 - WR Olabisi (Bisi) Johnson

A Colorado native, Bisi Johnson was a track and field star in high school, winning the state 5A high school competition in 4x100 relay, 110-meter hurdles, 300-meter hurdles, and even the pole vault. He attended Colorado State, but was behind guys like Michael Gallup, Preston Williams, and Rashard Higgins on the WR depth chart while he was there.

Still, he managed to put together a pretty good tape over his years at CSU, improving each year, and along with his 6’0”, 200lbs., 4.5” 40 measurables (same as Diggs & Thielen only 2” shorter than Thielen), he entered the NFL draft. But, coming from a small school, and not even the top receiver there, apparently he didn’t stand out enough to warrant a higher draft pick. I believe he drew the attention of Gary Kubiak, however, who did some college scouting with the Broncos prior to coming to Minnesota, and perhaps that was instrumental in his being drafted by the Vikings.

His draft profile suggested he’s very reliable, smart, a good route runner, and can play every WR position, which sounded promising. Coaches would like him. Well, I guess they did.

In many ways he seems comparable to Adam Thielen when he first joined the Vikings, and Johnson already has more production as a receiver than Thielen’s first two seasons combined. What remains to seen, however, is if Johnson can ultimately have a breakout year similar to Thielen in his third season, and be more than just a WR3.

Notes from Bisi Johnson’s NFL Tape

A few things jump out when watching Johnson’s tape from last season.

First, he’s not a big yards-after-catch (YAC) threat at this point. Not that he can’t be, but so far he appears to have some balance issues after the catch that prevent him from being more productive in that regard.

Second, there are a few times when it appears that the chemistry/timing between Johnson and Kirk Cousins isn’t that good. Something you tend to forget about, but Johnson and Cousins had basically no reps together in the off-season or training camp, and only limited reps in practice once he replaced Adam Thielen for a stretch of games. Presumably that would improve if Johnson earned more practice time with the starters, but for now that remains an issue, particularly on deeper routes.

Johnson is best now as a guy that can find the open space in zone coverage - and he does a good job with that in addition to some basic out and flat routes. This is how Adam Thielen started as well. But for Johnson to take the next step, he’ll need to learn how to sell fakes better to get open on deeper routes - like Thielen did in his breakout year and beyond.

Right now, he shows good instincts for finding the open space in zone, and also shows good hands. He had only two drops and made a few nice grabs as well. He’s also graded well as a run blocker - highest PFF grade on the team in that regard - which could help him see the field more as well. Overall he’s progressed pretty well as a rookie and Day 3 pick, let alone a late 7th rounder.

If he’s able to take another step forward in his route running, and also improve his YAC ability, he has the potential to follow in Adam Thielen’s footsteps. In the meantime, he’ll have competition for the WR2 spot from new free agent acquisition Tajae Sharpe, and most likely a draft pick or two as well.

Bisi Johnson (#81) 2019 Targets

Poll

How high will Bisi Johnson rise on the Vikings WR depth chart?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    WR1
    (24 votes)
  • 29%
    WR2
    (657 votes)
  • 69%
    WR3
    (1531 votes)
2212 votes total Vote Now