Wideout Tyler Johnson was unstoppable last season for the University of Minnesota, and it shocked many that Johnson lasted until the 161st pick of 2020 NFL Draft, where the Tampa Bay Bucs were more than happy to take him. Here are Johnson’s odds at Mybookie to win 2020 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year as well as the Bucs’ over/under win total.
Johnson played quarterback and defensive back at his high school in Minneapolis but committed to the University of Minnesota as a wide receiver.
As a freshman, Johnson wasn’t much of a factor. As a sophomore, he started the first 10 games of the season before missing the final two with an injury. Johnson led Minnesota with 35 receptions for 677 yards and seven touchdowns. His receiving yards were the fifth most ever by a Minnesota sophomore, while his seven receiving touchdowns were the second most ever by a Gophers sophomore.
Johnson really broke out as a junior as he made 78 catches for 1,169 yards and 12 touchdowns. He had six 100-yard games and became the first Gopher ever to have four straight 100-yard games in Big Ten play. Johnson was named All-Big Ten First Team, becoming the first Gopher wideout to receive that honor since 2009.
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.
“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 said of returning to school. “I just took all that in and made it a priority.”
Minnesota had one of its best seasons ever last year and Johnson was a huge part of it. He set single-season program records for receptions (86), receiving yards (1,318) and receiving touchdowns (13). Johnson had seven 100-yard games, averaged 101.4 receiving yards per game and caught a touchdown in the final seven games of the season. Johnson was named Outback Bowl MVP after catching two touchdowns against Auburn and setting career highs in receptions (12) and receiving yards (204). He was named All-Big Ten First Team for the second consecutive year.
With a 91.8 grade in 2019, Johnson was Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded receiver in college football. The site also had him with a 94.7 grade against single coverage since 2017, which was the best mark among the Class of 2020 receivers.
Johnson dominated smaller corners out of the slot showing excellent instincts and body control when shielding defenders from the football. On tape, Johnson uses his hands very well and makes plays in traffic, but he isn’t a natural separator and has below-average burst.
Yet despite the record-breaking production, Johnson wasn’t invited to the Senior Bowl, a sign the NFL had little interest in him throughout the draft process.
The former Gopher checks in with decent size at 6-foot-1, 206 pounds, but underwhelming speed and separation ability probably mean he’ll be ticketed for slot duties in the pros (he aligned in the slot 81% of the time in 2019). Johnson will have a legitimate shot to compete for No. 3 duties behind Chris Godwin and Mike Evans in the new-look Buccaneers’ offense. Bruce Arians’ offense will utilize a ton of “11” personnel with one tight end and three wide receivers.
“Honestly this may sound crazy, but I feel like I already have something to prove,” said Johnson. “Once you make it to the next level, the highest level, you have to restart your entire journey. Nothing is guaranteed [and] nothing is given to you, so I’m just going to continue to go out here and work my tail off and help contribute winning to a great organization. And, I’m going to have fun doing what I do – that’s pretty much what got me here. Why change now?”