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Returning Dominators: No. 3 No Bull

In this series, I’m breaking down the top-10 returning college wide receivers from 2017 by dominator rating (DR). If you’re unfamiliar with dominator rating, it’s a receiver’s combined market share of receiving yardage and touchdowns. While it’s only one element in receiver evaluation – and requires age and experience adjustments to tell the full story – it provides an excellent snapshot of a player’s role within his offense.

Consider this an early look at potential rookies in the 2019 class to get a jump-start on the draft season. I’ll take a look back at their prospect profiles and rankings from high school, their production at the college level, and prospects for the NFL. The 2017 countdown included Michael GallupCourtland SuttonAnthony Miller, and Richie James.

No. 3 has had a somewhat unorthodox journey to make the countdown. He transferred twice and was redshirted, which helps explain age concerns. With friends and family already in the NFL, he’s well positioned to make smart choices as the draft season ramps up.

Anthony Johnson – Buffalo 

In this countdown, we’ve had smaller receivers at 5 feet 10 inches and under, and the big guys like Sills, Gardner, and Hobbs. Anthony Johnson fits between those two at 6 feet 2 inches, 210 pounds. At South Pointe High School in Rock Hill, South Carolina, Johnson was a two-sport star, in basketball and football. With 46 receptions and 11 touchdowns as a senior, he earned an All-Area selection. On the hardwood, he was an All-State selection and heavily recruited. However, Johnson didn’t meet the academic requirements to play at the Division I level.

To get his grades in order and increase his recruiting profile, Johnson’s first collegiate stop was to Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas. Butler is a perennial powerhouse and plays in the Kansas Jayhawk Conference, which fields many top-teams each year and is loaded with talent. If this rings a bell from earlier in the countdown, Malcolm Williams played at Fort Scott, which is in the same conference.

On the field, Johnson had to compete with both Gallup and current Seahawks running back Chris Carson for touches. Gallup led the receiving group in every category, while Johnson’s 21 catches were fourth. He managed to turn those limited opportunities into 559 receiving yards (16 percent market share) and five touchdowns (13 percent market share), both of which trailed only Gallup. In this case, Johnson’s freshman year dominator rating of 0.15 doesn’t seem all that bad next to Gallup’s 0.26.

What transpired after the football season is another story. Johnson injured himself playing basketball in the winter and it lingered into spring football practices. With a new coaching staff at Butler and a nagging injury, Johnson’s scholarship was revoked. It didn’t take him long to latch on elsewhere, as conference rival Iowa Western offered him a shot at revenge and he signed with the Reivers.

He played Butler in Week 2, catching three passes for 78 yards in a game the Grizzlies won easily, 40-7. While he did serve as the primary returner, 2016 was a down year for Johnson. He played with the No. 1 rated JUCO wide receiver in TCU signee Taj Williams, but wasn’t a primary option in the offense. His 19 receptions were only sixth on the team and his 434 receiving yards (14 percent market share) ranked fourth. His touchdown production was also cut in half, as he scored only twice (seven percent market share) and his dominator rating dropped to 0.11. We really want to see his DR go up with age, but the reverse happened while in Iowa.

Year Class Games Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Team Passing Team TDs MS Yards MS TDs Dominator
2014 Fr. 11 21 559 5 3,400 38 0.16 0.13 0.15
2015 So. 12 19 434 2 3,182 29 0.14 0.07 0.11

Despite the lack of production, Johnson still had Division I offers and was planning to enroll at Marshall when the coach who recruited him left for another school. The last offer standing for Johnson was in the MAC with Buffalo. He accepted but suffered through back and hamstring injuries during the summer and was granted a medical redshirt for the 2016 season.

Finally healthy, Johnson made a mark on his team and conference in his first game, with 140 yards on 11 catches and a touchdown at Minnesota in the season opener. After a blazing start, Johnson didn’t look back. Against Western Michigan, Johnson set a season-high with 195 yards on 11 receptions and two touchdowns. Overall, he had six games with over 140 receiving yards, which led the nation.

He led the Bulls in every receiving category, easily besting his teammates. Johnson finished the season with 76 receptions, 1,356 yards (39 percent market share) and 14 touchdowns (58 percent market share). His dominator rating of 0.49 is impressive and he eclipsed the 0.30 mark needed for a breakout. One unknown is Johnson’s age, an important factor for wide receiver evaluation and their projection to the next level. Given his junior college journey and redshirt year, Johnson’s breakout season likely happened at an age over 21, which does leave him an uphill battle at the NFL level to become fantasy relevant.

As a senior, Johnson couldn’t replicate his 2017 season but the connection with quarterback Tyree Jackson (another NFL prospect) was strong. Despite missing a game, Johnson again led the Bulls in every receiving category. Junior K.J. Osborn gave Buffalo another strong option and did eat into Johnson’s dominance in the market share department. Still, Johnson posted 52 receptions for 944 yards (33 percent market share) and 11 touchdowns (41 percent market share) for a DR of 0.37. That’s still really good and Johnson was one final game to improve those numbers.

Overall, posting a dominator rating in the neighborhood of 0.50 is incredibly difficult. Johnson did just that in 2017 without a clear number two option in the receiving group. Some regression was likely but he still performed at a high level. Again, the biggest mystery with Johnson is his age. We should get that answer as the draft season approaches, starting with the Reese’s Senior Bowl, which Johnson has accepted an invite to. That’s a good sign for his draft stock and he’ll have a chance to improve upon that in front of NFL coaches. His best-case scenario is likely that of Cooper Kupp from two years ago; an older prospect who dominated in market share and performed well at the Senior Bowl. With three cousins already in the NFL, including Jadeveon Clowney, Johnson should be able to navigate the draft process with ease.

Year Class Games Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Team Passing Team TDs MS Yards MS TDs Dominator
2017 R-Jr. 12 76 1,356 14 3,490 24 0.39 0.58 0.49
2018 R-Sr. 12 52 944 11 2,881 27 0.33 0.41 0.37

You can see Johnson play his final college game on December 22nd as his Buffalo Bulls face-off against Troy in the Dollar General Bowl.

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