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Did 2019’s Top Sleeper Turn Into Cinderella at the Combine?

Now that we have official combine testing results for a majority of the 2019 NFL Draft class, it’s time for a quick review of former Fresno State Bulldogs’ wide receiver KeeSean Johnson.1

THE EARLY YEARS

After high school, Johnson received only one scholarship offer as a two-star prospect. As a redshirt freshman in 2015, he ranked second on the team in receptions (37) and third in yards receiving (337) in a relatively anemic passing offense. His 0.18 Dominator Rating wasn’t spectacular but it did lay a foundation for the future.

In 2016, Johnson nearly doubled his reception total (66) and saw a massive increase in yards (773) and touchdowns (6). This propelled him to a 0.38 Dominator Rating on the year, crossing the critical threshold we look for in WR prospects. In Week 1 against Nebraska, his only P5 opponent that season, Johnson put up a workman-like 8-61-0 line.

2017 AND BEYOND

The arrival of Oregon State transfer quarterback Marcus McMaryion proved to be a massive boost for Johnson. In 2017, he posted his first 1,000-yard season, finishing with a solid 77-1013-8 line. A large chunk of his production came in just three games, however, with seven of his eight TDs coming against Nevada, Hawaii, and Boise State. But in his final season, Johnson has been a consistent weekly contributor:

  • At least 85 yards receiving in 10 of 13 games
  • At least 6 receptions in 12 of 13 games
  • At least 1 TD in 6 of 13 games

In terms of raw counting stats, Johnson has been one of the most prolific WRs in the country since the start of the 2015 season.

AGE AND PRODUCTION

Going from almost no recruiting pedigree to a Biletnikoff Award nomination is a true testament to Johnson’s progression. The metrics we rely on here at RotoViz, however, paint a more unclear picture. We know that a breakout season — a Dominator Rating of 0.30 or better — is extremely important. But Johnson’s adjusted breakout age (20.5) and where he falls on Anthony Amico’s regression tree warrants some pause. Just two percent of prospects in Amico’s study with similar profiles to Johnson have gone on to notch a 200-point PPR season in the NFL.
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This doesn’t completely sink Johnson’s outlook, but it is worth noting. His final age (22.2) is another slight concern based on research from Blair Andrews and puts him at a noticeable disadvantage compared to younger prospects.
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ATHLETICISM

Johnson’s performance at the combine left a lot to be desired. At 6 feet 1 inch, 201 pounds, he ran a 4.6-second forty-yard dash resulting in a Freak Score of 42, ranking 30th among 37 WRs in this year’s class. He also struggled in the agility and explosion drills, finishing no better than the 46th percentile in the vertical jump, broad jump, three-cone, and 20-yard shuttle according to Mockdraftable. Production means more than athleticism for WRs but Johnson did little to boost his draft stock at the combine.

OUTLOOK

Johnson’s production across the span of his four-year college career is nothing but impressive. He’s accounted for 33 percent or more of his team’s receiving yards and TDs in each of his last seasons. But a disappointing combine makes going undrafted a possibility, one which would severely damage his dynasty outlook. I still believe Johnson is worth a shot in the third or forth round of most dynasty rookie drafts based on production but his path to true fantasy relevance may be a steep climb.

  1. The original, pre-combine version of this article was published on December 14, 2018.  (back)
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