Josh Johnson, Tulsa WR | NFL Draft Scouting Report

Josh Johnson's road to the NFL had its twists and turns, but his 2022 NFL Draft scouting report shows potential to stick in the league.

Tulsa is not known as a wide receiver factory. In fact, they aren’t much of an NFL pipeline in the traditional sense. Since 2000, only nine Golden Hurricane prospects have been drafted into the NFL. But even then, none were wide receivers. The last Tulsa receiver to hear his name called in the NFL Draft? Chris Penn in 1994. Nevertheless, Josh Johnson hopes to buck that trend and parlay his scouting report into a selection in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Josh Johnson NFL Draft Profile

  • Position: Wide Receiver
  • School: Tulsa
  • Current Year: Redshirt Senior
  • Height: 5’10 2/8″
  • Weight: 176 pounds
  • Wingspan: 74 1/2″
  • Arm: 32″
  • Hand: 8 5/8″

Josh Johnson Scouting Report

Johnson is often overshadowed by fellow Tulsa draft prospects OT Tyler Smith and G Chris Paul. However, he is also deserving of attention leading up to the event. Johnson will be knocked for his size (5’10” and 176 pounds) and drops (28 in his career), but his separation ability may make up for it. Although he is a slot-only receiver (98% slot rate in 2021), Johnson has displayed the ability to win at the line against press both at Tulsa and at the Shrine Bowl.

Speaking of, Johnson played well during practices and the all-star game itself. He popped off for 98 yards on 4 receptions, including a 51-yard reception in the fourth quarter. One thing to note with Johnson is the level of quarterback he has received.

EJ Perry, D’Eriq King, and Dustin Crum were his QBs at the Shrine Bowl, while Davis Brin and Zach Smith were his signal-callers with the Golden Hurricane. If none of them ring a bell as quality passers, I don’t blame you. Of them all, Perry may be the only one to be drafted — as a late-rounder, at best.

So what Johnson has been able to do throughout his collegiate career is that much more impressive. There are so many reps on film, at the Shrine Bowl and Tulsa, where he is open or in position to win, but the QB throws an inaccurate pass. Nevertheless, Johnson’s overall skill set is weighed down by top-end speed (4.62 40 at pro day) and troubling hands, leading to a late-Day 3 projection in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Where Johnson wins

Although Johnson’s deep speed may not be exaggerated, he can still pressure defenses vertically from the slot and knows how to stack DBs. He tracks passes downfield without breaking stride. Furthermore, Johnson has some acrobatic receptions on film that showcase his ability to contort his body in midair.

But where Johnson truly shines is with his suddenness at the line of scrimmage, creating separation, and with the ball in his hands. Johnson can set up and sell routes with his pad level, hips, eyes, and throttle control. Moreover, he attacks the hips/leverage of defenders and has flashed the ability to snap down at the top of routes to quickly break without wasting motion.

Moreover, his hip sink, bend, and agility show potential to improve even further as a route runner. Johnson explodes out of breaks and owns a good feel for zone, sitting in open space for the easy reception. His long limbs offer QBs a larger radius to target, and his lateral agility can turn short passes into chunk gains.

Johnson possesses open-field wiggle, a twitchy lower body, and the movement skills you can’t coach. He owns a diverse release package for a slot WR with swift and controlled footwork. Overall, Johnson can flat out get open, which is a trait necessary to last in the league.

Areas for improvement

The biggest knock against Johnson is his hands. While overall, he knows how to extend his arms to pull in tough receptions, there are definitely things to improve on. First of all, he is a bit of a body catcher. Many of his catches on film were aided by his chest/pads. Additionally, Johnson needs to look passes in, as he can occasionally move without securing the ball.

The other looming negative for Johnson is his size. There just aren’t many 5’10” and 170-ish pound receivers who can survive in the NFL. This pops up as a run blocker, as he lacks the strength to maintain bocks, even against DBs. But there were also plays where Johnson simply didn’t want to block, resulting in his man coming up with the tackle on the running back moving his way.

Further touching on his slight frame, defenders may be able to knock Johnson around early in routes, and he may struggle to free himself when larger corners get their hands on him. Now, lining up in the slot, he likely won’t face that scenario too often. While his long arms form a bigger radius, he will have issues coming down with contested catches simply due to his size. Likewise, solid arm tackles may stop him in his tracks at the next level.

Johnson lines up a bit too high for my liking, and he can lean his front knee more in his stance to offer maximum explosion at the line. He sometimes overuses his feet, wasting motion when he should just plant and drive. Moreover, keeping his arms and hands tighter at the stem will help further sell routes, snap down quicker, and prepare him for rapid-fire throws.

As a route runner, Johnson needs to press CBs vertically to get them to open their hips. When performing quick outs and ins, Johnson moves laterally in his release, allowing space for corners to mirror him.

Johnson’s Player Profile

Growing up in the Little Rock, Arkansas, area, Johnson began playing football at seven years old. At Central Arkansas Christian High School, Johnson was a four-year letterman playing both wide receiver and cornerback. He followed up an 87-reception, 1,245-yard, and 8-touchdown junior campaign with an injury-shortened senior season. Still, he was able to produce 38 catches for 636 yards and 8 TDs.

Johnson finished his high school career as a three-time all-conference and two-time all-state selection. 247Sports Composite ranked him as a three-star recruit and the ninth-best player in the state. Johnson initially committed to Indiana midway through his junior season. But after a slew of new offers from the likes of Notre Dame, Minnesota, and NC State, he decided to reopen his recruiting.

Iowa State made a late push, and even after his senior year was cut short by an ankle injury, they maintained their dialogue with Johnson. As a result, he signed his letter of intent with the Cyclones and enrolled in June 2017.

However, Johnson’s college tour wasn’t over. After redshirting in 2017 and receiving limited playing time in 2018, he entered the transfer portal. It didn’t take him long to find a new home, announcing his decision to join Tulsa just a month later.

Johnson’s career at Tulsa

Johnson’s father and older brother both played for the Golden Hurricane during their college days, making his decision that much easier. After a slow start to the 2019 season, Johnson became an immediate fixture in the offense. He saw 8+ targets in seven of the last nine contests, going over 50 yards in six.

A COVID-impacted 2020 campaign saw Johnson continue to improve his receiving prowess, but 2021 was his breakout campaign. In 13 games, Johnson exploded for 1,114 yards and 6 scores on 83 receptions. He also flashed his single-game dominance, rattling off 110+ yards in six contests, including an 8-149-1 receiving line against collegiate powerhouse Ohio State.

What they’re saying about Johnson

“One of the best route runners we have. Has really improved his hands. Gets in and out of cuts. I think Josh understands what we are trying to accomplish offensively. A guy who can take the top off and catch the deep ball. He can catch underneath. He does a really good job in our receiver screens. Just an all-around exceptional player.” — Tulsa head coach Philip Montgomery

Johnson’s NFL Draft ascension

I’m reminded of former USC receiver Deontay Burnett when watching Johnson’s tape. Burnett was similar from both a build and usage standpoint. I believe Johnson is a more natural separator, while Burnett owned the better hands.

  • Burnett (2018 Pro Day)
    6’0″, 186 pounds, 31 1/2″ arms, 8 5/8″ hands, 4.7 40-yard dash
  • Johnson (2022 Pro Day)
    5’10 2/8″, 176 pounds, 32 arms, 8 5/8″ hands, 4.62 40-yard dash

Regardless of their similarities, Johnson shouldn’t go undrafted as Burnett did in 2018. I have him as a late-Day 3 pick, but all it takes is one team to select him in the fourth or fifth round. Ultimately, Johnson’s ball skills, size, and lack of elite traits will scare some teams off. Yet, his route running and ability to get open should be enough for a team to pull the trigger on in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Tony Pauline’s scouting report for Josh Johnson

Positives: Sure-handed underneath receiver who flashes the ability to get downfield. Comes back to the ball to make himself an available target, adjusts to errant throws, and gets down to scoop up low passes. Settles into the open spot of the field and uses his frame to shield away defenders. Effective when he catches the ball with his hands. Tracks the pass in the air and makes the difficult catch at full speed. Works to pick up yardage after the catch.

Negatives: Lacks a second gear. Struggles in battles and does not come away with the difficult reception.

Analysis: Johnson is a well-built receiver with an upside who could make a roster as a fifth wideout.

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