A common theme amongst the players near the bottom of the Chargers depth chart is that most of them took the unconventional route to the pros. By that, I guess I simply mean they didn’t take the usual “three to four years at one school and then declare” path. For wide receiver Tyron Johnson, if you were to ask him what he thought his college career would have looked like it certainly wouldn’t have included transferring nor sitting an entire season due to NCAA regulations.
But that’s exactly what happen to the New Orleans native.
Johnson was became a top-5 wideout in the entire country while prepping at Warren Easton High School in New Orleans. As a junior, Johnson caught 87 passes for 1,433 yards and 17 touchdowns. As a senior, he hauled in a whopping 94 passes for 1,589 yards and another 17 scores. After being named a First-Team All-State selection and a member of the 2014 All-USA Team by USA Today, Johnson earned a five-star rating by Rivals and was considered the No. 2 wide receiver prospect in the entire country. After receiving an invite and participating in the Under Armour All-American Game, Johnson accepted an offer to play for the LSU Tigers.
His time in Baton Rouge came to a quick end after a freshman season that saw him catch just nine passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns. According to his father, Johnson wanted to play in a more “wide-open offense.” At the time, that was not the type of offense LSU was.
Johnson eventually chose to transfer to Oklahoma State which has been known to have one of the most wide-open offenses in the country under Mike Gundy. After sitting out the entire 2016 season due to transfer restrictions, Johnson spent his first season in Stillwater behind future second-round pick, James Washington. As a redshirt sophomore, he caught 18 passes for 293 yards and three scores across 10 games played.
As a senior, Johnson started all 13 games for the Cowboys and totaling 53 catches for 845 yards and seven touchdowns with an additional rushing touchdown. In both years at Oklahoma State, Johnson was named an Academic All-Big 12 honoree.
During the Cowboys’ pro day, Johnson turned heads when he clocked in at 4.34 in the forty-yard dash. That mark would have been among the top-5 marks at that year’s NFL Combine.
Johnson would go undrafted in 2018 and initially signed as an undrafted free agent with the Houston Texans. He would eventually get cut and spend time with Buffalo Bills and Carolina Panthers before settling in with the Chargers in early December.
College: Oklahoma State
Years with team: 1
“Tyron Johnson signed a 1 year, $610,000 contract with the Los Angeles Chargers, including an average annual salary of $610,000. In 2020, Johnson will earn a base salary of $610,000, while carrying a cap hit of $610,000.” - Spotrac.com
Johnson brought a heck of a pedigree to him from his high school days. Over 3,000 yards and 34 touchdowns across his final two years at the prep level is nothing to scoff at. His long speed is already one of the best on the entire team that’s certainly something the team will pay attention to when evaluating him this offseason.
While watching Johnson’s tape, what stood out to me the most is how large he played for a receiver listed under 200 pounds. His height of 6’1 is just fine but the strength he showed while catching passes over the middle is notable. He took contact very well and loves to stick his foot in the ground and put a move on a defender after the catch. He was mostly-utilized on slants, hitches, now screens, and go routes. The first three were to allow him the opportunity to create after the catch and the latter was to take advantage of his feisty demeanor when attacking the football.
Although he founds success running those specific routes mentioned above, the lack of a true route tree is a cause for concern. While his lack of running various routes doesn’t equate to him not being able to, it still doesn’t look good from a scouting standpoint. Some will point to his lack of receiving production in college, as well as his five-star rating as a prospect, and say he didn’t nearly live up to the hype that surrounded him from the start. These are all valid points. Plenty of receivers showed out at Oklahoma State and parlayed that success into being drafted but why didn’t Johnson? These are all valid points to ponder.
Odds of making the roster/What to expect in 2020?
After drafting two wideouts this past draft, it’s going to be tough for any of the non-drafted receivers to find a spot on this team. There’s a chance the final roster only holds six receivers and that means a whole host of players could be fighting for the fifth and sixth spots behind Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, K.J. Hill, and Joe Reed. Last year’s WR3 was Andre Patton, so you can be certain the battle for the depth spots will be wide open.