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Last April, Bisi Johnson almost became “Mr. Irrelevant.”
Selected with a late 7th-round compensatory pick, Johnson was the 247th out of 254 players chosen in the 2018 draft.
Johnson, for his part, didn’t know if it would happen.
“I get a call from Gary Kubiak (who had seen Johnson play when he was a coach in Denver) saying hey, we are trying to get you here and all this stuff. Then I get another call from him saying we are actually not going to take you…
…so then I get a call from the Vikings, and I’m like, no way.”
Whatever machinations were occurring in the Vikings Draft War Room on draft day (certainly fodder for another expose), are now an afterthought.
Bisi Johnson became a Viking, the second receiver they chose in the 7th round, just behind Dillon Mitchell (#239) from Oregon.
So what do the Vikings’ have in Johnson? ESPN’s Courtney Cronin’s take:
“Johnson is a tough, effective route runner who isn’t afraid to make contested plays. He developed into a deep-ball threat at Colorado State, averaging 14.6 yards per catch in his final two seasons, and is praised for his football character and knowledge of an expanded route tree.”
At Colorado State, Johnson was given the nickname “Mr. Standard” by teammates for his work ethic and attention to detail.
Johnson’s college numbers over four seasons are solid but hardly remarkable, yet his skill-set and attitude embellish a complete offensive football player.
For most of his Colorado State career he was the Rams’ number two receiver, but also contributed on special teams and returned punts. His coaches praised his effort, energy and desire to improve.
Do such descriptions essay a fairly tedious college history of an NFL late round pick that rarely makes an NFL active roster?
But what is unrevealed in Johnson’s game in a statistical terms may be illustrated in his desire to get better at the next level. Johnson has the actual opportunity to peak as an athlete in Minnesota.
He’s in the right place at the right time.
It’s an opportunity that Johnson’s teammate, 2017 first-round pick Laquon Treadwell, has not aspired to.
Portrait Of The Player As A Young Man
When first receiving it, Johnson studied his first Viking playbook for hours a night. He concentrated on learning one of the receiver spots in the offense and then increased his comprehension of multiple receiver roles and responsibilities.
Given a few chances in the preseason with Viking starters, Johnson has shown he’s been listening to his coaches and teammates alike, though sometimes making mistakes.
Against Arizona on Saturday, he missed the mark on an early route and found quarterback Kirk Cousins in his face.
“It doesn’t matter whether I’m a rookie or a 10-year vet,” Johnson said of it with a smile, “he (Cousins) expects guys to be in the right place at the right time.”
To Johnson’s great advantage, Johnson’s most obvious NFL mentors stand just feet away in the locker room and practice field, undrafted Adam Thielen and late-round pick Stefon Diggs.
Johnson is no burner, but hardly a slowpoke, sharing an approximate 40 time of about 4.5 with the veteran All-Pro Thielen, a player who has embraced the wisdom of the NFL century by adhering to the tactics and techniques of great receivers before him.
Those tactics and techniques are sundry. Tight route running. Lean and body position. Acute communication with your quarterback, hand positioning, etc.
On his other flank, Johnson gets to watch Stefon Diggs’ discipline and interpretation of such tactics, but Diggs also allows Johnson a look and lesson on how pure athletic talent can rule on them football field.
In response, Johnson has shown the results of listening to both players in his preseason performances, both in separating from defenders and gaining yards after the catch.
Facing The Competition
For their parts, Johnson is clearly the man looking down.
The numbers on the preseason:
- Johnson: 5 catches, 87 yards, 1 TD
- Zlystra: 6 catches, 44 yards, 1 TD
- Beebe: 1 catch, 7 yards, no TDs
Although it’s possible–and likely–that all three players make the Vikings final roster, the pecking order will be important.
Three wide receiver sets will be common in this 2019 offense, but four will not. Because both Thielen and Diggs are both ideal slot threats, Johnson does not need to be a specialist like the diminutive Beebe and will work well on the outside.
With a hint of hyperbole, Bisi Johnson has the chance to make the Minnesota Vikings a true “Three Musketeers” against the Deep State of NFL scouts and draft executives that only hunt for blue chippers to use high draft picks on.
With Thielen and Diggs already making chopped liver out of the idea, Johnson would fit right in.
Tonight, three things could happen in Buffalo in regard to Johnson.
- Johnson could see a solid quarter or full half of football. This would indicate that his coaches want him ready for week one of the regular season, but would like a bit more convincing that they’re making the right decision.
- Fans see little of Johnson, meaning his name is on a certain very important list and there’s no need risking hamstring pulls or ankle sprains.
- A decision has not been made and Johnson is in a solid scrap of a competition with Beebe, Zlystra for roster spots and positions. In that case, Johnson could see action throughout the game.
From this perspective, a person closely examining this team over the last month would probably go with scenario number one.
But it seems correct to just let them play. Watch over the two undrafted athletes from Northern Illinois and the CFL mix it up with the 247th pick of the 2018 draft.
Let the best player, and players, win such coveted spots on an NFL active roster.
The one thing that most fans and Viking aficionados can agree upon is that the one other slightly viable candidate here, former first-round pick Laquon Treadwell, simply does not belong in the picture.