Our NFL rookie profile series continues with this analysis of 2019 NFL Draft Prospect KeeSean Johnson, WR of Fresno State. You can also check out all of our NFL Draft Prospect articles here. We will continue to provide you with these in-depth rookie profiles and a ton of other fantasy football rookie analysis right up through the NFL Draft. Stay tuned, and stay ahead of your league!
There are several “types” of prospect profile in the wide receiver class this year. For instance, we have several athletic players who were, in one way or another, underproductive in college. There are also a few very productive players who have put up less-than-ideal athletic numbers. KeeSean Johnson falls into this second category.
Depending on your tolerance for lower athletic testing, Johnson could seem like a very promising value or a concerning avoid. He was one of the most productive players at each age in college from this class and second-best player in his first few years after N’Keal Harry.
But let’s break it down before we draw too many conclusions.
Everything starts with the counting stats. We just don’t want to rely on the raw totals to compare players playing on different teams. So, while Johnson’s raw numbers look good enough with two 1,000-yard seasons, it’s his share of the offense that really helps to see how important, or how good, he was in the receiving game of his own team.
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Stats from sports-reference.com.
Of course, numbers are limiting by themselves. We need context to put them in perspective. What I like to do is compare a player’s production in yards for his college team with the average of NFL wide receivers who hit inside the top 24 at least once. That looks something like this:
Graph made using data from my own market share database.
Based on this breakdown as well as other stats I like to use such as Dominator Rating and breakout age (Johnson broke out at age 19 with over 20% of the total passing offense for Fresno), Johnson is in the “most likely to break out” category.
Like JJ Arcega-Whiteside, who I have also written about, Johnson had a prolific touchdown share in college with over 40% of the team’s receiving touchdown twice at age 19 and 20. However, unlike Whiteside, Johnson was constantly over 30% in receiving yards as well for the final three years of his career. Whiteside was productive enough, don’t get me wrong, but Johnson’s share of the offense just seems a lot more balanced to me between yards and touchdowns.
This is based on production alone, which I have found to be what productive NFL players have in common a lot more often than any other feature of their profile.
I do not think of myself as a scout or a film grinder. While I watch and enjoy prospect tape, most of my opinion on their “on the field” play is heavily based on what better eyes then mine have written about them. Johnson’s main criticism is his lack of ability on the outside. On film, he has been compared to North Carolina State wide receiver Kelvin Harmon from the same class. While he displays an effective skill set in college, his game may be more suiting to the slot in the NFL.
Personally, I see a player who has good vision both with the ball in his hands and for the coverage scheme he is facing. He received plenty of work close to, or behind the line of scrimmage and was able to find his way through the first layer of defenders, often to dynamic effect.
However, I also see him use his size to gain an advantage in contested catch situations further down the field. A feature that sticks out to me when I watch Johnson play is how much he was used between the twenties and was not dependent on the red zone to score touchdowns. I think these are promising signs.
He looks bigger on the field. I don’t know if that helps but at 6’1” and 201lbs, Johnson is smaller than I thought he would be. Combined with a 4.6-second 40-yard dash time, both his height and weight-adjusted speed scores are less than promising.
Combine testing comes with a number of problems, like the fact they don’t test how fast or quick a player is when they are playing football. Or the fact that one bad day can make a player’s numbers look worse than they actually are. But outside of excuses, I just don’t care.
Johnson uses the athleticism he has to be productive on a football field. I’ll no more downgrade him for that than I would rank TY Hilton over DeAndre Hopkins in dynasty. They are both good players, they just play differently.
In dynasty, we have to recognize that his athletic testing will likely push him outside the top tier in most rookie ranks. In that way, it’s his potential value as a lower drafted player that I want to target.
KeeSean Johnson is currently the 35th player off the board in dynasty rookie drafts, according to DLF ADP. In other words, he is a mid-third-round pick I like as well as some later-first-round players right now. However, as I said above, I want to take the discount. When you weight his athletic testing along with the fact that he was from a less competitive divisional, I think some caution is warranted.
I am very comfortable taking him in the mid second to make sure I have him on my team in mocks. But his future value, that’s a little trickier. As a player who stumbled at the combine, I have to imagine he has a lower chance to be drafted in the first three rounds of the NFL draft. As such, his hit rate percentages fall dramatically and it could take a longer for him to break out if he can in the NFL.
It’s all depending on his draft capital and landing spot, of course, but be prepared to hold him without production for at least a year or two. While this is often true of wide receivers, I think the negatives on Johnson’s profile are even more likely to lead to a lack of early production.
Johnson has a first-round production profile paired with second-round-level college competition and third-round athlete testing. Since I’m comfortable taking shots on production over athleticism, that makes him an ideal target for me. But he is also someone, even with great production, who comes with a warning label in dynasty.
A decent landing spot with opportunity and volume can, as always, turn this frown upside down.
From a value perspective, I wouldn’t be afraid to slide over to the tight end position or even quarterback if your roster has a need over Johnson. However, from a talent perspective, I honestly think he could be a later round player we will be talking about in the next few years. So don’t lose track of his ADP or his name in your rookie drafts this year.
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