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Johnny Wilson draft profile

I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Florida State WR, Johnny Wilson, ends up as a 1st round pick in the 2024 draft. He's a unique athlete with the height, weight and speed numbers that will demand the attention of NFL scouts and GMs. If he could reach his potential, Wilson could be another Mike Evans. The physical measurements and reported athletic testing scores for Wilson and Evans are nearly identical. Scouts don't like Wilson's shaky hands catching the ball, but Evans also has very poor hands. Evans once dropped 6 passes in a single game. He had a horrible drop rate in college. This year, Baker Mayfield found him wide open in the end zone for an easy TD and Evans dropped the ball. Once, Tom Brady had him streaking wide open for a long TD, and Evans wildly bobbled the ball away like he was a Flying Karamazov Brother juggler. Evans is tied with Puka Nacua this season for the 2nd most dropped passes among WRs.

The only thing that might give NFL teams pause is that Wilson has never truly put the pieces together at any point in his college. Mike Evans had 1,394 receiving yards in 2013 at Texas A&M. Wilson only has about 1,700 receiving yards in his entire career. Wilson was a highly sought after and heralded high school recruit, but his modest production never lived up to the hype. Will he become one of the biggest superstars to emerge from next year's draft or will his NFL career mirror his college career and be underwhelming?

I view Wilson as hybrid TE prospect, not as a normal outside WR. In other words, Wilson and Brock Bowers could end up playing the same position, even though one was listed as a WR in college and the other one was listed as a TE. Bowers might be a top 10 pick (he's 10th in Luke Easterling's recent 3 round mock draft.) Bowers has much better hands and route running than Wilson, but Wilson is a bigger and stronger player and a much better blocker. If a team thinks that they can iron out some of Wilson's inconsistencies and live with occasional dropped passes, maybe they would believe that Wilson has a higher ceiling as a pro than Bowers.

Background

Name: Johnny Wilson. Turns 23 years old in April of 2024.

School: Florida State. Transferred from Arizona State in Dec of 2021. Redshirt Junior.

Size: Listed 6'7'' tall, 237 pounds. Bruce Feldman says that Wilson has 36'' arms, 10 1/4'' hands, and a 35.5'' vertical. As a HS recruit, 40 time listed as 4.59 seconds. NFLDB lists his 40 time at 4.42 seconds. Mike Evans at the Combine was 6'5'' tall, 231 pounds, 35 1/8'' arms, 9 5/8'' hands, 4.53 sec (40 time) and 37'' vert jump.

4 star recruit, played HS ball in Calabasas, CA. At one time, was listed as a 5 star recruit and was one of the top recruits in the country. Verbally committed to Oregon in summer of 2019, but flipped to Herm Edwards and Arizona State. His HS OC was Curtis Conway, the former NFL WR.

Played with Jayden Daniels (now LSU's QB) at ASU. Limited receiving production at ASU. In 8 games he had 18 catches for 243 yards and one TD. In 2021, PFF graded him as the best run blocking WR from a power conference school. Had an effectively season ending hamstring injury in the 4th game of the 2021 season. ASU only played 4 games in 2020.

After transferring to FSU, Wilson suffered a lower leg injury in his 1st game in 2022. He had 202 receiving yards in their bowl game against Oklahoma. Missed 3 games in 2023 due to undisclosed injury.

Wilson has a chill and laid back attitude in interviews.

2022 (13 games): 43-897-5

2023 (9 games): 39-598-2

NFLDB 25th overall prospect, 1st rd projection

Josh Edwards (CBSSports) 48th overall

PFF board 51st overall, 10th WR

PFN board 109th overall (4th rd), 20th WR (their 3 analysts rank him UDFA, 115th and 123rd)

Drafttek 78th overall

Steve Shoup 57th overall

Buffalo Fambase 69th overall

Luke Easterling mock draft 67th overall (early 3rd rd, up from 81, where Easterling had him in an earlier mock.)

Strengths

Rare mix of size and athleticism. Tall, but still flexible and agile, like a WR who is 6'3'' or 6'4'' tall. Surprising speed relative to his height.

When he has a free release, and he turns it on, he's super explosive bursting off the line, like a track sprinter coming out of the starting blocks.

Fluid running and turning his body. Enough speed to separate downfield. Can stretch the defense and challenge coverage at all 3 levels.

Good catch radius. Made some tough catches away from his body, can catch with hands fully extended. Can dig out low balls. Made a spectacular one handed catch.

Tucks ball to chest after catch. Can switch ball to appropriate hand.

Has YAC talent. Run strength to pull out of tackles. Adequate open field speed.

Good blocking strength, excellent size and length, strong hand placements. Good effort blocking downfield.

Generates YAC for other receivers with good downfield blocks.

Lack of production impacted by injuries and other factors. A possible late bloomer who is just scratching the surface of his potential.

Weaknesses

Unreliable hands. Some of his drops, it looks like he's intentionally trying to drop it, like the ball is on fire and he doesn't want to burn his hands. Hands made out of rocks some plays. Double catches. Not composed at catch point, nervy energy, fights the ball. Had easy "fly ball" basket catch, but still doesn't catch it with his hands, instead presses it into his stomach as the ball awkwardly slips through his hands.

Routes are not precise. Rounds off breaks. Struggles to sink hips and snap off comebacks. Extra steps to turn back towards QB. Lacks feel for spacing and leverage. Ran through zone instead of finding open spot. Clumsy shove to push CB away downfield, not subtle. Clumsy navigating traffic.

Release moves way too basic, like a HS player. Not going to fool NFL CBs at the LOS. His chest is a big and inviting target for jams.

Struggles to create his own separation and space.

Doesn't have extra gear in open field, gets run down from behind.

Tends to relax on blocks before whistle and let the CB slip by him.

Lack of development in his career despite athletic gifts point to potential underachiever traits.

Looks like he needs to put in more work in the weight room.

Has been something of a feast or famine WR, in that he's had more than 5 catches in only 6 of his 20 games at FSU. He had some big games, then other games where he wasn't impactful. This is very similar to Puka Nacua's career at BYU. Puka also only had 6 games of more than 5 catches in 21 games at BYU. Not a problem if we're talking about drafting Wilson in the 5th round like Puka, but it might be worrisome for a team considering making Wilson a 1st round pick.

Draft Grade and Pro Comp

Second round. (Darren Waller, 6th round 2015, Baltimore Ravens, Georgia Tech)

Waller was 6'6'' tall, 238 pounds, ran 4.46 seconds in the 40. He grew up in a middle class, suburban town and a stable 2 parent household. He was a good student. Behind the idyllic exterior, however, was a secret that nearly cost him his life. Waller began abusing drugs in high school, starting with prescription pills, weed and alcohol. Part of the attraction was a social aspect where this was encouraged in his circle of friends. In college, he took his partying up to another level and tried almost any hard drug offered to him. He failed multiple drug tests, and also cheated other drug tests by using urine from other people.

The Ravens knew he had off field character issues when they drafted him, but thought that they could help him and manage it. I remember Waller from that draft. I didn't know the depth of his personal struggles, but I remember watching one of his interviews and it was obvious that something was off.

Once he got to the NFL, Waller said he was very lazy. His only goal was to get high. He was a "last one in, first one to leave" type of player, who had little interest in working on his game. The Ravens moved him from WR to TE in 2016. He was suspended for multiple games that year for substance abuse, then got hit by the NFL for a full year suspension, missing the 2017 season.

In August of 2017, the same night that the Ravens were playing a preseason game, Waller took some pills that were laced with fentanyl and passed out in a parking lot. Pure luck that he didn't die. It became a turning point and he slowly began to put his life back together. He went to rehab, then got back into shape. He worked as a grocery store stocker.

In 2018, the Ravens drafted 2 tight ends, Hayden Hurst in the 1st round and Mark Andrews in the 3rd round. Waller ended up on their PS. In late November, the Raiders played the Ravens. The Raiders' coaches were watching the Ravens' PS players in pre-game warmups and saw Waller running and catching passes. Greg Olson (former McVay assistant) exclaimed, "Who the [bleep] is that guy?!" The Raiders immediately poached Waller off of Baltimore's PS.

The following year, Waller had a monster breakout season with 90 catches, 1,145 receiving yards and 3 TDs. He had 107 catches for 1,196 yards and 9 TDs the next season. He went from a guy who flushed his football career down the toilet and could have died to a Pro Bowler.

Johnny Wilson has the talent to be a Pro Bowler, just like Waller, but he needs to substantially improve in a variety of areas of his game if he's going to reach that potential. Wilson is a boom or bust prospect, with a very high ceiling, but also substantial risk, given his injury history and lack of consistency in college.

I'm putting Wilson in the 2nd round, because that's where the Rams drafted Gerald Everett. GE was a poor blocker in college, is only 6'3'' tall, has small 8 1/2'' hands, dropped passes and 4.62 second speed. So, if the 2 players were in the same draft, I'd think that most NFL teams would rank Wilson ahead of GE.