Every few years a player comes out of nowhere to take the NFL by storm. It has become a fact of NFL life. Consider Kurt Warner, Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson, Victor Cruz, Miles Austin, and Marques Colston; one minute they’re as anonymous as the clerk at your local grocery store, the next minute they are plastered on TVs across the country. The question isn’t whether or not it will happen again. The question is, “where will the next guy come from?”
Here’s a guess: Elsmere, Kentucky.
That is the hometown of 2013 wide receiver prospect Charles Johnson. Over the last few years, Johnson has been difficult to track, both on the field and off. After his high school playing days in Elsmere, he spent a year at Eastern Kentucky before getting suspended and transferring to Antelope Valley Community College in California. He then spent a year away from football to be with his ailing father before ending up at Grand Valley State. Since landing at the DII powerhouse, he has done nothing but dominate for the last two seasons. (GVSU was the proving grounds for Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly and Tennessee’s Butch Jones).
We’ll get to the production in a second. The real reason Johnson landed on anyone’s radar was his pro-day where he skyrocketed (literally) into elite company. If you combine his Vertical Jump and his Broad Jump numbers, you get 172.5”. Fewer than 8% of wide receivers eclipse the 170” figure and even fewer do it at 6’2’’ and in the 215-225lb range. Consider this rarified class of historical freaks:
You don’t need me to tell you how good Julio or Dez are. They’ll probably be among the first five wide receivers drafted in your fantasy football league.
In case you’re curious about Stephen Hill, I’ll point you to this article about his likelihood of following in the footsteps of fellow Georgia Tech wide receivers Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas.
But back to Johnson—HOLY COW! What an impressive workout! But what if I told you that his production was equally amazing? Consider how he stacks up to other wide receivers that came from similarly obscure college teams:
*MS= Market Share of teams total yards or touchdowns
V-Jax, Miles Austin, and Marques Colston have all posted elite seasons in the NFL. As you can read here, I think Brian Quick will soon join that class of premium receivers. So the only riddle left to solve is Grand Valley State WR Charles Johnson.
I was so intrigued by his workout that I actually visited the GVSU website to watch game recap highlights. On at least two occassions he showed ball skills that left my jaw on the floor, in addition to the many other ‘good’ catches. He certainly passes the eye test.
(Pre-draft update: it appears as if Jerry Jones is intrigued too. The following photo appeared recently on Johnson’s twitter account)
Johnson is a physical freak and a dominant producer. The third, and maybe most critical, piece of the equation is his opportunity. Known as being one of the smartest organizations in the NFL, the Green Bay Packers selected Johnson in the 7th round of the 2013 NFL Draft. After losing Donald Driver and Greg Jennings, they have about 600 snaps vacated from last season (or about 65% of a full-time role). Yes, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and James Jones are entrenched as starters, but that 4th WR spot is up for grabs, and we all know how much Aaron Rodgers loves to share the wealth. For his father’s sake, I hope Charles Johnson is on the receiving end of those ARod passes. For the sake of your fantasy football team, I hope you keep tabs on Johnson from here on out. Considering he will be cheap to acquire, the upside is huge and the payoff might be a fairy tale ending for everyone involved.
(May 2014 update: Charles Johnson is on the Browns now and has an opportunity to get playing time at WR if/when Josh Gordon is suspended)