Pro's Take: WR Ron Johnson: 4th Rd S-T-E-A-L!

On the second day of the draft, the Ravens surely struck gold with the selection of WR Ron Johnson from Minnesota. The son of former first round draft pick for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1978 out of Eastern Michigan, Johnson's bloodline speaks for itself. <br><br> Johnson in my opinion is almost an exact clone of All-Pro WR for the S.F. 49ers Terrell Owens.

Owens is 6`2, 219pds with a 4.56/40 time. Johnson runs a 4.5/40 in what is called ‘functional speed' (I'll explain later), is 225pds after a big lunch & is 6`3. There happens to be a misconception as to how fast this young man really is so I'll do my best to rationalize the 4.5/40 as Johnson's ‘functional speed'.

You see, the 40 yd dash is the most inaccurate tool that the NFL uses simply because no one can show me a time in game situations where you'll only have on shorts. The 40 is inaccurate at most positions, but especially so at the WR spot.

Whenever you look for an impact WR, there are a few attributes that your prospect must have according to consensus. This mini article from on ‘What the NFL Looks For In a Player' most accurately describes these attributes:

Wide receiver -- Every team would like to have WR's with speed, but there are not enough of them out there. If a player doesn't have great speed, then he must have great quickness. The ability to separate from the DB is critical in the NFL. There have been a lot of WRs that have had speed but can't separate, and a lot of possession guys that can't run, but have good quickness and can separate.
Wideouts in today's game must also be physical enough to get off the jam and catch in traffic. As surprising as it may seem, good hands and the ability to snatch the ball are sometimes underrated when scouts look at WRs. If you can't catch the ball consistently, you can't play.
Size is also more critical in today's game; big WRs cause great matchup problems for CBs, especially in the red zone. The days of the run-and-shoot type "smurf" WRs are long gone.
In nickel packages that feature three WRs, at least one needs to be a speed guy that will stretch a defense, while the inside WR needs to be physical and must have the ability to separate, get open and make the first down. These guys must be tough but also smart enough to adjust routes and read defenses on the move.
Many of the game's great WRs, guys like Jerry Rice, have "functional speed", which means they don't clock great in the 40, but they play fast enough to get the job done.'

Functional speed refers to how fast a player is in full uniform, on the field, in game-time situations. Sure you can run a 40 in 4.45 seconds IN SHORTS, but can you do it with 40 pounds of equipment strapped to your physique?

For most great players, there isn't much of a difference between their ‘functional speed' and their '40 speed'. That explains why although Jerry Rice ‘consistently' timed in the upper 4.6's even in his prime, he still blew by the defenders who burned up the track on Pro days.

Johnson is the type of player who has great functional speed. He just doesn't appear as awkward running as some would lead you to believe. He's very smooth for a larger receiver, and has great quickness and body positioning for a man his size. He's extremely physical and his numbers dropped in 2001 from 2000 simply because he was double & sometimes triple-teamed on a regular basis.

Johnson has great attributes that I think will help him at the next level. Although he's timed slow in the 40 he looks like a natural wide receiver, is big and strong & plays as big as he measures. Johnson has excellent ball skills, does a great job at adjusting to the poorly-thrown ball in the air, plays faster than he times, is very smart and has been an All-Academic Big 10 player.
If you've ever seen Johnson play, the things that jump out at you are his ability to adjust to the off-line throw making some tough, acrobatic catches then breaking tackles after the catch. Johnson really seems to want the ball in the clutch & feels as though he is his team's go-to receiver. That's the mentality that you want ALL your WR's to have.

He knows what it takes to win one-on-one matchups and he has been a consistent competitor. Johnson is a great red-zone target and makes a lot of catches in traffic. He's a poor man's Keyshawn Johnson; a big, physical possession receiver with excellent hands and ability to adjust to the ball.

I've predicted that we'd draft Johnson even before the draft in multiple articles. In a player like Johnson, he was only 2-10th's of a second away from being a Top 15 draft pick. He's been considered one of the most NFL ready receivers all year long & I don't believe that goes away because a guy in shorts doesn't burn up the track.

What you get in Johnson is a clutch receiver who is particularly effective in short-yardage, red-zone & less-than ideal 3rd down situations. Johnson is the perfect compliment to the rest of the Ravens receiving corp.

WR Travis Taylor is your big-play deep threat all-around #1 receiver who will prove to the Ravens that he was well worth the #10 pick in 2000. WR Brandon Stokely is your impact slot-receiver whose specialty is finding holes in the zone and making awesome catches with his excellent hands. TE Todd Heap is your down-the-seam receiving TE who makes great catches and is a load to bring down.

Johnson would level out this unit with his physical style of play, great hands and clutch receiving skills. Johnson is also considered arguably one of the best blocking receivers in college football, creating seal-blocks downfield and allowing our backs and other receivers even more opportunities to create big plays. He will eventually develop into an excellent #2 receiver.

49ers WR Terrell Owens was a 3rd rd pick in 1996 & that is who I compare WR Ron Johnson to. Owens had an immediate impact on the success of the 49ers and if Johnson can have even half the impact that Owens had (without the ‘tude of course) with the Ravens then he'll be well worth that 4th round pick.


(Pro is one of the talented individuals that hangs out at the Ravens Insider message board - .  Stop in and discuss this article with him and others).


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