With picks in the final rounds of any draft, teams are looking for a potential home run pick – a hidden gem that, given an opportunity, can become an NFL star or specialist.
The Vikings used their last pick of the 2008 draft to select wide receiver Jaymar Johnson of Division I-AA Jackson State. Johnson fits in the classification of a player that can slide through the cracks for a lot of organizations' war rooms, because at 6-0, 176 pounds, he is pretty easy to miss.
But the Vikings weren't the only team that had Johnson on their list of late-round fliers that could turn out to be game-changing players. His phone was buzzing all afternoon, but when it was the Vikings calling, it was to tell him he was the newest member of the purple and gold.
"I was kind of shocked," Johnson said. "Other teams were calling and saying different things. When the Vikings called, it was with their pick. I'm real happy to be a Viking right now."
One thing that Johnson has going in his favor is that the Vikings have been no stranger to taking players from small schools, including their current starting quarterback. With that sort of track record, he says he will feel at home with the Vikings.
"They got Tarvaris (Jackson) and he played at (SWAC rival) Alabama State," Johnson said. "(Wide receiver) Chris Jones played at Jackson State and he played with the Vikings and told me what a good organization the Vikings are. I met the coach (Brad Childress) at the Combine and I believe the Vikings are a good fit."
Johnson's big-play ability was showcased in his final two college seasons. He returned both punts and kickoffs for Jackson State, as well as averaging more than 17 yards per reception in each of his final two seasons. Although he had a penchant for explosive plays in college, Johnson knows his biggest challenge will be to prove skeptics wrong that claim a small receiver has a hard time withstanding the physicality of the NFL.
"I take it as motivation," Johnson said. "What it means is that I have to work harder and better myself at everything. I'm still using it as energy to feed off of."
Making the Vikings' 2008 roster won't be easy. Last year, the Vikings had only five wide receivers on their active roster most of the season. Of those players, four are back – Sidney Rice, Bobby Wade, Aundrae Allison and Robert Ferguson. The fifth – Troy Williamson – was shipped off to Jacksonville and replaced by free-agent signee Bernard Berrian. Johnson, who was acquired with the pick the Vikings got from Jacksonville for Williamson, knows the odds may be against him, but he will do his best to make it very difficult for Childress to cut him from the roster.
"I'll play any role they want me to play," Johnson said. "I'm willing to do any and everything to stay a part of the Vikings organization. I'm going to do whatever it takes – no matter what they need me to do. And not just do it, but do it effectively."
WR Willing to Work for Roster Spot
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