The 2019 NFL draft is loaded with talent at wide receiver, with plenty of big names in big bodies from big schools.
But teams and fans alike would be wise not to overlook KeeSean Johnson. A small school prospect with hands as strong and reliable as any receiver in this class, Johnson rewrote the receiving record books at Fresno State.
Johnson recently spoke exclusively with MCM about how he’ll answer questions about the small school competition he squared off with, why he’s so difficult to tackle and why he can’t wait for the NFL Scouting Combine to arrive.
JM: How would you describe your skill set?
KJ: I’m somebody who goes out there and gives it everything I have on every single play. I’m looking to make a play every time the ball’s in the air.
JM: You’ve put together back-to-back 1,000+ yard seasons while scoring 16 touchdowns in the process. Do you feel like you’re getting enough attention nationally?
KJ: I feel like the conference that I played in played it’s role in that. Some feel that the competition isn’t as great. I can’t change how they feel. I can only control what I can control. When we played against some bigger teams, I went out there and did the same thing. I performed at a high level against any competition that came my way.
Nothing will be final until after the Combine, but the way I see things working out when it comes to 2019 #NFLDraft WR rankings:— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) December 23, 2018
•DK Metcalf will be #1
•Riley Ridley will be top 3
•Damarkus Lodge will be top 5
•Antoine Wesley will be top 10
•KeeSean Johnson will be top 15
JM: Speaking of competition, teams are gonna ask about that when they sit you down and talk to you. How do you plan on answering those small school competition questions?
KJ: Anywhere you go, football is football. Good players come in all shapes and sizes and they come from all over the country. The best players at the next level didn’t come from one school or conference. I think that shows that the league will find talented players no matter where they’re coming from. I feel like I can make big plays no matter the competition.
JM: I love that. Do you have a favorite route to run?
KJ: I wouldn’t say that I necessarily have a favorite route to run, no. I’m gonna run whatever route my coaches call for. My job is to get open regardless and go make a play on the ball. I wanna make plays for my team regardless of the route.
JM: How do you attack man coverage differently from zone coverage?
KJ: With man coverage, you have to have the menality to understand that that’s one-on-one. That means it’s you against the other player. Go out and make a play. He’s out there to compete, he wants to guard you and show off his talent as well. You just have to respond and have the same mentality. When you get man coverage, you have to make a play.
JM: You catch everything thrown your way. You have some big, strong hands.
KJ: That just goes way back. That was one of the first things I learned as a kid. You have to learn how to catch the ball first. That’s the first thing I learned about football. You have to catch it before you can run. Me and my dad used to throw the ball around. You have to have that ability. I always felt like I was a natural when it came to that.
JM: You’re also a nightmare to tackle.
KJ: Every time you touch the ball, you have to be thinking about scoring. You need to have that mentality every time you touch the ball. I wanna score every time the ball’s in my hands. That’s how you get your coaches to believe in you. If you’re hard to tackle, coach is gonna call your number when the team needs a big play.
KeeSean Johnson is one of my favorite day 3 WR prospects this year. Fleet of foot as a route runner, quick reflexes at the catch point.— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) December 15, 2018
Fun fact: He was born six months after Keyshawn Johnson was drafted No. 1 overall in 1996, which is partly how he got his name. https://t.co/VmiWbDa7Fg
JM: The combine is fast approaching. Is there a drill in particular that you’re looking forward to?
KJ: I’m looking forward to running routes and showing off my strong hands. Us receivers need to run a good 40 yard dash as well. I’m zoned in on that right now. I can’t wait to go out there and show what I can bring to the table.
JM: Which receivers did you enjoy watching growing up?
KJ: I love the way Odell Beckham Jr. runs his routes. Davante Adams is a great route runner. I enjoy watching him. He does what he does. I feel like I play with a similar mentality to him. Davante doesn’t wanna get tackled, he wants to score every time he touches the ball. Those guys play aggressive and they play the game with a chip on their shoulder.
JM: Who are some of the best defensive backs you’ve ever gone up against?
KJ: Anthony Averett from Albama was pretty good. He’s with the Baltimore Ravens now. He was one of the better corners that I’ve ever gone up against. Obviously the NFL thought he was pretty good as well. Minkah Fitzpatrick was very good as well. Those are the best guys I’ve ever gone up against.
JM: Is there an NFL quarterback that you’d love to catch a pass from?
KJ: Anyone (laughs). I’d just love to catch a pass from an NFL quarterback. I’m not picky. I wouldn’t mind catching a pass from any of those guys. That’s the ultimate goal. I’m a fan of all 32 teams right now (laughs).
JM: What are some of your hobbies outside of football?
KJ: I love to go dancing with friends and family. I play basketball as well. Those are two things I’ve always been into my whole life.
JM: Thanks a lot for your time today, KeeSean. I’m really looking forward to watching you at the next level. What can Frenso State fans expect from you going forward?
KJ: They can expect me to be playing football on Sunday’s. Someway somehow, I’m gonna make that happen.