Heading into the 2020 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers already had one of the NFL's most dangerous passing attacks.
The Bucs have Tom Brady at quarterback, two Pro Bowl wide receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, and a three-headed monster at tight end with Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard, and now Rob Gronkowski.
But that didn't stop them from landing yet another dynamic playmaker in this year's draft, and they were able to do it in the fifth round.
Minnesota's Tyler Johnson was one of the most productive receivers in all of college football over the last two seasons, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors in both 2018 and 2019. He capped off his impressive career for the Golden Gophers by scorching Auburn for over 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Outback Bowl.
Still, a deep receiver class and an injury that kept him from performing at the NFL Scouting Combine had Johnson coming off the board much later than he likely anticipated. Even so, he didn't need the extra motivation as he makes the jump to the pros.
That fire was already there.
“Honestly, this may sound crazy, but I feel like I already have something to prove," Johnson said via video conference call Saturday. "Once you make it to the next level, the highest level, you have to restart your entire journey. Nothing is guaranteed [and] nothing is given to you, so I’m just going to continue to go out here and work my tail off and help contribute winning to a great organization. And, I’m going to have fun doing what I do – that’s pretty much what got me here. Why change now?”
The Bucs lost Breshad Perriman to free agency, leaving a gaping hole at the No. 3 wide receiver spot. Justin Watson and Scotty Miller are both young receivers who have shown promise over the past two seasons, but they've yet to prove they can be a reliable replacement for Perriman, who stepped up in a big way after Evans and Godwin suffered hamstring injuries late last season.
Johnson was a team captain at Minnesota, and he's exactly the kind of polished, experienced player who can be the rare fifth-round pick who becomes a key contributor as a rookie. Despite a loaded list of pass-catchers already present in Tampa Bay, there's room for Johnson to fill a key role from Day 1.
He looks at Tampa Bay's loaded depth chart as an opportunity to sharpen himself, not a daunting mountain to climb.
“It’s going to be amazing," Johnson said of playing alongside such talented receivers. "I can’t wait. Watching those guys go up and make plays at any moment of the game, it definitely brings a lot to your game, especially with me being in the same room with them now. I’m going to be able to learn from them – learn how they do different things in releases, and break points, and attacking the ball. I’m going to be able to put bits and pieces together. I’m very excited.”
20 wide receivers were drafted ahead of Johnson on draft weekend, but he's in a perfect place to make a bigger impact than many of them.