Going Big: Why the Jaguars Selected Texas Receiver Collin Johnson

John Shipley

It isn't hard to figure out what Jacksonville Jaguars rookie wide receiver Collin Johnson brings to the table. Just one glance at him and it should be fairly easy to figure out.

In the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the Jaguars pulled the trigger on the 6-foot-6, 222-pound Texas Longhorns receiver. The No. 165 overall pick in this year's draft, Johnson obviously brings a ton of size to the Jaguars' wide receiver room, joining the 6-foot-4 DJ Chark and 6-foot-3 Chris Conley.

It was that size that helped Johnson develop into a downfield and red-zone threat for the Longhorns. Johnson was a four-year contributor at Texas, finishing his career with 2,624 yards (fifth-most in UT history) and 15 touchdowns on 188 receptions. 

Johnson also led the receiving corps as a sophomore when he averaged 58.8 yards per game and as a junior, Johnson set a Big 12 Championship Game-record with 177 receiving yards on nine catches with a touchdown in the title game against Oklahoma.

After producing in the Big 12 in large part due to his towering presence, the Jaguars are hoping Johnson can translate those rare traits to Jacksonville.

“We're looking at him and looking at the numbers and looking at what he did in 2018, obviously had a great year, got a little hampered going into his last year there," head coach Doug Marrone said after the Jaguars drafted Johnson. "It's different than what we have; he's a guy that's 6-6, 222 pounds, he can run real well, just a different element."

Johnson joins a wide receiver room that includes the speedy big-play threat in Chark, the veteran yard after catch expert in Conley, a shifty slot receiver in Dede Westbrook, a smart route runner in Keelan Cole, and a versatile and explosive rookie in Laviska Shenault. 

Add Johnson to that group, and the Jaguars suddenly have a nice mix of skill sets at the receiver position, especially compared to just a year ago.

"Now when you look across the board we have different types and it's always good to have that and obviously we are looking for him to come in here and perform," Marrone said. "He has an opportunity to win a job, has an opportunity to be a good playmaker when you look at his catch radius and where he’s at. I was excited that we were able to get him as late as we did."

Johnson had met with the Jaguars before the draft and even had a brief conversation with wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell. During conversations with Johnson, he said his height clearly came up, but he believes brings more than that to the table.

“They did a little bit, they mentioned mismatching my height with stuff and things like that, but obviously you can’t teach height. You know I’m thankful to be as tall as I am, but also I feel like a part of my game that I’m really good at is my route running, so I feel like I have more than just being a tall receiver," Johnson said.

"It’s definitely a benefit. I used to think the best thing for a receiver is to be tall and then due to the draft process a lot of people kind of have a knock on that, think that I’m too tall to change direction, things like that, when I know what I bring to the table. I feel like I’m in a unique situation. I know how to change direction, then drop my hips and get in and out of my breaks as a big guy."

Johnson will likely have to fight tooth and nail to carve out a role in the Jaguars; crowded wide receiver room, but he at least brings in a skill set and traits that aren't found otherwise on the Jaguars' roster. Because of this, he may have a chance to carve out a role in the red-zone offense as a jump ball specialist. 

But Johnson will be the first person to tell you that while his height is a great asset, it isn't the only thing that helped him become an NFL wide receiver.

“I think I’m faster than people perceive me to be. I also think I can get open and at the end of the day they want you to be fast so you can get open," Johnson said. "So as long as you can get open you see guys like Jerry Rice not running that fast, Keenan Allen, you know Jarvis Landry and you can go on and on a list of guys who figured out a way to get open and play at that extremely high level in the NFL that didn’t have blazing 40 (yard dash) times. You know, there are ways to do it, but I definitely think I’m faster than what people give me credit for.”