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NFL Draft

Can Collin Johnson Contribute More Than Injury Insurance?

  • The Draft Network
  • September 3, 2021
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Sometimes, a whole lot of depth still isn’t enough.

The New York Giants broke camp with seven receivers on the initial roster, but with so much uncertainty on how many will be ready to go by Week 1, they added sophomore receiver Collin Johnson on the waiver wire after the Jacksonville Jaguars let him go in final roster cuts.

Though the Giants did seem to have a plethora of receiving options entering this year’s preseason, a slew of injuries has left them with more question marks than defined weapons on their offensive depth chart. Running back Saquon Barkley (torn ACL) is still not a definite go to start Week 1 against the Denver Broncos, and receivers Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney only returned to practice on Tuesday. On top of all of that, tight end Evan Engram and receiver Darius Slayton were injured in the preseason finale, and New York’s other tight end, free agent signing Kyle Rudolph, told reporters he has a “long way to go” before returning from foot surgery and didn’t suggest he’d be ready by Week 1. The Giants also placed another free agent signing, receiver John Ross, on the injured reserve on Wednesday.

If we’re keeping track, that’s four receivers, two tight ends, and a running back all questionable to start against Denver just over one week from now. Johnson joins the Giants as one of just three fully healthy receivers, alongside Sterling Shepard and C.J. Board.

The Giants always needed to add more explosive offensive playmakers in the offseason. They were one of the worst offenses in the NFL in 2020 and their quarterback was struggling without an elite pass-catcher on the outside. The addition of the former Jaguars receiver gives New York the immediate depth at wideout that they desperately needed. With the listed average height of Giants receivers around 6-foot-1, Johnson also gives Jones a different type of receiving target: one who can rely on his height to take advantage of mismatches with opposing defensive backs.

Johnson is the tallest receiver in the NFL, 222 pounds spread out over a towering 6-foot-6 frame. The Jaguars drafted the Texas product in the fifth round of the 2020 draft and slotted him in behind D.J. Chark, Laviska Shenault, and Chris Conley on the depth chart. Johnson isn’t going to win his matchups with his speed, but his height and wide catch radius make him a difficult man to cover downfield. He finished his rookie year with 18 receptions for 272 yards and two touchdowns.

Johnson also had a solid preseason with the Jaguars this year, recording a couple of receptions for 24 yards and a touchdown in Jacksonville’s three games. He also shined in practice while fellow receivers Chark and Shenault were out with injuries. Right now, his biggest hurdle is his lack of experience at the pro level.

Johnson enters the 2021 season having only played in 23% of offensive snaps as a rookie, so he hasn’t had much time to develop or many chances to learn what adjustments he could have to make in-game. As a newcomer, he’ll have to quickly learn the new offense and adapt to playing with a new quarterback in New York.

Long term, Johnson probably isn’t going to be “The Guy” for the Giants. They just brought in a big free agent in Golladay to fill the X receiver role and added another receiving weapon in the first round of this year’s draft. Should Golladay, Slayton, or Toney miss the Giants’ season opener, Johnson could find himself with an opportunity to impress his new coaches, but I don’t see him fighting to secure a spot on the starting roster. He’ll likely get some looks throughout the season as a WR4 option who could occasionally shake things up on offense.

For now, his role in Week 1 ultimately depends on who else is ready for the season opener.

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