‘Tis the season for over 40 college bowl games sponsored by some very obscure companies to celebrate the mediocrity of 6-6 teams. Surely there is an angry old man somewhere waving his fist screaming about how “everyone gets a trophy” and “the Millennials are ruining everything.” At TOJ, we love bowl season. Maybe not for the games because watching two small schools battle for an irrelevant trophy is not very appealing, but it gives us a chance to watch some teams that we did not get a chance to watch this season and evaluate some prospects who may not have been regularly exposed to us.
Matchup: Toledo vs. FIUTime: 12:30 p.m.
1) WR Diontae Johnson (5-foot-11, 180 pounds)2018 Stats: 12 games, 43 catches, 663 yards, 7 TDs
Career Stats: 35 games, 131 catches, 2178 yards, 23 TDs
Toledo has the luxury of being able to trot a trio of NFL caliber receivers out on offense this season, and they each have their own style. Johnson’s role is the smaller, slot, possession receiver, and he has excelled. He has the quickness to separate from defensive backs on short and intermediate routes, as well as the speed to surprise the opposition by taking the top off the defense every once in a while. Johnson appears to have the most polish of the Rockets’ trio of NFL-caliber receivers and could be a solid secondary target in the NFL.
Projection: 4th-6th round pick2) WR Cody Thompson (6-foot-2, 205 pounds)
2018 Stats: 12 games, 43 catches, 592 yards, 10 TDs
Career Stats: 46 games, 176 catches, 3257 yards, 30 TDs
There are a lot of layers to examining Thompson’s draft value. He has had one season with numbers off the charts, back in 2016 as a redshirt-sophomore (64 catches, 1269 yards, 11 TDs). In 2017, he seemed to be on that same trajectory with 28 catches, 537 yards, and four TDs before sustaining a season-ending knee injury. He played the entirety of this season and barely beat the total number of yards he recorded in five games last season. You could look at that as a bad sign of decline post-knee injury, but it is not as simple as that. Toledo has three NFL-caliber receivers which took targets away from Thompson this season, and on top of that they are a run-first team averaging 223.6 yards per game. Thompson is not some amazing, physical specimen with speed to blow corners away, but he runs the full route tree and is able to gain separation by running very clean, efficient routes. He projects as a bigger slot receiver in the NFL who can be an effective Robin to some else’s Batman.
Projection: 4th-6th round pick
3) WR Jon’Vea Johnson (6-feet, 188 pounds)
2018 Stats: 12 games, 29 catches, 611 yards, 7 TDs
Career Stats: 46 games, 120 catches, 2175 yards, 22 TDs
When looking at Johnson’s numbers, the stat that jumps off the page is his yards per catch average. This season, he averaged 21.1 yards per catch with the career average sitting at 18.1. That is simply remarkable. It speaks to Johnson’s big play ability and the speed he has to stretch the field. The obvious comparison with his speed and skillset would be Marquise Goodwin and like Goodwin, Johnson would need to polish his game a bit at the next level. Speed kills, though, and a team will take a chance on Johnson’s potential upside early on Day 3.
Projection: 4th-6th round pick
Other names to watch: OT Brock Ruble (7th round pick/undrafted free agent)
1) RB Napoleon Maxwell (7th round pick/undrafted free agent)
2) DL Anthony Johnson (7th round pick/undrafted free agent)