When the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Diontae Johnson in the third round many were surprised with the selection. However, the Pittsburgh Steelers typically will get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to drafting wide receivers, and Johnson should be no different. In fact, when looking into his background, it should be no surprise he caught their interest.
What is funny to note about Johnson is that there are some eery similarities between former Steelers star Antonio Brown and him, and it goes beyond being wide receivers from the MAC.
The two come in at the same height and similar weight. However, they also produced similar numbers against MAC competition and posted similar athleticism at the NFL combine. Numbers courtesy of PlayerProfiler.com
|Name||Diontae Johnson||Antonio Brown|
|% of targets in college||34%||32.80%|
|Kick Return avg||23.2||23.1|
|Punt Return Avg||20.2||15.5|
Johnson was slightly a bigger part of his offense, but the two both garnered about one-third of the offenses targets, Johnson turning it into over 16 yards per reception. They have almost the same exact tested speed, and while Johnson showed a bit more burst in his jumps, Antonio Brown showed to be a tick faster in agility.
Antonio Brown became the leading receiver of his team a bit earlier into his college career, but still, Johnson brings a wider catch radius and better punt return average with similar kick return abilities.
Heck, take a look at their draft profiles from NFL.com.
He is undersized and will initially struggle with the physical aspects of the game at the next level. He is explosive off the line and will show a good burst out of his speed cuts but needs work on his hard cuts and underneath routes. He has decent hands but it looks like the ball gets big on him at times and he traps too many passes in his body.
Despite a lack of desired size, Johnson might have the ability to play inside or outside thanks to his speed and ability to elude press from his release. He has basketball athleticism, but his routes will need more focus and less freestyle once he steps up in competition. The athleticism and quickness should allow for a wide range of usage on offense but his hands might always be a concern for him.
Undersized? Check. Explosive off of the line? Check. Brown needed work on underneath routes, Johnson needs more focus on his routes. Both are cited for decent hands.
Antonio Brown was a sixth-round pick, and with a similar profile, many pinned Johnson to a later round. However, the Steelers were adamant that they had to make that selection at the time because they knew the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were coming for him. How did they know the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were coming for him? Head coach Bruce Arians was the offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh when Antonio Brown was drafted and clearly saw the same eery similarities.
Arians was also in the room when Emmanuel Sanders was drafted in round three, and NFL.com compared the Toledo rookie to Sanders as well. Arians clearly has a similar eye to the Steelers, and he was in the room for teams that drafted T.Y. Hilton and John Brown in round three as well.
Let’s be blunt about it, the Steelers did not find the next Antonio Brown. Brown defied the odds as a sixth-round pick and turned into a Hall of Fame talent. To expect a team to hit lightning like that because of some fun similarities is unrealistic.
However, the similarities to Brown, along with with the comparisons to Emmanuel Sanders, and the interest from a coach who drafted those two, Hilton and John Brown all in round three makes you raise your eyes a bit at what Johnson brings to the table. Maybe he is not Antonio Brown, but that is some great company.
When the Pittsburgh Steelers traded Antonio Brown everybody said: “well, they will draft some no-name wide receiver and turn them into a star like they always do.” Then, we picked our personal sleepers, only to be surprised once again that they took a player we were not thinking about. Still, this is what they always do so if Johnson does take strides faster than we think, we probably should have seen it coming all along.