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Scouting the Steelers 2019 NFL Draft picks: WR Diontae Johnson

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We take a look at the scouting reports written about the Steelers third-round draft picks this offseason

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NCAA Football: Eastern Michigan at Toledo Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

While the Pittsburgh Steelers selection Toledo wide receiver Diontae Johnson was met with some consternation among certain sections of Steeler Nation, the response of the draft experts to the pick was generally far more positive.

As a relatively unknown prospect compared to more highly publicized players coming from bigger schools, many fans seem to feel that Johnson went far too early in the process. And when reading the scouting reports written about him ahead of the draft, that seems to be a sentiment many echo, even if some do rave about the prospect’s potential.

Lance Zierlein, NFL.com:

“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. He’s a little small and wasn’t as fast or quick at the combine as expected, so Day 3 in the draft is his likely landing spot as a WR3/WR4 talent.”

Matt Miller, Bleacher Report:

STRENGTHS

Rarely caught from behind when running vertically or after the catch.

Special teams player and option at returner who found his way onto the field no matter the situation in a deep receiver group at Toledo.

Plays much bigger than his size and can compete on high throws with bigger corners. Angles and turns his body to catch balls outside his frame.

Lateral quickness off the line of scrimmage makes him difficult to reroute with press coverage.

Playmaker who scored as a receiver and returner and shows excellent yards-after-catch ability on short passes.

WEAKNESSES

Undersized at 5’10”, 183 pounds.

Focus-related drops were a problem in 2017.

Doesn’t have ideal strength to shed coverage or body defenders for positioning.

Length and toughness aren’t ideal.

OVERALL

There isn’t much to dislike about Diontae Johnson’s game. He can play underneath, in intermediate areas and vertically with great speed. Drops had been an issue before 2018, but he seemed to improve in his final collegiate season. If a team commits to getting Johnson the ball in space and underneath, he can be dangerous as a third receiver and return man.

GRADE: 5.69 (ROUND 5—BACKUP CALIBER) PRO COMPARISON: Travis Benjamin

CBS Sports:

“Johnson has serious speed and is a twitchy athlete who can sink his hips and change directions in a hurry. Small frame, though, lacking power and the ability to beat press coverage consistently. He reminds me of Paul Richardson

Mike Renner, Pro Football Focus

“There might not be a more electric player with the ball in his hands than Johnson in this class,” writes Renner. Thompson’s concerns mostly come from his size, and the fact that his athletic testing (4.53 second 40-yard dash) was only average. “This past season, he was hampered by a downgrade at quarterback from Logan Woodside and a newfound drop habit (eight drops on 57 catchable passes), but the playmaking ability remained,” writes Renner. “Johnson broke 10 tackles on his 49 catches in 2018.” Assuming he’s a Day 3 selection -- and he almost assuredly is - the potential added value is palpable.”

Austin Gayle, Pro Football Focus:

“Diontae Johnson is (wrongfully) flying under the radar in this year’s class. The Toledo product is a skilled, deceptive route-runner with an unparalleled ability to create separation at the intermediate and deep levels of the field. Slotted as the No. 77 overall player of PFF’s top-250 list, Johnson has drop and size concerns that will push teams away, but his ability to separate consistently makes up for a lot of his woes. His two-year receiving grade (85.9) ranks tied for 10th in the class, and the fact that he can win in and away from the slot is more than enough reason to sprint the card in on Day 2.”

Watching his highlight videos shows a player who could quickly become a fan favorite thanks to his explosive playmaking ability. Warning some of the music that accompanies these videos contains profanity and most of the choice in track simply awful: