It’s that time of the year again, and The Riot Report is proud to bring back the Scout Camp series for 2019. As with last season, we will go position-by-position with each position getting a big board and a series of player profiles over the course of the week – only this year we’re adding to the coverage a weekly podcast where myself and co-host Dan Kreso will go into detail on prospects, discussing what makes sense for the Panthers at each position.

This week’s episode takes a look at the entire wide receiver class – you should check it out. You can also check out my wideout big board here:


Crucially, this is a fundamentally subjective assessment, all scouting is no matter what you might hear, and there will be some players where I simply disagree with other evaluations and where other evaluators disagree among themselves. I hope to justify all of my assessments, and there will be times where I will prove to be wrong, but the aim here is to successful in the aggregate and to put a value not just on how good a player might become or how good they are now, but also what is a reasonable distribution of outcomes between those two points.

The Panthers aren’t likely to spend a high pick on a receiver, having spent back-to-back top 40 picks on Moore and Samuel it would be hard to justify doing so, but this is a position the Panthers might have an interest come the third day of the draft. Of the players who are currently expected to be available at that stage of the draft, none is quite so alluring – at least for me – as Toledo’s Diontae Johnson, but what is it that Johnson offers that is so special – and more crucially, where would he fit with the Panthers?

Run Fast And Catch (But Probably Not Jump)

At 5-11 and a shade over 180 pounds, Diontae Johnson is unlikely to be winning a huge number of jump balls at the back pylon – but what he does offer from an athletic point of view is the ability to get vertical, and quickly. While Toledo didn’t run a huge number of straight go routes due to the limitations of their quarterback, Johnson showed the ability to separate vertically, even if this didn’t lead to many deep targets:


He also used this speed effectively to get a step on defenders on outside intermediate routes, where this speed advantage gave him the space to turn and locate the ball without being swamped by the defender:


Most estimates for Johnson’s 40 time range somewhere in the 4.4s – we’ll have a more complete picture after the Combine – while this is not the elite deep speed of the likes of Ted Ginn and Tyreek Hill, it is plenty fast enough to pose a genuine vertical threat in the NFL. Where Johnson is really special is in the way he gets up to that speed, though this is something that will be dealt with more fully later.

In terms of other core skills for a receiver, by far the biggest is the ability to catch the ball. This is something that can improve somewhat, especially in cases where the issue is more of technique than coordination, but generally receivers who struggle with drops now will continue to struggle with drops in the future. Fortunately, this is not an issue for Johnson.

He shows an ability to track the ball in the air well, allowing him to make over-the-shoulder catches on the run:


As well as adjust when balls are tipped in the air:


He also shows the concentration and body control to secure catches through contact:


And to adjust to passes away from his frame, such as this throw outside of him:


This low throw:


This high throw:


And even this highly impressive catch following a slip at the head of the route:


That might look easy, but the ability to regain balance quickly while maintaining an awareness of where the ball is really quite rare. In total, I only observed two potential drops in all six of the games of Johnson’s I watched, one of which he did catch but simply couldn’t get his feet down:


And one where he should have come down with the catch, but was probably unlikely not to draw a defensive holding call as the defender pulled him back into range in order to contest the catch:


Johnson might not be the prototypical receiver-style athlete, but his combination of vertical speed and quickness is not dissimilar from what has many Panthers fans excited about Curtis Samuel, and the skills that have allowed a number of stereotypically undersized receivers to be successful on the outside without having to have the 40″ verticals that would be need to jump over larger corners to make contested catches.

Crucially, he also has the hands to allow him to make the most of the separation he does get.


Up Next: The Important Stuff


Vincent Richardson on Twitter
Vincent Richardson
Managing Editor at Riot Report
Fan of zone coverage, knee bend and running backs running routes. Twitter: @vrichardson444