Why Johnson is on the list
It starts with Norv Turner, whose patience helped Minnesota land a gem.
Originally a Packers seventh-round pick out of Grand Valley State in 2013, Johnson's injury history kept him from making a single game appearance before Week 1 of last season. Now penciled in as Minnesota's starting X-receiver, the pass-catcher finds himself in the same role that Josh Gordon played under Turner during his 1,646-yard outburst with the Browns in 2013.
Adding eight pounds of muscle this offseason, Johnson stands one inch shorter but a pound heavier than Gordon, with sub-4.40 speed that makes him a tenth of a second faster than the suspended Cleveland star. Johnson's combination of moves, hand strength and burst at the line were on display in toasting former Packers cover man Tramon Williams:
Still, he won't be treated as a No. 1 target with Wallace in the mix. Set to man Z-receiver duties, Wallace is the premier talent here, but his ability to draw double coverage could wind up helping Johnson see a weekly stream of No. 2 corners.
We went back and looked at the second most productive wideout -- in terms of catches -- on every Turner-led offense dating to 2002. The No. 2 receiver has averaged 40.5 grabs for 633 yards, compared with 60.2 catches for 941.2 yards by the No. 1. Second wideouts under Turner have caught 50-plus passes only twice over the past 14 seasons.
Johnson has a higher ceiling than many of Norv's second fiddles over the years -- names like Davone Bess, Patrick Crayton, James McKnight and Antonio Bryant -- but he needs to play consistently to remain entrenched in the game plan.
That should change this season. His dyed hair and nose ring -- which he plans to wear during games -- set him apart, but so do his size and speed. Johnson played in 94.9 percent of the team's snaps over the final six games of the year. Factoring in Wallace -- who failed to lead Miami in catches in either of the past two seasons -- and healthy tight end Kyle Rudolph, I don't have a problem pegging Johnson with 60 catches for 900 yards and six touchdowns, which would make him one of the most productive No. 2 targets in Turner's history as a coach.
If those numbers aren't eye-popping, they do mark a realistic jump for a young player with all the physical talent to become a bona fide top target in the NFL.