Olabisi Johnson Is a Breakout Candidate in 2022
To this point in his NFL career, Olabisi Johnson has really drawn the short end of the stick. After being selected in the seventh round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Johnson had to work his tail off to earn a roster spot. He did just that and had a quite productive rookie campaign while helping the Vikings make the playoffs. Johnson was targeted 45 times, and with those targets, he racked up 31 receptions, 295 yards, and three touchdowns.
Following that rookie season, head coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak seemed ready to hand some more of the responsibility to Johnson. He was named WR2 in the depth chart ahead of the 2020 season and started the first two games of the season. That’s when the Justin Jefferson show began, and Johnson’s hold on the starting spot slipped from his grasp.
During those two starts, the second-year receiver had earned seven targets which had been turned into four receptions and 80 yards. Johnson would have just four balls thrown his way over the course of the next eight games. Then, when Adam Thielen went down with Covid ahead of week 11’s matchup with the Carolina Panthers, he was thrust back into the starting lineup.
After waiting all season for his moment, Johnson did not disappoint, He caught all seven of his targets for 74 yards and a two-point conversion. It would not be enough to get more reps within the offense though as he would have just one target for the remainder of the season.
2021 seemed like his chance to break through and earn the WR3 spot, but a torn ACL during training camp left him sidelined for the entire season. Now, the 2022 season approaches, and after KJ Osborn’s breakout season alongside the imminent return of Irv Smith Jr., we are once again left wondering, what in the world will the Vikings do with Olabisi Johnson?
Well, if the words of the Vikings starting QB are to be held with any weight, we may be on the verge of Johnson’s breakout season. During today’s press conference, Kirk Cousins spoke glowingly of the wide receiver, calling Johnson and Irv Smith two players that he was “expecting big things from” in 2021 before they got hurt.
Cousins went on to talk about that week 11 game in 2020, saying that Johnson was essentially put into the role that Thielen normally plays. The two certainly do have similar styles of play, relying more on purposeful route running than pure speed and athleticism to get open. Johnson has also displayed some of the same red zone abilities that Thielen has throughout his career.
With Thielen approaching his age-32 season, perhaps 2022 is the year where he begins to take a step back in the offense. What better way to help take some of the load off the veteran than a player with a similar style, and who was nearly Mr. Irrelevant of his draft class?
Johnson hasn’t been given a ton of opportunity thus far into his NFL career, but he has shown up when needed. We’ll see if 2022 is finally the year of culmination for the wide receiver.