Sports Outside the Beltway

NFL Draft 2009 Round 7 #229 – Dallas Cowboys – WR Manuel Johnson

With their 11th and final pick of the draft, the Dallas Cowboys finally take a wide receiver, Oklahoma’s Manuel Johnson. is kind, saying “Johnson has the quickness and speed that teams crave at the wide receiver position. He may have been better than Juaquin Iglesias (Round 3, 99th overall to the Bears) at catching the ball at Oklahoma. Johnson is a small receiver, but he’s got the ability to stick in the NFL.”


Oklahoma’s offense has so many stars that a solid contributor like Johnson can go unnoticed. While not particularly tall, strong or fast, Johnson’s consistent production over the past three seasons in a complementary role has not gone unnoticed by scouts.

His 42 catches for 714 yards and nine touchdowns in 2008 would have increased if not for a grotesquely dislocated elbow injury suffered against Kansas. Given his tough play on the field and work ethic in practice, it was no surprise when he returned with a brace after missing only one game. Had an arm span of 32 1/2 inches and a hand span of 8 3/4 inches at the combine.

High School

Played quarterback and wide receiver … threw for 48 career touchdowns, ran for 18 scores and caught 17 more… No. 13 wide receiver in the nation ( … No. 16 player Postseason Texas Top 100 ( … No. 21 player in Texas (SuperPrep) … MVP District 13-AAA (2004) … MVP All East Texas (2004) … first team All-State (2004) … Dave Campbell Player of the Year (2004) … first-team All-State (2003) … also a member of the basketball and track and field teams … coached by Jeff Traylor.


Positives: More than the sum of his parts. Lanky build with room for additional mass without a significant loss in quickness. At least adequate straight-line speed. Good agility. Can plant his hips and drive out of his breaks to generate separation. Reliable route-runner. Secure hands. Can extend outside of his frame to make the tough catch. Tough. Courageous over the middle. Emerged as a senior and some feel he could be an ascending player. Looks to make a block at the second level. Good locker room presence.

Negatives: Better football player than athlete. May lack upside. Marginal deep speed. Doesn’t make defenders miss in the open field. Production inflated by his role in this explosive offense. Elbow requires a medical check. has him as the 36th best WR in this draft class.

Overall Football Traits
Production 3 2005-’06: Johnson starts six of the 22 games he appears in catching 46 passes for a total of 548 yards and four touchdowns. 2007: Johnson starts seven of the 14 games he appears in catching 31 passes for a total of 448 yards and four touchdowns and completing his lone pass attempt for 25 yards. 2008: Johnson appears in 13 games catching 42 passes for a total of 714 yards and nine touchdowns.
Height-Weight-Speed 4 Adequate height and top-end speed for the position but marginal bulk.
Durability 3 2006: Sustains a knee injury that keeps him out of the Baylor game. 2008: Dislocates elbow against Kansas. Misses one game and limited in several others. 2009: Does not work out at combine because of a hamstring injury.
Character 3 Majors in Sociology and there have been no off-the-field incidents to our knowledge.
Wide Receiver specific Traits
Separation Skills 4 Makes crisp cuts and runs precise routes but doesn’t show great burst coming out of breaks and going to have a harder time separating from man coverage at the NFL level. Lacks ideal initial quickness and inability to drive corners back allows them to sit on comeback routes. Can get muscled put of routes.
Ball Skills 4 Relatively small hands and drops some passes that should catch. Still has some problems catching passes in stride but appeared to improve in this area as the 2008 season progressed. Does an adequate job of opening hips and can adjust to passes thrown behind him.
Vertical Speed 3 Uses nice hesitation move to avoid contact at the line of scrimmage and shows a second gear when tracking the ball downfield but doesn’t have elite top-end speed.
Run After Catch 3 Fluid turning upfield, reaches top-end speed quickly and shows good vision when gets into space. Adequate not great elusiveness and flashes the ability to make first defender miss but lacks breakaway speed. Isn’t going to pick up many yards after contact. Doesn’t always carry ball in the outside arm, can run with hit at hip level and can put the ball on the ground. (see third quarter of the 2008 Texas game)
Competitiveness and Toughness 2 Not afraid to go over the middle. Willing to throw blocks downfield and tries to spring teammates for long runs but raw technique. Takes poor angles to blocks and doesn’t break down into a sound blocking position when gets to assignments.

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