Breakout player of the year candidate: Tyron Johnson
It’s time for the annual pick for breakout candidate of the year. This year happened to be a tough group to choose just one from. Some players are getting their shot to be full time contributors finally, while others are projected to translate better the new scheme under a new coaching staff. The previous two season’s my pick was on the defensive side (Nwosu & Jones), so it seems appropriate that my pick for 2021 breakout player goes to an offensive player. Even though determining which side of the ball a player is on didn’t persuade my choice. While I was very tempted to take Uchenna Nwosu again seeing as how he will now be the starting edge defender, I ultimately decided that I vision one player making more highlight reels. That player is none other than wide receiver Tyron Johnson.
Johnson proved to be a productive part of an offense that helped rookie sensation Justin Herbert break rookie records. Johnson being in just his second year of his pro career saw his first share of game action. He previously was on practice squads his rookie year in 2019 sharing time between Houston, Carolina, and Buffalo. He finished 2020 with a total of 20 catches on 26 targets with a total of 398 yards and 3 touchdowns. While those may not be eye popping numbers per say it’s important to remember that the basic box score stats only tell part of the story. Believe it or not Johnson has the tools it takes to become one of the best big play slot receivers in the league. He possesses 4.3 speed in the 40-yard dash paired with one of the newest and biggest arms in football. We got just a glimpse of that last year as was apparent by his 19.9 yards per catch average. A speedy deep threat like that is even more important when considering how much Herbert loves to throw the ball on roll out plays. This also goes hand in hand for a quarterback on broken plays knowing you have weapons you can trust to get up field quick. In fact, the two had more of a connection than people may realize. Herbert’s passer rating when targeting Johnson was an incredible 156.7. Crazy to imagine what they can do together in year 2.
While a lot of people are looking to rookie Josh Palmer to play a big impact, and rightfully so, it’s important note that Johnson was a 5 star recruit out of high school for a reason. Johnson had signed to LSU coming out but then transferred to OSU. Palmer did have good numbers against the top corners in this year’s draft class so I look for him to make an impact as well. I see Palmer as WR 4 and Guyton being the odd man out in this situation. Tyron Johnson could be the start receiver that nobody saw coming!