There are sleepers in every draft class, and the Los Angeles Chargers might’ve just nabbed a good one.
Ben Johnson was named the top tight end sleeper in the 2018 NFL Draft by draft analyst Matt Miller thanks to his combination of size and athleticism and versatile skillset.
Standing nearly 6-foot-4 and weighing 246 pounds, Johnson was originally recruited to the University of Kansas by Charlie Weiss (renowned for his time as the New England Patriots offensive coordinator, mentoring Tom Brady and helping lead them to three Super Bowl wins) with plans to utilize the former three-sport standout and 3-star recruit in a pro-style offense.
After seeing time on special teams and limited snaps on offense as a freshman, Johnson blossomed in his sophomore season when he beat out current Carolina Panthers TE Kent Taylor (a former 4-star recruit who was rated the No. 1 TE in the nation by Rivals.com coming out of high school) for the starting position. That season, he earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors after catching 13 passes for 115 yards and earning a reputation as a stellar blocker. He would more than double those numbers in his senior season with 30 catches for 363 yards on his way to earning second-Team All-Big 12 honors.
Kansas coach Doug Meacham believes Johnson’s versatile skillset gives him a great shot at a productive NFL career. “I had a kid at Oklahoma State named Brandon Pettigrew, who was a first-rounder. I’m not saying Ben’s a first-rounder, but Ben is kind of what those guys (NFL scouts) look for, I think. He can do all the special teams, he can set the edge, block, and he’s a really athletic, route-running guy; great set of hands and ball skills,” Meacham told KUSports.com.
Johnson has been posting some impressive numbers during his recent training sessions, showing off a great combination of speed and explosiveness for a player his size:
Comparatively, the TE class @ the 2018 Combine averaged 17.18mph during the 40 & fastest game-speed during Super Bowl LII was 18.06mph by a WR. pic.twitter.com/Y51tpAnoJP
— Joseph Potts (@TopSpeedLLC) April 23, 2018
Nice workout for 6’5″/249# TE Ben Johnson (Kansas) this morning as he preps for NFL Pro Day, standing vert would’ve been top 5 @ NFL Combine and Max Vert PR came in 1.5 inches higher than 2018 Slam Dunk Challenge runner-up Larry Nance Jr.’s NBA Combine score pic.twitter.com/4SAF286zAt
— Joseph Potts (@TopSpeedLLC) March 8, 2018
Pretty impressive display of explosiveness out of 2018 #NFLDraft prospect Ben Johnson, jumping;
35 inches @ BW
32″ @ ~10%BW load
28″ @ ~20%BW load
17″ @ ~60%BW load
The 6’4″/250# TE out of KU spoke w/ Chargers, Rams, Texans, Packers, Lions, 49ers, Raiders & Saints in past week. pic.twitter.com/hvHG02iEn0
— Joseph Potts (@TopSpeedLLC) April 28, 2018
Photo Credit: Scott Winters/Getty Images