Eagles Draft Profiles: Receiver Cade Johnson
South Dakota State receiver Cade Johnson has been flying up draft boards following a dominant performance at this year’s senior bowl. When Johnson is drafted, he will be only one of two Jackrabbits on an NFL 53 man roster. The other? Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert. Johnson played with Goedert during the 2017 season, and the two could reunite again in Philadelphia.
Looking back at last year’s NFL Draft, the Eagles made a point to target speedy wide receivers such as Jalen Reagor, John Hightower, and Quez Watkins. All quick wideouts who made an impact during this past season. Once again, wide receiver is a position of need going into the 2021 NFL Draft. While Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith are capturing the eyes of many fans, there’s an exciting option if they choose to target the receiver position again in the following days of the draft.
The most impressive part of Johnson’s game is his elite speed. There might’ve been nobody faster in the FCS. South Dakota utilized Cade’s speed in several different ways. Cade was often used during WR screens and was incredibly effective. He was also targeted on crossing routes and slants when SDSU noticed man coverage by the defense. Finally, the most critical part of Johnson’s route tree was that he could burn through secondaries on go routes for long gains. No matter what coverage you had on Johnson, there was always a way he could beat you.
Another important note about Johnson was he was great at pulling in the football. Very rarely did he drop any passes or lose sight on routes. The only thing is he is iffy on going up for the pass on contested throws due to his size. Johnson only stands at 5’10, but his downsides aren’t major killers and is expected of his archetype as a speedster.
Philadelphia had a significant issue with special teams this past season and often never put Jalen Reagor back on returns for no apparent reason. If the Eagles are looking to give Reagor a break, Johnson could slide in nicely at the returner spot. At South Dakota, Cade was the primary kick and punt returner and holds the school record for most kick return yards in a season with 839.
An important note is Johnson did not play in 2020 due to South Dakota State suspending play and not having a season. COVID-19 left Cade without a home and no ability to play his senior year. Any worries of rustiness or decline in play faded away following Johnson’s senior bowl performance.
With Cade’s stock rising significantly, he needs to be one of the Eagles’ top choices during the third to fourth round of the draft. While his size is underwhelming, there are too many positives to pass up, and he could be the perfect speedy complement to Jalen Reagor for years to come.
Mandatory Credit: South Dakota State Athletics