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49ers roster breakdowns, 90-in-90: WR B. J. Johnson III

Breaking down the 90 players on the 49ers offseason roster in 90 posts (over 90 or so days). Today: UDFA WR BJ Johnson III

Troy v Georgia Southern Photo by Todd Bennett/Getty Images

Each year, we run a series of post called "90-in-90" here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we'll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, this roster will change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not strictly one per day but you get the idea.

There’s not a lot of news coming out of rookie mini-camps, generally speaking, but the 49ers had a very interesting session this year. First, the team cut one of their most bally-hooed UDFAs, WR K.D. Cannon, after he failed to hustle sufficiently (not running out plays). Cannon had been signed to what was initially thought to be the biggest bonus of any NFL UDFA rookie, though later it turned out that the Patriots’ Harvey Langi and Niners Jimmie Gilbert and Cole “DirtyTini” Hikutini got more guaranteed money once base salary guarantees were taken into account.

Then the team decided to keep a tryout player in his place, Georgia Southern WR B.J. Johnson III. Johnson racked up only 600 yards in his best (senior) season, but he is bigger than Cannon and excelled at blocking in Georgia Southern’s run-heavy offense. A month later, 49ers WR coach Mike LaFleur said it was Johnson’s blocking, separation, hands and general toughness that impressed the coaching staff and led to Cannon’s release.

Basic info

Age: 24 (turns 25 on February 22, 2018)
Experience: Rookie
Height: 5’11.5 to 6’1”
Weight: 212 lbs
40-yard dash: 4.60 (Pro Day)
3-Cone drill: 6.81
225 lb bench press reps: 27
20-yard shuttle: 4.33
Vertical jump: ”34.5”
Long Jump: 10’02”

Scouting reports

A 24-year-old native of Woodruff, SC, Johnson III (6-1, 210) attended Georgia Southern University. During his five-year career with the Eagles (2012-16), he played in 44 games (35 starts) and registered 92 receptions for 1,377 yards and six touchdowns. As a senior in 2016, he started all 12 games in which he appeared, and finished with a team-high 42 receptions for 600 yards and three touchdowns. In 2015, he appeared in nine games (five starts) and finished with 15 receptions for 249 yards. As a sophomore, he started all 12 games and registered a team-high 23 receptions for 312 yards and three touchdowns. In 2013, appeared in 11 games (six starts) and led the team with 12 receptions for 216 yards. Redshirted as a true freshman in 2012.

Why he might succeed in the NFL

Kyle Shanahan likes flexible, hustling players who create matchup problems. His fullback Kyle Juszczyk excels at catching passes, so why not pair him with a wide receiver who is great at blocking? The Niners are also short on tall receivers, and Johnson is at least about 6 feet tall.

Johnson had an impressive play in minicamp when he realized that no one had touched him going down after a pass, and got up to run in for a TD. And if you’re an optimist, you can imagine that Johnson’s production was limited by the rocky history of his school’s football program.

Georgia Southern — also the home of rookie RB Matt Breida — rose to the FBS division in 2014 and had two great seasons under coach Willie Fritz, running a shotgun triple option. Then Fritz left. New coach Tyson Summers hired two co-offensive coordinators and the offense stalled as the team fell to a 5-7 record. Breida’s average YPC fell from 7.9 to 3.7.

My point is, the offense was messed up last year, so maybe Johnson was similarly hampered by that bad offense in a new, tougher division, and maybe he will blossom under offensive genius Kyle Shanahan. When Georgia Southern’s offense was good under previous coach Willie Fritz, they were heavily run-based, so Johnson didn’t get many targets. But there’s a whole lot of maybes in that vision of hope.

Why he might not

Johnson just might not be that good. He’s not terribly fast or tall and has never produced that much on the field. We really don’t have sufficient evidence to declare him talented enough for the NFL.

Odds of making the roster

B. J. Johnson III is a longshot to make this roster. The team has a slew of new receiving targets, including Juszczyk, DirtyTini and blocking tight end George Kittle as well as veteran WRs Pierre Garcon, Aldrick Robinson and Marquise Goodwin. I’d peg his odds at about 20%. He probably needs an injury or legal incident involving one or more wide receivers to get through to September.