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Anthony Johnson on cusp of continuing family NFL tradition

MOBILE, Ala. — University at Buffalo wide receiver Anthony Johnson got a good confidence boost Monday as he prepared for his big week at the Senior Bowl.

Johnson consulted with his first cousin, Houston Texans Pro Bowl defensive end, Jadeveon Clowney.

“I face-timed JD, and he was encouraging me to just come down here and compete and show the world what I’m capable of,” Johnson said. “No matter who I line up in front of, just attack him and show him I’m the best receiver.”

Johnson is working on continuing his family tradition — making the NFL — this week at the Senior Bowl. The UB star has three cousins who have reached the NFL. Besides Clowney, there is another former NFL No. 1 draft pick, Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph, along with former Bills safety Jonathan Meeks.

There’s no doubt the 6-foot-2, 211-pound Johnson is going to join them. The expectation is that as long as he runs reasonably well in pre-draft workouts, he’s going to be taken by the end of the third round, according to several NFL scouts watching practice in Mobile. Over the past five drafts, an average of 12 wideouts have been taken in the first three rounds.

Johnson could help himself move up the board with good showings in the Senior Bowl and by running well at the NFL Scouting Combine in late February.

Just how fast is Johnson? That’s something scouts wonder about given he played against Mid-American Conference competition and not in a Power 5 Conference. The expectation is Johnson will run between 4.50 and 4.55 in the 40-yard dash, and that will be good enough to be picked in the top three rounds. If he runs under 4.50, maybe he's a second-round pick.

“I know for sure I can run under 4.5,” Johnson said.

Johnson knows the questions he must answer over the next several months:

“What I’m going to run, my weight, that I can compete with higher-level guys,” he said. “Some guys kind of discount the MAC based on the competition level, so I feel like I’ve got to show my athleticism against higher guys out there.”

Johnson looked pretty good in Tuesday’s practice. He had a couple of quality releases off the line of scrimmage against big, physical Houston cornerback Isaiah Johnson in catching out-routes. Johnson also had one drop on a slant pass.

Johnson ranked second in the nation in yards per game as a junior in 2017, catching 76 passes for 1,356 yards. He was third in the nation in TD catches with 14. In 2018, he missed two games to a hamstring injury and caught 57 passes for 1,011 yards and 11 TDs.

Johnson is physical and good with the ball in his hands. He doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses. He just needs to prove to NFL scouts his strengths are exceptional.

He says he’ll be disappointed if he’s not picked in the first two rounds.

“I can only control what I can control but probably, yeah,” he said. “But it’s not up to me. My job is to go out and show what I’m capable of and try to get in those top rounds.”

Meanwhile, Johnson will keep taking confidence from his high-profile supporters. Through Clowney, Johnson even has gotten to know Texans Pro Bowl receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

“During the season I talk to those guys all the time,” Johnson said. “They give me advice on anything I want to ask them. I have those guys watch my film. I have Hopkins watch my film. He tells me things I need to work on. … Those guys have been to the next level. They know what it takes. Why not listen to those guys? I cherish everything they tell me.”

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