Anthony Johnson accomplished his mission Wednesday at the University at Buffalo pro day workout for NFL scouts.
The Bulls’ star receiver ran the 40-yard dash in 4.50 seconds, proving that his timed speed is as fast as he looks in game action.
“A lot of people had me at like 4.6,” Johnson said after the workout at the Bills’ ADPRO Sports Training Center. “I kind of took that as disrespect. That was another thing for me coming in here and showing I’m not a 4.6 guy, period. I accomplished that goal.”
The consensus among scouts The News talked to at the NFL scouting combine was as long as Johnson ran better than 4.58 in the 40, his timed speed would not negatively impact his draft standing.
The 6-foot-2-inch, 209-pound Johnson has good size, length and athleticism. He put up two productive years for UB, catching 133 passes for 25 touchdowns in 2017 and 2018.
He’s probably a third-round draft choice, but the late second or fourth rounds are possible, too. CBS Sports lists him No. 60 overall in its latest top-100 ranking. Sports Illustrated did not rank him in the top 100 after the combine, which was held two weeks ago.
Scouts from 30 NFL teams attended the UB Pro Day. There were no general managers, aside from the Bills’ Brandon Beane. Johnson and UB quarterback Tyree Jackson were the star attractions among the 17 players working out. The two Los Angeles teams, the Rams and Chargers, were the only NFL clubs that did not appear to have a scout in attendance.
The Panthers sent quarterbacks coach Scott Turner. The Bengals and Eagles sent assistant quarterback coaches.
Johnson did not run the 40 at the combine because of a sore ankle that he had tweaked at the Senior Bowl in January. He had performed all of the other drills in Indianapolis.
The South Carolina native was not totally satisfied with his day.
His back tightened up after his first 40-yard dash. He ran his second 40 (each player gets two attempts) but didn’t feel as good. He was not able to run any routes and catch passes from Jackson.
The News timed his two runs at 4.47 seconds and 4.52 seconds. The consensus among scouts gathered at the finish line was his time was 4.50. There was no electronic timing.
“It was decent,” Johnson said. “With the past injuries I’ve had being able to come out here and run under 4.5 I’m kind of excited with that. But for myself, my goal was to get under to that low 4.4s. that’s what I wanted to run. ... After the first run my back kind of locked up on me. I was on the sidelines stretching. I went to the trainer, tried to get him to stretch me out but I just couldn’t get it right after the first run.”
Jackson, meanwhile, ran through a passing session on the field, making 54 throws under the direction of his QB consultant, Jordan Palmer, the former Bengals QB who helped prepare the Bills’ Josh Allen for the draft last year.
Jackson completed all but five. Two underneath throws were off target, one was dropped, and two of his five deep bombs fell incomplete. He showed his big arm. Even though he didn’t get a perfect spiral on two of his three 65-yard bombs, he still didn’t underthrow the receiver.
Jackson said his main focus was to show improved footwork.
“When I got to California,” he said of his work with Palmer, “what I really wanted to improve was not swaying. I’m a long guy, I have a lot of moving parts. I’ve really cleaned that up a lot. I feel very confident now when I throw and I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback about it.
“I think when you transition from college to the NFL there’s a lot of new play action, a lot of different things,” Jackson said. “So just to show you can learn those things and you can perform them is what I was trying to accomplish today.”
Two other QBs, Central Connecticut’s Jake Dolegala and Bethel’s Sam Castronova, held shorter passing sessions after Jackson. Dolegala, a St. Francis High product, is 6-foot-6-1/2-inches and 240 pounds. He displayed a rocket arm. The 6-foot-1-inch Castronova, from Williamsville South and Erie CC, showed good accuracy and threw tight spirals.
UB middle linebacker Khalil Hodge measured 6-1 3/8 and 234 pounds. He’s probably a late-round prospect. His 40 times unofficially were 5.0 and 4.95 seconds. He had a 29-inch vertical jump and a broad jump of 9 feet, 1 inch.
Other noteworthy 40 times – both unofficial – were run by cornerback Cam Lewis (4.44) and defensive end Chuck Harris (4.68).