The Vikings’ roster is almost ready for training camp this summer, and with that, the offseason transitions from the roster-building phase to the roster-evaluation phase. As we get our first glimpse of the Vikings’ roster in action over the summer, it’s time to assess which players should be candidates to make the final 53-man roster during training camp. Today, we continue “Road to 53” by talking about WR Cephus Johnson.
Cephus Johnson has had a very interesting road to the NFL. He played his high school ball at WP Davidson in Mobile, Alabama, where he earned All-Regional and All-State honors during his 2016 senior season at quarterback. The two-star prospect proceeded to commit to the University of South Alabama, where he began his college career in 2017. He also received an offer from the University of Louisiana.
After redshirting his freshman year, he appeared in eight games, making a start for the Jaguars in 2018, completing 7 of 19 passes for 120 yards and 3 TDs. Then his sophomore year brought eight starts in which Johnson started eight of South Alabama’s 12 games, posting modest passing numbers of 900 yards, 5 TDs and 7 INTs while completing 51.7% of his passes.
Johnson was clearly a very crude passer, but the arm strength was there, and his elusive athleticism made him an intriguing player. After that 2019 season, he transferred to southeast Louisiana, where he would finish his college career.
In 2020, he returned to that reserve role for SLU’s season, completing all three of his passes for 67 yards and a touchdown. He also added 30 rushing attempts for 142 yards and a touchdown along with a pair of receptions for 20 yards. This was the first year that Johnson got targets in the passing game instead of being the passer himself.
This continued in 2021. He attempted just 12 passes during his senior season, completing 5 of them for 149 yards and a touchdown. As a running back, he had 30 carries for 259 yards and 4 TDs. His receiving numbers were again modest, but he caught 5 passes for 63 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
He went undrafted in the spring of 2022, and after sitting out football for a year, he joins the Minnesota Vikings for training camp in 2023. However, can he carve out a role for himself with the franchise to this? season?
How Johnson can impact the 2023 Vikings
Johnson is a tough player to place on this Vikings list, considering he played most of his collegiate snaps at quarterback, and is now listed as a wide receiver for Minnesota. He’s an interesting fit, especially considering the Vikings are pretty deep at QB and WR right now, but the unknown of what he could be at the NFL level could actually help him.
The best-case scenario for Johnson might be for Minnesota to view him as a Taysom Hill-esque player who can do a little bit of everything for the team. It’s not necessarily a crazy comparison, either. Hill is 6’2 and 221 pounds while Johnson is 6’5 and 225 pounds, and both displayed excellent running ability during their college careers.
The difference is, of course, that Hill played his college ball at BYU, while Johnson split his time between a very small FBS school (South Alabama) and an FCS school (Southeast Louisiana). However, if Johnson can show a little bit of everything in terms of passing, blocking, running and receiving, he just might be able to sneak to the bottom of Minnesota’s depth chart like a gadget weapon.
Obstacles in your way
Overall, the wide receiver room in Minnesota remains one of the deepest positions on the entire roster. There will be a number of quality players vying for the final spots, and a player who, at most, split his time on the spot for smaller D-1 universities like Johnson, will be at a huge disadvantage.
That being said, again, Johnson’s potential to play all over the field could give him a buffer between him and the other “true” wide receivers in the competition. He’s certainly not a polished enough quarterback to claim a share in the battle for the QB position, either.
At the end of the day, it’s hard to see a team like the Vikings giving up one of the bottom 53 roster spots to a “project” player like Johnson. He needs at least another year or two of development before he gets that spot in Minnesota. However, he very well could be retained on the practice squad for 2023.
Josh Frey is a graduate of The College of Idaho Class of 2020 and Managing Editor of PurplePTSD.com. When not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, playing, or cheering for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.