In the aftermath of the 2023 draft, the Minnesota Vikings signed priority rookie free agent Cephus Johnson III — whose future in the NFL is as unknown as the position he’ll play.
At 6-foot-5, 226 pounds, Johnson played quarterback and wide receiver at Southeast Louisiana University. His unique blend of physical gifts and versatility make him a true unicorn as he’s been likened to New Orleans Saints utility knife Taysom Hill throughout the pre-draft process.
In 11 games for the Lions in 2022, Johnson passed for 1,354 yards and 10 touchdowns with five interceptions. He added 488 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.
The Vikings signed him on April 29 as a wide receiver, but his role in Minnesota will undoubtedly take many forms as he progresses through training camp and fights for a spot on the 53-man roster or practice squad.
Our guy @FBallGameplan was talking up Cephus Johnson and his versatility on @CBSSportsHQ back at the combine (because, well, I dare you to find a small-school player that Emory doesn’t know about). https://t.co/u0TowzSh4t pic.twitter.com/UrKQY5aZ54
— ryan wilson (@ryanwilsonCBS) March 21, 2023
Cephus Johnson ‘Dripping in Athleticism’
Entertaining Johnson’s prospects in the NFL, The Athletic’s Zak Keefer spoke with Johnson’s college coach Frank Scelfo, who vouched for the unbound versatility Johnson could bring to the Vikings as a prospect “dripping in athleticism.”
“If your third quarterback is a guy who just stands around and does nothing in practice, you’re just burning a position,” Scelfo told The Atheltic. “To me, it makes sense to add a guy who can give you value at a bunch of different spots.”
Not only could Johnson line up as a wide receiver or tight end, but his versatility at the quarterback position could make him valuable on the scout team.
“If you’re playing Buffalo, he’s Josh Allen. If you’re playing Baltimore, he’s Lamar Jackson,” Scelfo added. “He can do some of the same things those guys can do.”
Minnesota taking a chance on Johnson without spending a draft pick is the ideal scenario when banking on a unicorn like Johnson. His role in the NFL is still unknown, however, the Vikings have the resources under an offensive-minded head coach to spend time finding his spot.
“His physical qualities allow you to be a little bit more patient with him and see how he develops. But as a person, he’s first-class. High morals. He’s gonna be at every meeting, on time,” Scelfo said. “When you talk about the draft, your fourth-round picks, they gotta play, you can’t miss on those guys,” Scelfo explains. “Your fifth-rounders gotta play (special) teams. Your sixth- and seventh-rounders? You’re rolling the dice. At least roll the dice on a quality person with elite athleticism that could lead to something pretty special.”
Cephus Johnson the ‘Deep Sleeper QB’ of the Draft
While Johnson isn’t expected to compete for a roster spot as a quarterback, he’s sure to be given a look under center given his pedigree and potential as an emergency arm for the 2023 season.
Johnson stood out at the College Gridiron Showcase and was dubbed a deep sleeper quarterback by CBS Sports’ Emory Hunt.
Johnson might have been the most impressive and intriguing of the group of quarterbacks. A physically imposing player, Johnson showcased a set of tools that left scouts both gasping and salivating. There’s not a throw on the field he can’t make, and you saw him settle in more with each passing rep. Because he’s a tremendous athlete — who’s expected to run in the 4.4-second range in the 40-yard dash — he got a few reps at WR during the practices, a position he’s played before at SLU. If you’re looking for a deep sleeper of a QB prospect, you’ve found him.