Will Giants rookie tight end’s game translate to the NFL in 2024?

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Penn State, new york giants, theo johnson
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New York Giants fourth-round draft pick Theo Johnson is highly optimistic about his NFL potential heading into his rookie season. Will he be ready to contribute at a high level out of the gates though?

Theo Johnson feels ready to compete as a rookie

Johnson spoke on his upside and room for improvement during the Giants’ rookie minicamp on May 11, as Ed Valentine of Big Blue View shared:

“It’s really exciting for me because I think I have a super high ceiling. I think I haven’t even scratched the surface of what I’m capable of. I’m really looking forward to proving every day that I’m out here,” Johnson said.

“I think the big thing for me is consistency. Being consistent,” Johnson said. “I’ll flash a lot of really good things on tape, but it’s putting all that stuff together every single snap that’s going to help me reach my potential,” Johnson continued.

Why Johnson’s game in college could immediately translate to the NFL

Nov 4, 2023; College Park, Maryland, USA;  Penn State Nittany Lions tight end Theo Johnson (New York Giants) (84) reacts after catching a shovel pass for a touchdown during the first half against the Maryland Terrapins at SECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 4, 2023; College Park, Maryland, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions tight end Theo Johnson (New York Giants) (84) reacts after catching a shovel pass for a touchdown during the first half against the Maryland Terrapins at SECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The 23-year-old also noted that he has “tremendous” room for improvement. So, his approach toward being more consistent is likely what will translate toward his striving to elevate to the next level.

In his senior season at Penn State, Johnson went for 341 receiving yards at 10 yards per reception and brought in seven REC touchdowns.

The biggest indictments against Johnson are his run blocking and his ability to gain yards after the catch, as NFL analyst Lance Zierlein mentioned in his Draft Combine and Prospect profile. His profile headlined him as a “good backup with the potential to develop into a starter.” On the other end, Johnson has the size, speed — with a 4.57 40-yard dash time — and effectiveness in the red zone to be a steady factor for the Giants in 2024.

As for how good he can be immediately, that’ll rely heavily on Darren Waller’s retirement decision. Should Waller hang up his cleats, then Johnson will be in like to inherit a healthy amount of snaps in a passing offense expected to open up with wide receivers Malik Nabers and breakout candidate Wan’Dale Robinson on the outside. That will prime him to pick up first downs and move the sticks.

Giants’ TE depth could halt Johnson from gaining rhythm off of improvements made in practice

Tight end Theo Johnson (New York Giants) catches a pass during Penn State's Pro Day in Holuba Hall on March 15, 2024, in State College.
Tight end Theo Johnson (New York Giants) catches a pass during Penn State’s Pro Day in Holuba Hall on March 15, 2024, in State College. Dan Rainville / USA TODAY NETWORK Credit: Dan Rainville / USA TODAY NETWORK

If Waller stays though, Johnson may see time in spurts, which could impact the rhythm he needs to develop to maximize his talents and fulfill projections of him being a backup-caliber player.

The Canadian talent would have to make the most of his time behind a receiving option in Waller who was on pace to contend for the team lead in receiving yards last year. Waller’s injury history could counteract that skepticism, though.

The Giants are also linked to veteran TE options on the free agent market which could crowd the depth chart further alongside Daniel Bellinger, Chris Manhertz, and Jack Stoll. Ultimately, time on the field will largely determine how much Johnson’s growth can be deduced and how high of a ceiling he truly has.

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