Associated Press

PRO 2021 Rookie Spotlight: Cade Johnson, WR South Dakota State

Rookie Spotlight: Cade Johnson, South Dakota State
Height: 5’10 3/8″
Weight: 186 lbs
Hands: 9 3/8″
Arm: 29″
40 yard dash: 4.56
NFL Comparison: Tyler Lockett, Aldrick Robinson


– explosive playmaker
– precise route runner
– quick release 
– shifty
– sees the field well
– prodigious kick-returner



– undersized
– limited route tree
– hasn’t faced much press coverage
– low level of competition


College Production Score: .42

2020 Market Share Team Receptions: 39%
2020 Market Share Team Receiving Yards: 48%
2020 Market Share Team Receiving TDs: 38%

Unranked as a high-school recruit

Scouting Notes: Cade Johnson is the type of receiver that corners don’t pay much mind until he’s already passed them on the field – His 651 yards after the catch in his last season are evidence of that. He’s been underestimated for the majority of his football career it seems, as he was a zero-star recruit coming out of highschool and only received 2 offers. One was from SDSU where he flourished for three years, starting out primarily as a kick-returner, a damn good one at that, and then making his way into regular play, tacking on 17 TDs in just his second season. Johnson is largely unassuming as he’s of average height and build, but he’s got a lightning quick release off the line bolstered by an explosive first step. The fact that he’s an exacting route runner only makes him more dangerous, though he didn’t run a very diverse route tree in college. With his excellent speed and open field vision though, a diverse route tree wasn’t all that necessary for Johnson as he knows how to get himself open. He’s had a reputation as a big play specialist, but his 16.83 YPC, although impressive, isn’t elite – He can move the chains. His play reminds me of Tyler Lockett’s in that he’s a premier returner who transitioned into a versatile every down player and red-zone target – Even though he profiles as a slot receiver. His knack for getting open is just uncanny. 

Fantasy Outlook: Johnson hasn’t played football in a year with SDSU not playing fall ball, and he’s coming from a small school so team’s are probably not champing at the bit to add him to their rosters. A strong Senior Bowl showing would go a long way in refreshing him in teams’ minds though. The primary issue for Johnson at the next level will be if he can beat the press with any regularity, but as he’s likely to play the slot, he may not have to face much press. Everything that I’ve seen on tape indicates that Johnson has the ability to thrive in fantasy on a team that relies on their slot man to move the chains. He’s a high upside flyer in dynasty as is and is likely to increase his standing. 



  • Associated Press All-America First Team (2019)
  • Walter Camp FCS All-America Team (2019)
  • HERO Sports All-America Second Team (2018)
  • HERO Sports All-America Third Team (2019)
  • STATS FCS All-America Second Team (2019)
  • STATS FCS All-America Third Team (2018)
  • Phil Steele All-America Second Team (2019)
  • HERO Sports Freshman All-America First Team (2017)
  • Phil Steele Freshman All-America Second Team (2017)
  • Walter Payton Award Finalist (2019)
  • All-Missouri Valley Football Conference First Team (2018, 2019)
  • MVFC All-Newcomer Team (2017)
  • MVFC Offensive Player of the Week (Sept. 8, 2018)
  • MVFC Newcomer of the Week (Oct. 21, 2017; Nov. 18, 2017)
  • MVFC Honor Roll (2018)



  • Single-Season Touchdown Receptions – 17 (2018)
  • Single-Season Kickoff Return Yards — 839 (2017)
  • Single-Game Touchdown Receptions — 4 (2018, shares record with three other players)
  • Enters 2020 season third in career touchdown receptions at SDSU (28); fifth in receiving yards (2,872) and sixth in receptions (162)


2019: Received team’s Adam Timmerman Offensive MVP award after leading squad for second year in a row in all receiving categories … honored with team’s Offensive Player of the Week Award four times, starting with season opener at Minnesota in which he caught six passes for 90 yards and had one carry for 25 yards … Started a streak of five consecutive games with a touchdown reception by scoring twice in five-catch, 80-yard performance against Drake … also broke off a 76-yard run versus Drake … scored go-ahead 81-yard touchdown in road victory at Youngstown State … topped the 100-yard mark for receiving four times, starting with seven-reception, 134-yard outing at Indiana State … tallied season-high 164 receiving yards on only five receptions, including career-long 89-yard touchdown catch and run, at Missouri State … hauled in career-high 11 receptions versus Illinois State … caught six passes for 134 yards and a touchdown in regular season win over Northern Iowa … again notched double figures in receptions, registering 10 catches for 139 yards in regular season finale at South Dakota … returned three kickoffs for total of 84 yards in Football Championship Subdivision playoff game versus Northern Iowa … caught at least two passes in all 13 games to extend streak of games with a reception to 26 entering the 2020 season


2018: Earned all-conference and All-America accolades after emerging as the team’s top receiver … led the team with 67 receptions for 1,332 yards and a single-season school-record 17 touchdown catches … topped the 100-yard mark for receiving six times … tied single-game school record with four touchdown receptions in season opener versus Montana State as part of nine-catch, 138-yard performance that also garnered him Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors … added touchdown receptions of 71 and 40 yards in home win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff … lone catch went for a 23-yard touchdown to open the scoring in Hobo Day win versus Youngstown State … began streak of four consecutive 100-yard games with seven-catch, 121-yard outing at Northern Iowa … scored on a career-long 81-yard touchdown reception at Illinois State, finishing the game with eight catches for 131 yards … tallied five catches for 130 yards and two scores in home victory against Missouri State … recorded the seventh-highest receiving yardage total in program history with 198 yards on seven catches (with two touchdowns) in road win at Southern Illinois … closed regular season with two more touchdown receptions against South Dakota … broke the single-season touchdown record in Football Championship Subdivision playoff loss at North Dakota State, hauling in a 52-yarder late in the third quarter … shared team’s Offensive Player of the Award three times — at Northern Iowa, at Illinois State and at Southern Illinois … also was honored among squad’s Special Teams Players of the Week in playoff game at Kennesaw State


2017: Provided dynamic play-making ability both on offense and special teams … set an SDSU single-season record with 839 kickoff return yards in a season became the first Jackrabbit player in 54 years to record more than one kickoff return for touchdown in a season … led team with 1,166 all-purpose yards and topped the 100-yard mark in a game six times … first kickoff return for a touchdown covered 95 yards as he was named Outstanding Player of the Beef Bowl, adding two receptions for 18 yards … registered season-high 175 all-purpose yards in losing effort against Northern Iowa, tallying 103 yards on four kickoff returns and 72 yards on three receptions … named Missouri Valley Football Conference Newcomer of the Week for first time as he totaled 136 all-purpose yards on only three touches — two receptions for 75 yards and first career touchdown and one kickoff return for 61 yards … caught three passes for 39 yards, including decisive 17-yard touchdown, and added four kickoff returns for 85 yards in regular season finale at South Dakota … notched a 70-yard kickoff return in Football Championship Subdivision playoff opener against Northern Iowa, then broke off 99-yard return for touchdown in quarterfinal win over New Hampshire … his 23 receptions ranked third on the team


2016: Redshirted … recognized as Jackrabbits’ Scout Offense Player of the Week as team prepared for Missouri Valley Football Conference opener versus Western Illinois


BEFORE SDSU: Earned all-state honors in both football and basketball at Bellevue West High School … set school receiving records with 43 catches for 1,061 yards and 16 touchdowns during his senior season, adding 240 return yards and four interceptions … also played on a state championship basketball team as a sophomore

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