Charles Johnson calls himself Mr. Inkredible on Twitter.
You know the old saying: It ain’t bragging if you don’t spell it right.
Johnson plays wide receiver, a position filled with incredible athletes around the NFL, and in Vikings history. He’s a former seventh-round (you can call it last around) draft pick out of a small school who didn’t make an impact with his first two NFL teams.
Given where he came from, maybe that’s about right.
Or about to be proved right.
Over the last seven games of last season, Johnson averaged 3.6 catches, 59 yards and about a third of a touchdown. If you extrapolate those numbers over 16 games, they would turn into about 57 catches, 950 yards and five touchdowns.
That’s not spectacular given modern passing efficiency, but if he did nothing more than that he would produce the most yards by a Vikings receiver since Percy Harvin’s 967 in 2011.
And if Johnson stays healthy, he should produce much more than that.
Last year, Johnson learned the Vikings offense on the fly and played for a team without a running attack, an offensive line or a complementary receiver who worried opposing defensive coordinators. He played with a rookie quarterback who didn’t emerge as a potential star until the last five weeks of the season. And he still put up numbers that made him one of the more effective Vikings receivers of the last 10 years.
That’s right — the franchise of Cris Carter and Randy Moss for too long became the franchise of Travis Taylor and Bobby Wade.
In the past 10 years, only one Vikings receiver has produced 1,000 yards — Sidney Rice, who while playing with Brett Favre in 2009, had 1,312.
With a little growth as a young player, and the expected development of Teddy Bridgewater, and the expected improvement of the offense, and the benefits of playing alongside Adrian Peterson, Johnson should produce at least 70 catches, 1,000 yards and close to double digits in touchdowns.
Mike Wallace will often be used as the Vikings’ deep threat, meaning he will be targeted on low-percentage passes. Cordarrelle Patterson might again become a threat, but he has no chance of being this team’s top receiver. Jarius Wright is a slot receiver.
The No. 1 receiver job belongs to Johnson. He’s quick enough to beat defenders off the line, tough enough to make catches over the middle, fast enough to make big plays down the field and hungry enough to push himself toward prominence, if not stardom.
Extrapolating last year’s numbers doesn’t offer a clear view of Johnson’s potential. Growth is rarely linear.
Saturday night in the Vikings’ 20-12 preseason victory over Oakland, Johnson caught four passes for 40 yards in a quarter and a half. He produced a touchdown by catching a beautiful throw from Bridgewater in the back of the end zone, the latest sign that Johnson and Bridgewater have developed the timing and trust that can elevate both of their careers.
Bridgewater will look for Johnson on third down. He will look for Johnson near the end zone. He will look for Johnson when he’s in trouble. And Johnson is ambitious enough to want all of that responsibility, even when it means taking a brutal hit in the middle of the field.
If he remains healthy, Johnson should be able to produce 70 or 80 catches, 1,100 yards and eight to 10 touchdowns.
More important for the Vikings, he has compensated for the lagging development of Patterson.
The Vikings moved up in the draft to take Patterson with the 29th pick in 2013. For a seven-game stretch spanning the end of the 2013 season and the beginning of 2014, Patterson looked like a larger, more polite version of Harvin.
Since then, Patterson has been a bust.
Finding a No. 1 receiver on the Cleveland Browns practice squad just might make up for investing so much in Patterson.