Is NFL Legend Calvin Johnson Related to 2021 NFL Draft Sleeper Cade Johnson?

The team that selects Cade Johnson in the 2021 NFL draft may wind up with a star on their hands.

You’re not alone in wondering who Johnson, a standout receiver from South Dakota State, is. A dynamic receiver at the FCS level of college football, Johnson is one of the most popular sleeper prospects in this year’s draft.

Cade Johnson is an underrated 2021 NFL draft prospect

Former South Dakota receiver Cade Johnson boosted his 2021 NFL draft stock at the Senior Bowl.
Former South Dakota receiver Cade Johnson boosted his 2021 NFL draft stock at the Senior Bowl. | Senior Bowl/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

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Former North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance, a projected top-10 pick, is the popular FCS prospect from that region of the United States.

Cade Johnson, a standout receiver from South Dakota State, deserves some more love. Between the 2018 and 2019 seasons, Johnson totaled 139 catches for 2,554 yards and 25 touchdowns. Seventeen of those scores came in 2018 when he earned all-conference honors.

Johnson also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in 2017. He attended the Senior Bowl earlier this year and had an opportunity to raise his profile there.

Is Cade Johnson related to NFL legend Calvin Johnson?

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A talented receiver whose name reads as ‘C. Johnson’ will certainly sound familiar to NFL fans.

The second overall pick in 2007, Calvin Johnson dominated NFL defenses for nine seasons. A six-time Pro Bowler, Johnson recorded 731 catches, 11,619 yards, and 83 touchdowns in 135 games, all of which came with the Detroit Lions. Johnson added 17 catches, 296 yards, and two scores in two playoff games, both losses.

A three-time first-team All-Pro honoree, Johnson — who was still only 35 years old at publication — will officially enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer.

Despite their name similarities, Cade Johnson and Calvin Johnson are not related. Cade is also not related to Chris Johnson or Chad Johnson, two other former NFL stars. However, Cade’s father, Clester, won two national championships as a receiver on Nebraska’s football team in the 1990s.

What will Johnson bring to the NFL?

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Cade Johnson might be an FCS prospect, but he’s a receiver who has only seen his stock climb in recent months.

NFL Media’s Lance Zierlein projected that Johnson would be selected in the draft’s fourth round. Zierlein compared Johnson to Dennis Northcut, a former All-American receiver who spent 10 seasons in the NFL. Northcut, who played seven of those seasons with the Cleveland Browns, hauled in 399 catches for 4,491 yards and 18 touchdowns in 144 games. 

Zierlein praised Johnson’s feet and special teams experience, although he is concerned with the receiver’s route-running. 

“His routes are a little rounded, and he doesn’t have much of a catch radius. However, he does have the ability to add yards after the catch and offers kick-return value. College teams missed with this former FCS walk-on, but NFL teams should pay attention. He has starting slot upside.”

Lance Zierlein

The 2021 NFL draft begins Thursday, April 29, and ends on Saturday, May 1.

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