FRISCO, Texas – At all levels of the draft process, there are targets a team clearly covets.
Sure, that applies to first-round picks most of all. But throughout the prospect pool – including undrafted free agency, some players just tend to stand out.
This year, look no further than Jon'Vea Johnson -- who may have gone undrafted, but seems to be standing out among the Cowboys' young receiver corps.
"It's not a surprise, because we loved his film, but Jon'Vea the last two days, his speed and athleticism and how smooth he is has shown up here – almost a little bit earlier than we thought it would," said Cowboys receivers coach Sanjay Lal.
It makes sense that Lal isn't surprised by Johnson's progress, considering how long the Cowboys have been on to him. Johnson was one of just five receivers the team brought to their facility as a pre-draft visitor, and was the only one who wound up going undrafted.
"They showed me the most love throughout the whole process," Johnson said during the Cowboys' rookie minicamp.
In fact, among a loaded Toledo receiver group that saw standout Diontae Johnson drafted in the third round and Cody Thompson sign undrafted with Kansas City, Lal said he liked his guy the best.
"I went to the Pro Day, and out of all those Toledo receivers, his Pro Day was off the charts – how athletic he was, how fast," he said.
That athleticism is a big part of the buzz around the rookie receiver in the month since a draft. Johnson, whose father Jason played briefly in the NFL, posted a 35-inch vertical and a 4.38 time in the 40-yard dash at that Pro Day workout. He averaged 21 yards per catch during his senior year at Toledo, which no doubt prompts speculation that he can be a big-play threat.
"I want to be the guy to take the top off the defense, the speedster guy or like a gadget guy," Johnson said. "I think I've got a really good chance of making this team."
There's a lot of work to do if he's going to make that a reality, but the number seem to favor him. The Cowboys have a clear-cut starting trio of Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb at receiver. Behind them, the depth chart gets a bit murky.
To this point, he's made a great first impression. If he keeps it up, there's no telling what the future could hold.
"He's done a good job of learning his plays and coming out and showing what he can do," Lal said. "But it's not a surprise in terms of what we saw on tape, it's why we brought him in here."