It’s hard to describe Dominique Johnson’s campaign leading up to this month’s NFL Draft as anything other than a race.
The Cal Poly receiver already has the size and hands to make an alluring pro prospect.
And with an NFL offseason embroiled in labor unrest putting an even bigger premium on being drafted above free-agent status, all that matters to Johnson at this point is speed.
The 6-foot-4, 228-pound former UCLA transfer will have his best chance to prove he can run with the pros today at Cal Poly’s senior day, an event for scouts scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. at the Upper Sports Complex.
He’ll go through all the other drills included in a combine workout, but Johnson’s 40-yard dash figures to be the main event.
“That’s going to be big,” Johnson said. “A lot of guys haven’t really seen me run. I’ve never really been formally tested. So, that’s going to be the focal point for me. I’m extremely confident in my 40. I’m just going to run as fast as I can basically and wait to hear the number that’s called.”
Johnson had a private workout with three NFL teams Monday at his alma mater, Valley View High in Moreno Valley. Set up through Johnson’s agent by the Miami Dolphins, representatives from the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings also showed up to the workout.
Johnson could have come away discouraged by that first effort — he ran the 40 in 4.62 seconds on a surface still soggy from the previous week’s rain storms — but he felt the showing was still respectable as long as he is able to improve on it running on Cal Poly’s artificial turf today.
“I felt good about that because I know that they had projected me at a 4.65 to a 4.67,” Johnson said. “I already showed that I was faster than that on the surface that they had me running on.
“The scouts came over to me and they said ‘We take note of everything out here.’ ”
Johnson, who led the Mustangs in receiving in each of his two seasons in San Luis Obispo and had 47 catches for 634 yards and four touchdowns last year, will also be run through drills such as the pro shuttle, three-cone drill, 60-yard shuttle, vertical jump, broad jump and route running.
Testing will also include height and weight, wingspan and hand measurements as well as the Wonderlic for Johnson, the team’s juniors and any other seniors who choose to attend.
The most notable senior outside of Johnson is linebacker Marty Mohamed, a 6-1, 235-pound four-year starter who led Cal Poly with 88 tackles and three interceptions last season and finished as one of the Mustangs’ most prolific tacklers in program history.
Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh said Mohamed worked out at a recent scouting event at San Diego State. The Brawley native could benefit from the exposure afforded him by any scouts in attendance to check out Johnson, a number the receiver hopes will be more than a handful.
“Marty knows he’s got to push the envelope,” Walsh said, “because he’s not the biggest guy or the fastest guy. He’s just a really good football player who wants an opportunity.”
Mohamed’s name is not likely to be called in the NFL Draft, which means his wait for an NFL contract could be lengthy.
NFL teams won’t sign free agents until a collective bargaining agreement can be reached with the players, and at this stage, there is little telling how soon that would be.
That’s a major reason why being drafted, even the later rounds, can be more valuable than usual over signing a free-agent contract.
Draftees have the peace of mind knowing where they will be headed when camps open. Unless they opt to play in a less-heralded league like the CFL or Arena Football, undrafted players are in limbo.
“It affects so many different people in so many ways,” Johnson said about the NFL labor dispute. “Not just guys who are coming into the draft but guys who are going into free agency. It’s going to affect how teams draft altogether, change the strategy of a lot of teams. If you don’t know how long this labor situation is going to go on, you’ll basically be stuck waiting to see what’s going to happen if you’re not drafted.”
If Johnson is drafted, he would be the first Cal Poly player selected since Ramses Barden was picked by the New York Giants in the third round in 2009. Prior to that, former Mustangs Jordan Beck and Chris Gocong were also third-round picks. For Johnson to follow in their footsteps, some of his biggest strides could come today.
“I think there’s no question he’s going to be in an NFL camp,” Walsh said, “but if he gets drafted or not, that remains to be seen. If he runs a 4.5, I think that’s going to make him a draftable player.”