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NFL breakout players 2018: Johnny Holton has that ‘holy sh*t’ speed the Raiders need

Sure, there are the deep routes, but the guy’s more than just a one-trick pony, if they’ll give him the chance.

Denver Broncos vs Oakland Raiders Photo by Robert Reiners/Getty Images

Raiders receiver Johnny Holton only has 11 receptions in his first two seasons, but he has the potential to do so much more than that this year.

Holton has speed to burn. That dude hauls ass up and down the field on film. That may not be the only thing he does well, but it is for damn sure the first thing that jumps out at you.

There’s fast, and then there’s “holy sh*t, who was that?” fast, and Holton is decidedly the latter.

With that kind of speed, defenses have to sit up and pay attention when Holton is out there on the field. If one guy hesitates Holton could be behind everybody in a flash. That is especially true when he’s lined up in the slot and has the chance to get up on a safety in a hurry. I saw him just flying by people last year on a regular basis, to the point where it became routine. The only problem was he didn’t get all that many opportunities to play on offense last season.

Of course some of that likely has to do with the three times he fumbled last year, especially since two of them were recovered by the opposing team. Holton is certainly going to have to fix his ball security issues going forward if he expects to gain the trust of the new coaching staff in Oakland. Jon Gruden has come in promising to bring the team back to prominence with an old-school philosophy, so I can’t imagine he will be any more tolerant of turnovers than the previous regime.

At the same time, I can see Gruden being enamored with Holton’s speed and start daydreaming about all the ways he could use Holton to either push the ball down the field or open up things underneath.

Holton doesn’t have to be a one-trick pony, either.

At 6’0 and 190 pounds, Holton has good size, so it’s not like all his routes have to be deep balls. He definitely doesn’t appear to be afraid of contact. In fact, Holton has been a pretty good gunner on the punt team, so he has already shown he has plenty of toughness, too.

He could give the Raiders plenty of big plays when he catches the ball short, then hits the afterburners. Just imagine Holton catching a shallow crossing route against man-to-man.

Of course, Gruden and nem could also get Holton involved running speed sweeps, end arounds and other “gimmick” plays of that nature. It would be an easy way to give him a chance to make a play with the ball in his hands without him having to run out on a route.

Fumbling aside, I actually thought he showed some pretty good hands catching the ball as well last year. If he can just fix that ball security issue, you’re talking about a guy who could be a serious weapon for Oakland this year, even as a backup. It’s not like he’d have to set the world on fire to best his career high of nine catches last season anyway. He did also manage to score three touchdowns in 2017, and I think he can do much better than that this year.

As long as he gives himself a chance.

The Raiders have plenty of talent at wide receiver with Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant. But Nelson is getting older and Bryant is one bad decision away from being banished from the league again. I don’t expect Holton to start over those three guys, but there is reason to believe he can still become a regular contributor and make a lot of big plays this year as long as he stays out of his own way.

Confidence level: Low