Isn’t a real impressive athlete in the pass game. Despite his size, lacks ideal explosion and range in the deep half of the field. Gets good jumps on the football when he is able to keep his eyes on the backfield and overall is a pretty instinctive player, but when forced to quickly cover ground in the centerfield type role, lacks the range needed to be real effective. Also, is a bit leggy and tight in his drop, which takes away from his initial first step in and out of his breaks. Doesn’t get up to top-end speed quickly and seems to have only one gear to his game.
Impression: Lacks ideal size/speed numbers, but his instincts, passion and willingness to throw his body around and be physical will give him a chance. He’s a bit limited in what he can offer you athletically and won’t be able to hold up in man coverage, but is the kind of guy you don’t want to bet against making a roster as a reserve safety. Could carve out a niche on special teams."
Still, it's tough to ignore Johnson's physical style of play. He hits like a steel hammer, though he often fails to wrap up. That didn't keep him from making at least 80 tackles in each of his final three seasons, but it does present a problem at the next level where runners are more adept at slipping armless tackles.
Johnson's nose for the ball allowed him to lead the team in tackles as a sophomore, junior and senior. He can also make plays in coverage, intercepting four passes in 2009 on his way to second-team All-WAC honors and breaking up six passes in 2010 as a first-team all-conference selection. His attitude, courage and penchant for highlight-reel hits should earn him looks in the middle rounds and a shot at making an impact in the NFL.
Positives: Throws his body into traffic against the run and displays ferocious yearning for contact. Plays with an aggressive, physical mentality and shows no fear when taking on bigger blockers. Snaps through tackles and generates a lot of power at the point of attack for a guy his size. Takes smart, efficient angles to the football when working downhill and has a knack for ferreting out the ball carrier. Diagnoses plays quickly and reacts to run and pass keys without wasted movement. Has strong, developed instincts and can anticipate routes and cut off the throw. Will bait quarterback and receivers into coming over the middle before delivering the big hit.
Negatives: Is undersized which, coupled with his style of play, makes him an injury risk at the next level. Does not have great range in deep coverage. Lacks explosion to break on the ball consistently and loses focus when tracking deep passes. Not an overwhelming natural athlete and has a tendency to get leggy and run high in his backpedal. Does not possess ideal recovery speed and will gamble and miss when trying to make a highlight play. Gets caught looking into the backfield on occasion and allows receivers to slip behind him. Does not wrap up consistently and will shoulder into runners looking to knock them off balance instead of bringing them down. Missed four games with a hamstring injury as a redshirt freshman. Turned himself in when in 2008 he failed to make a court appearance for misdemeanor underage consumption of alcohol."
Johnson graduated from Dominguez High School. He was never a big time prospect, being a two star recruit out of high school. But he quickly began making a name for himself with his big hits and smart play in the defensive secondary.
Johnson is excellent when making plays while the ball is in the air. He has excellent instincts and good read and reaction ability. He can hit you and jar the ball loose on every hit, and he plays much bigger than what his frame suggests. He is solid in zone coverage, and has a good break for the football. Johnson has fantastic awareness and is generally a very good tackler, often breaking down and making a play in the open field. He is versatile and has the skill-set to play corner, and both safety positions at the next level.
Johnson doesn’t play much in man coverage situations, so he will need to grasp that concept more at the next level, especially if he wants to play corner, which is possible. His speed is above average at best. For a player his size, you would think that he’d be much faster and athletic than he is. He isn’t very technically sound. He needs work in changing direction, and getting a great back pedal.
Johnson is a very talented player, and there’s no doubt that he’s second round talent. His versatility will be coveted by many teams, and there’s a good chance that he goes around the 55-70 range. Oakland, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Indianapolis look like the best options for him to be selected in that range, with Pittsburgh at pick 64 looking like a fantastic fit.
NFL Comparison: T.J. Ward"
Positive: Well-rounded defensive back who is one of the more underrated safeties in this year's draft. Displays good instincts and consistently positions himself to make plays on the ball. Stays with assignments, works well with cornerbacks, and does not get beat deep. Plays with suddenness, has an aggressive style and goes after ball carriers. Can get outside the numbers and shows a nice move to passes. Gets vertical to defend or intercept the pass. Explodes up the field and quickly gets out to the flanks.
Negative: Inefficient and takes unnecessary steps to the action. Lacks classic safety speed.
Analysis: Johnson has been a very productive player at Boise State the past four years and consistently makes plays against the run and pass. He offers potential in a variety of systems and has also been a terrific special teams player. Expect Johnson to eventually develop into a starter at the next level."
Negatives: Instincts are a little below-average, route recognition and range could be better... Not a great deep-half defender, zone coverage skills are lacking for a safety... Not especially good at getting off blocks, will be much better suited playing off the ball and out of the box in the NFL... Is still a raw safety, will need some time to adjust at the next level... Is a decent wrap-up tackler, but needs to do a better job of breaking down and lowering pad level, leaves feet when tackling far too often."
Strengths: Quick reacting playmaker who diagnoses the play and gets in position to make the stop. Great speed allows him to cover ground quickly - likes to make the big hit. Put on 10 pounds from end of season to Shrine Bowl weigh-in - has good mass and size for position. Able to cover well with good flexibility. Knows when to go for tackle vs the INT.
Weaknesses: Durability could be an issue, but he only missed a few games due to injury early in his collegiate career. Gets caught overpursuing and will lunge and miss tackles he should finish.
Projection: 6th round. Another player who could impress during a bowl game or pro-day and improve his stock and go as much as 1 or 2 rounds higher."
Johnson has led the Broncos in tackles for three consecutive seasons. Even as a freshman back in 2007 he was a fine tackler, but missed four games with an injury and that stifled his attempt to lead Boise State in tackles that season. Johnson also ended his collegiate career with eight interceptions.
Johnson is a very versatile player who can step up and lay out the big hit or drop back effectively in coverage. He is not the biggest or strongest safety in this class, but he can be a fine safety at the next level. He has the speed and instincts to play on Sundays for quite some time.
Johnson's draft will likely hinge on his speed. His 40 times have been all over the place. If he can stay in the 4.45 range, he should be a third or fourth round selection. If that speed slips, so will Johnson's draft stock."
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