Pros: Solid cover guy that shuts down his half of the field when working in Cover-2 or centerfield. Has good ball skills and does a good job reading the quarterback and making the play. Knows his assignments and rarely caught out of position. Is willing in run support and does a decent job wrapping. Has nice speed and shows potential as a blitzer. Does a decent job covering slot receivers.
Cons: Undersized and can be tentative at times in run support. Just a drag-down tackler that lacks pop and will miss stops, particularly at the point of attack. Will take some poor angles vs. the run.
Overview: He's an intelligent player that has almost no learning curve going into the NFL as far as coverage goes. But he's basically a one- dimensional player because as great as he is in coverage, he's that lacking in run support. I'd wager that over 90% of the passes completed against Alabama this past year of 15 yards or more came on the opposite side of the field that Johnson was playing. In two years as the quarterback of the defense, he had 11 picks.
NFL Forecast: At best, Johnson will just be an adequate run stopper at the next level. He's already bulked up some since the end of the year (listed at 190), but certainly more muscle isn't going to hurt him. Besides popping an unsuspecting wideout from time to time, there's never going to be a point where you get excited about his play vs. the run and as a tackler. But if can get a bit stronger and do a better job breaking down in the open field, he'll become just adequate enough to be a starter. But the real reason he starts for you is because of his coverage ability. He has Ed Reed-like potential there. He's the type of guy that routinely gets 4-6 interceptions each year. He'll work best in a Cover 2 scheme, but also can work well as a traditional ball-hawking free safety. Johnson isn't going to be as good as Ed Reed, despite their similar sizes because he's not as physical, explosive, or athletic as Reed. But he can be a game changer and impact player in coverage like Reed.
ATL Forecast: Johnson would certainly upgrade the Falcons in coverage. His acquisition would require the Falcons to move Erik Coleman to strong safety, but Johnson would have no problems starting right away in the league because his learning curve in coverage is about as little as possible. Although Coleman isn't an ideal strong safety candidate, and adding Johnson would likely mean the Falcons would need to find a player with more upside to team opposite him than Coleman. To off-set Johnson's weaknesses in run support, more than likely the team would have to acquire a rangier, and more physical run stopper than Coleman. But one thing is for sure, Johnson would be a solid addition and starter for years to come. But it's a less than ideal fix, because while you're plugging one leak, another essentially springs up.
Value: Johnson's coverage ability makes him a first round talent, but because of the fact that he'll need to be "hidden" in run support by the players around him, it drops him down to an early-to-mid second rounder.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
BALL SKILLS: 4.5
Scouting Reports of safeties in the 2009 NFL Draft
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