Has decent burst off the line to challenge the edge. Shows some bend to his game to dip the shoulder a bit and work his way around the corner. Shows ability to slap down the hands of the tackle as well off the edge. Can get his hands inside and with nice straight-line burst flashes potential as a bull rusher. Has nice speed in the open field and can make stops in pursuit. Shows a decent motor to chase backs downfield. Can break down on the edge and make the stop in the open field. Willing to take on lead blockers on the edge. Has experience dropping into coverage and adequate when asked to move in space.
Doesn't have the first step to think he can really challenge quality tackles off the edge. Doesn't really have an array of moves, and tends to rely on his adequate burst and quickness. Doesn't have the closing burst to finish plays when he gets around the corner. Tends to get pushed around too much by blockers, both against the pass and run. Can get too easily knocked off his rush and ridden wide around the pocket by the tackle. Struggles to get leverage against the run at the point, and doesn't get off blocks. Can be tentative at times engaging off the snap as a run defender. Doesn't play with good recognition, tending to lose outside contain when he's playing on the edge. Will whiff on stops in the backfield. Doesn't showcase much awareness when he's working in coverage.
Johnson was recruited as a 230-pound safety that quickly moved to outside linebacker in their 3-4 defense. Then as a junior, Virginia made the switch over to a 4-3 scheme, and while he was solid, he was never spectacular. He may be better off moving back to linebacker at the next level since he doesn't have the ideal size, burst, or strength to play with his hand on the ground and be a consistent player. His 40 time and his 35-inch vertical are still probably holdovers from his past as a defensive back and high school wide receiver.
2011 GAMES WATCHED:
(10/22) vs. N.C. State: 0.5 TFLs, 4 pressures, 1 QB hit
(10/27) at Miami: 1 TFL, 1 sack, 1 pressure, 1 QB hit
(11/26) vs. Virginia Tech: 0.5 stuffs, 2 key blocked
(12/31) vs. Auburn: 1 stuff, 1 pressure, 1 QB hit, 1 missed tackle
2011: 12 GP/12 GS, 30 tackles, 11.0 TFLs, 4.0 sacks, 0 INts, 1 PD, 2 FF, 1 FR
- missed 1 game in 2011 due to an undisclosed lower leg injury
- had surgery on a torn labrum in his shoulder after 2009 season
- missed 4 games in 2008 with a broken ankle
If Johnson goes to a 3-4 team, I think he has some potential to develop. There is just nothing about his game as a rush end that really makes me think he's going to amount to much at the next level. He's not a good enough pass rusher to think he can impact there. And he doesn't have the ideal size, recognition, and or strength to really help out on running downs. He might be a functional No. 4 end in a rotation, but eventually better players will come along that will push him out there. Instead, if he goes to a 3-4 team, I think he has enough ability to think he might develop into a complementary starter down the road. More than likely, he'll spend the bulk of his career playing on the bench, and thus special teams will likely be a key to his success early on. But as a guy that can play on the edge with his speed and athleticism, he can develop into a competent role player. If he does become a starter, he'll probably not be an impact guy, but I think could develop into a Calvin Pace-esque starter. He can give you a couple of sacks, potentially 4-6 a year if he has talent around him. But his primary value, like Pace's is to play the run and help out in coverage. He's not great in coverage, but like Pace I think he can be competent because of his past as a safety and his nice athleticism. Johnson needs to improve his recognition as a run defender and do a better job taking on and getting off blocks at the point of attack. And thus why I think it'll take him some time to develop, because it'll likely take him the amount of time to improve in those areas as it does to get him comfortable in scheme. So for the first three or so years of his career, he'll probably just be a reserve, occasional role player, and special teams guy. After that point, he has the chance to be a nice stopgap starter that if he has playmakers around him you won't mind that he's not one himself.
Calvin Pace, Jets.
Johnson has potential to develop as a role player for the Falcons if they commit to moving towards the 3-4 in the future. Initially however Johnson is just a depth guy that can help out on special teams. In terms of his potential value in Atlanta, you're probably looking at a player similar to Stephen Nicholas, who isn't great, but adequate starter that can do several things well. Johnson isn't likely to do much besides be a reserve in Atlanta his first few years. Instead of using him as an end in their 4-3 scheme, they should just start right away converting him full-time to a linebacker. And hope that with a few years on special teams, by his third or fourth year he's at least ready to push for a starting job. But more than likely, he'll be a career backup that will be a capable stopgap starter similar to how Nicholas is viewed.
Johnson can add depth for an NFL team and has some potential as a 3-4 outside linebacker. But since his upside is limited, he's probably more of a fifth round target. If a team is very confident that he can come in right away and perform on special teams then it wouldn't be a huge reach if he was had in the late fourth round.
1-pathetic, 2-poor, 3-weak, 4-below average, 5-average, 6-above average, 7-good, 8-very good, 9-excellent, 10-elite
Point of Attack: 5.0
Pass Rush: 5.5
Scouting reports of the inside and outside linebackers in the 2012 Draft.
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