By: Mark Leipold
- Evading Tackles
- Pass Protection
- Quick Decisions
Evading Tackles – Johnson has so many ways to evade tackles, whether it’s by brute force, quickness, or technique. He can power through defenders and break arm tackles easily, he can juke defenders with his quickness, and he also has an effective stiff-arm.
Pass Protection – Johnson isn’t elite at pass protection, but he’s certainly capable, and NFL coaches value that. He’s also an underrated receiver out of the backfield, which definitely gets overlooked by a lot of scouts and analysts. Don’t count him out as a guy who can be used on third down and in passing situations.
Quick Decisions – Johnson has great patience, but also makes quick decisions and explodes through holes when he sees them. When he sees what he wants, he gets to the second level in an instant, and he’s a mismatch for defensive backs. Check out his quick explosion in the first clip and his patience in the second.
Houdini – You think he’s going to be stuffed at the line here, but he pulls this jump-pass out of his sleeve and Auburn escapes with a touchdown. This won’t necessarily translate to fantasy potential, but it’s always good to see coaches scheme to use players in multiple ways, showing Johnson’s versatility and athleticism.
- Violent Running Style
- Wildcat Vision
- Breakaway Speed
Violent Running Style – At times, he reminds me a lot of Leonard Fournette, inviting contact and trying to power through everything. This is nice to gain an extra yard or two on some carries, but since we’re mostly concerned with his dynasty outlook, the savvy dynasty owner will translate the punishment on his body to a shorter shelf life in the NFL.
Wildcat Vision – Johnson was used in the wildcat a lot at Auburn, and the theme I noticed is that he kept the ball almost every time, even when I’m not sure what he saw. Granted, he turns this into a touchdown, but only because of the incompetence of the Missouri defense, who had great penetration. I question Johnson’s vision when operating in the wildcat formation.
Breakaway Speed – I will caveat this knock on him with the fact that he was nursing a hamstring injury for most of 2017, so maybe his speed would look different at full health. That said, he doesn’t test out as a top-end speed demon, so he may not be able to deliver the splash plays in the NFL the way we see from a guy like Tevin Coleman. That caps his upside week to week. Johnson’s unofficial 40-yard dash at Auburn’s pro day was 4.54 seconds – and it’s worth noting that pro day times are usually faster than at the NFL Combine due to being hand-timed.
I’m not going to call out a specific attribute here but check out this fancy footwork.
Johnson moved up my board after doing this research on his college tape. I’ve seen him evaluated as a between-the-tackles grinder that will only be used on first and second downs in the NFL, but I disagree. He can certainly run effectively between the tackles, but he has great elusiveness and the patience to get to the edge. He’s also capable in the passing game and in pass protection, so he can definitely be used on all three downs, as well as outside the tackles. He’s a much more complete back than my initial impressions.
Johnson actually has the potential to become a true workhorse in the NFL, which doesn’t apply to as many RBs in this class as I initially thought. He was used heavily near the goal line in college, and that should continue into the NFL, so he’ll have immediate touchdown upside. If he earns carries and gets a few targets per game, we could be talking about a fantasy RB1 as soon as 2018. I’d give it less than a 50% chance that he crests the top 12 in fantasy scoring next season, but in the right landing spot, it’s very possible. I’ve moved Johnson firmly into the late first round of rookie drafts, but I have seen him going in the second round in early mocks, so you may get a value on him.