Behind Michigan State's Trae Waynes, cornerback Wake Forest Kevin Johnson should be one of the next dominoes to fall at the position in the 2015 NFL Draft, along with Washington's Marcus Peters. The Green Bay Packers are one of several teams that might add a corner like Johnson, whose production, athleticism and aggressiveness make him a possibility in the first round.
Here's my evaluation of the Clarksville, MD native with some highlights from his game against the Clemson Tigers.
First off, Johnson was extremely durable in college. As a four-year starter for the Demon Deacons, Johnson never missed a game due to injury and and made 41 starts in 47 games played, on top of earning all-conference recognition for four years.
He did have an interception in the game I analyzed against the Tigers. Johnson sat back and read the quarterback on the play and made a really good diving jump on the ball, extending for the pick. His backpedal, good eyes, and quick reaction time helped set up a great takeaway that he had to make, even though it was a bad decision from the quarterback in the first place.
Johnson has light feet and is very fluid in moving his hips, keeping his range with opposing players. His hips really help him stay with receivers on short slants and breaks to the outside. In general, he keeps up with his man and does a good job getting his hand on the ball when it's in the air and he's able to make a play. Here's a good break-up he made against tight end Stanton Seckinger, who weighed 65 more pounds than him at the time.
A lot of times Johnson got away with penalties (mostly holds) that he definitely won't be able to get away with at the pro level. There are instances were he grabs guys if he gets beat on a fake or if a guy blows by him.
To piggyback off my last comment, I really like Johnson's aggressiveness and competitive edge that he plays with on the field, but that has hurt him on the field, too. He totaled 132 penalty yards the last two seasons at Wake Forest, and we all know those NFL refs love to throw the yellow.
There are plays in the game where Johnson gets himself in solid position to make tackles in the backfield and on the outside, but he gets chewed up and thrown off balance easily by blockers. He missed way too many tackles in college. That's mostly because of his frame and lack of strength, and you have to wonder if eventually he'll get where he needs to be from a physical standpoint. Personally, I'm actually not too concerned with his lean body and his development because he initially went to Wake Forest at 154 pounds, but he weighed in at 188 at the combine. I think he'll continue to grow, but he has to wrap-up better and be able to break and move off blockers better as well.
One decent example of his run support is the play below. His defensive tackle got the credit for the play below, but it should have been Johnson's, especially considering he was unblocked off the edge.
40-yard dash: 4.52 seconds
Vertical: 41.5 inches
Broad: 130.0 inches
Arm length: 31"
2014: 12 games played, 44 total tackles (32 solo, 12 assisted), 1 interception
Career: 47 games played, 189 total tackles (123 solo, 66 assisted), 7 interceptions, three forced fumbles
As a cover corner, Johnson has a chance to be the best in this year's class at the next level, and can definitely be a gunner on special teams for somebody. It's up in the air what he can be in run support, but he clearly has to put on more weight and muscle if he wants to become better in that respect. The late first-round looks like the projected area for Johnson, which could land him in a place like Carolina or Pittsburgh, where he could start right away since both team's are re-tooling their secondaries. Overall, I see him as a really good potential NFL starter who moves and attacks the ball well.
NFL Comparisons: Sam Shields, Tracy Porter