Welcome to the 20/20 series. As part of our continued Dynasty Scouts coverage and in preparation for the NFL Combine, we will be profiling 20 of the top incoming rookies of the class of 2018 by giving you 20 facts you must know.
1.) Player name – Kerryon Johnson
2.) College – Auburn
3.) Height/Weight – 5’11”, 215 lbs
4.) Birth date – 6/11/97 (20)
5.) Class – Junior
6.) College stats – Career Stats: 519 carries, 2494 yards and 32 touchdowns. As most prospects do, Johnson exploded in his junior season, racking up 1,391 rushing yards, scoring 18 touchdowns and catching 24 passes out of the backfield for nearly 200 yards.
7.) NFL Draft projection – Mid fourth or early fifth round. Johnson enters as the sixth or seventh-best back in a very talented 2018 class. His performance at the combine will prove to scouts what impact he can make at the professional level.
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8.) NFL comparison – Melvin Gordon. Johnson has a knack for finding an open hole and getting through it quickly. He has an explosive first step and has proven his growth on the receiving end. While he lacks the agility and speed of Gordon, they share a similar run style, capable of slipping into the secondary at any time. Similar to Gordon, Johnson has the intellect to be a three-down back because of his blocking ability and receiving potential.
9.) Best possible situation –Washington Redskins. I think Johnson is worthy of competing for a starting job in the NFL. He brings terrific vision and blocking to the picture, which will allow him to hold value over more athletic backs. He would fit excellently into an Alex Smith led offense, and could have similar usage out of the backfield as Kareem Hunt did in Kansas City. If he excels in fall training camp, Johnson could find a valuable niche early on in the season to produce.
10) Worst possible situation – Denver Broncos. Johnson could find long-term value behind this solid offensive line. However, the Broncos have three or four backs they already believe in. While production has rarely happened over the past two seasons, I foresee Johnson getting lost in a cloudy depth chart that ownership has done a poor job managing and motivating to effectively run the ball.
11.) Best current skill – Pass-blocking ability. I know you want to see something like “raw-power” or “elusiveness” here. Johnson truly put up the numbers he did in 2017 because of his ability to be on the field every down. His strength and knowledge in blocking schemes allowed him to pick up various blitz packages against tough SEC defenses. Because of this, Johnson was able to slip out of the backfield and be utilized on screen passes. NFL scouts love this.
12.) Skill that needs to be improved – Speed and form. He has good quickness and vision to supplement this, but at the professional level, his lack of speed will be exploited. We rarely saw him able to out-run competition, which in part was due to his running form. Johnson runs very upright coming through the hole, limiting his agility and ultimately tackle-breaking abilities. He needs to figure out how to run closer to his core, then counter defenses with his quickness rather than exposing his full frame.
13.) Past/Current rookie ADP – Johnson currently holds an 11.90 ADP as the NFL Combine is just two weeks away. He has been mocked as high as ninth in rookie drafts, and as low as 14th. His numbers at the combine should put any discrepancy to rest.
14.) Projected dynasty value – You’ll be lucky to draft him outside of the first round in rookie drafts. If your league gives an extra pick to the Toilet Bowl champion, this could be their year to acquire a great back outside of the top tiers. His landing spot with an NFL team will ultimately be the deciding factors of his production. If he can stay healthy, I can see him taking over a starting role soon after his rookie season.
15.) The bug – Johnson has carried the ball less than 600 times coming into the NFL, one of the lowest totals for backs entering the draft. However, scouts are already concerned with the number of nagging injures he has suffered throughout his career. The injury bug has worn down the tread on his tires. How durable his knees and shoulders are is what general managers will want to know. This will ultimately determine the longevity of his career.
16.) Wildcat attack – In two quarters against Mizzou, Johnson scored four touchdowns out of the wildcat formation. A role that he was highly effective in throughout the 2017 season. We have seen NFL teams utilize this package in red zone situations, which could make Johnson a valuable scoring asset early in his career.
17.) Locked and loaded – In 519 collegiate carries, Johnson fumbled the ball only three times. Amazing considering the level of talent and physicality he faced in the SEC. When he gets his opportunity, he won’t lose it due to fumbling issues, I can guarantee you that.
18.) Pass the rock – Johnson improved all three years as a route-runner and more importantly a pass catcher. He has averaged 8.7 yards per catch in his three-year tenure at Auburn and should continue to develop at the next level. As mentioned previously, he should get plenty of third-down opportunities to slip out of his blocking duties and create yardage in the open field.
19.) Don’t let his age fool you – At 20 years old, Johnson is the second youngest prospect entering the draft at a skilled position. He will continue to develop physically into his frame and could be an effective back for many years to come.
20.) Breaking the mold – Auburn has failed to produce fantasy relevant running backs since 2005. The last to do so? Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams. Both had underwhelming careers that may long be forgotten. Can Johnson put his alma mater back on the map and make a name for himself in the NFL?