Of the 12 players the Browns recently drafted, could running back Duke Johnson turn out to be the most productive of all the draft picks?
In just three seasons at Miami (Fla.) Johnson accounted for 5,526 all-purpose yards. His 3,519 rushing yards is the most of any former Hurricane running backs, eclipsing Ottis Anderson’s all-time record. The Hurricane’s list of former NFL running backs is a who’s who listed of backs including the likes of Anderson, Portis, Frank Gore, Willis McGahee, Alonzo Highsmith, Lamar Miller and Edgerrin James.
“I’m surprised,” Johnson said after the Browns recent rookie minicamp. “I never had the idea of going to college and leaving the all-time leading rusher. My goals were the same as they are now and that is to win, but I think it is a great accomplishment knowing the guys that came before me.
“I felt it was a good accomplishment,” he said. “It is something and a legacy I can leave at the University of Miami. Hopefully, I can take that same mindset and same attitude to the next level.”
Johnson said it really hasn’t set in for him what he’s accomplished.
“I’m still waiting because it really hasn’t hit me yet,” Johnson said. “I don’t know what it’s going to take, but it really hasn’t hit me yet.”
Johnson hopes to have the same type of success that the others have.
“I’m really hoping, especially with the majority of those guys going to the next level and having the careers they did,” he said. “I’m really hoping that I can have the type of careers those guys had.”
Johnson said he’s talked with the former ‘Canes who’ve gone to the NFL before him and they’ve offered some tips to him.
“I’ve talked with Edgerrin and Willis and they just told me to take care of my body to be healthy and being able to take coaching and to be on time.”
Johnson isn’t satisfied with what he’s accomplished so far and is ready to start contributing with the Browns.
“I think I can show what I can do out of the backfield,” Johnson said. “I think that’s something we’re trying to do in the offense and that is utilizing me in the passing game. Putting me out wide, giving (the defense) different looks and getting the ball in different ways besides running it and returning it.”
Jackson was a third-round draft choice of the Browns in 2001 (65th overall), who followed Butch Davis from Miami to the Browns, but didn’t materialize at the NFL level. He is still fourth on the all-time Hurricanes rushing list, but had his best year as a rookie with the Browns with just 554 yards and two touchdowns.
Similar to Jackson, Johnson is smaller in stature and likely wasn’t drafted until the third-round because of his size (5–9, 206). Despite his height, Ray Farmer said Johnson is “not small”. Johnson is confident he will be able to be successful at the NFL level.
“I never doubt my skills,” he said. “This is something that I’ve worked hard on since I was a kid to master my craft as we like to say it.
“I never would get to the ultimate level doubting myself,” he said. “I’m a little too far ahead in my life to start doubting myself now.”
Johnson said he thinks he can carry the load at the NFL level.
“I’m going to do whatever they ask of me,” he said “I’m a three-down back, third down do whatever I can to help this team win.”
Johnson describes himself this way.
“I think I am unpredictable,” he said. “I’m a one-cut kind of guy, hit a hole and see it. I can make things happen, very versatile out of the backfield. I can line up at receiver and create mismatches out of the backfield.”
Johnson said although he has left the University of Miami, he carries “The U” attitude when he steps on the field.
“I bring the same attitude,” he said. “There’s a swagger.”
If he can prove to be as successful as he was in college, Duke Johnson might prove to be one of the Browns best picks of this year’s draft class.