Draft Day Target: RB Larry Johnson

We continue to examine possible replacements for Emmitt Smith with a indepth look at Penn State's Larry Johnson. Johnson, just like Musa Smith, is a player that could very well be available when the Cowboys go on the clock with their second pick in the 2003 NFL Draft later this month.

With a complete falloff last season in almost every statistical category, and the loss of future Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith, it seems like a virtual lock that the Cowboys will be looking to enhance their overall talent level on offense before the start of next season.

That being said, several names have clearly emerged as possible candidates in the backfield via the 2003 NFL Draft.

Yesterday, we discussed Musa Smith and some of the reasons why the Cowboys may be keeping an eye on his availability towards the end of the first round. Today, we turn the focus to Larry Johnson, one of the top running backs in the country last season out of Penn State.

Johnson was a Big Ten All-Conference selection as a senior after rushing 271 times for 2,087 yards and 20 touchdowns for the Nittany Lions. He also was the first player in Penn State history to lead the nation in rushing yardage and all-purpose yardage.

"Larry Johnson has a powerful lower body, and he's able to use that strength to break the first tackle and carry defenders downfield," notes NFL Draft Expert Tony Pauline.

Johnson was a Big Ten All-Conference selection as a senior after rushing 271 times for 2,087 yards and 20 touchdowns for the Penn State Nittany Lions. (Getty)
"He works his runs and falls forward when being tackled, picking up the extra yardage. He's one of those workhorse running backs who gets better as the game goes on. I'd like to compare his to a battering ram who runs with a good degree of intelligence."

While the upside on Johnson is tremendous, most experts think that Johnson's main weakness lies with lack of elusiveness. "He's not a quick or sudden runner," added Pauline. "Plus, he sometimes looks like he's running upright, which could cause him some problems in the NFL."

Again, just like Musa Smith, Johnson fits the Bill Parcells mold perfectly. He's a big, bruising back with power and the ability to eat up chunks of yardage once he gets into the open field.

He has excellent patience and he lets his blockers do the work before heading up field. He also can turn the corner relatively easily, even at 6-1, 221 pounds.

"Right now, I'd say that if Johnson was available late in the first round, he would get consideration from the Cowboys," a source said late last week. "What are the chances of that happening right now? I don't know, anything can happen on draft day."

As it stands now, most experts have Johnson slipping into the later stages of the first round. He was impressive in an individual workout held in Happy Valley earlier this year, but his unwillingness to participate in the combine in Indianapolis certainly didn't help his cause.

A lot of people are comparing his running style to that of Tennessee Titans' running back Eddie George, however after scouting Johnson on two separate occasions last season, it's obvious that he doesn't possess the same elusiveness as the former Ohio State standout.

His nose for the open field and his overall speed are underrated, however he piled up a lot of those big numbers last year against some of the weaker teams on the Nittany Lions' schedule.

"Personally, I think Parcells sees one or two other backs out there that will likely be available in the 2nd round. Names I'm hearing continue to be guys like Lee Suggs or Musa Smith," added the source. "He may be more inclined to go in that direction."

While Bill Parcells and Jerry Jones may have already targeted several running backs, if Larry Johnson is available once the Cowboys go on the clock with their second pick, he'll warrant serious consideration.

CowboysHQ Top Stories