Report from NFL Scouting Services' Dave-Te' Thomas:
The more Duke Johnson totes the football, the higher his draft stock gets. The junior out-rushed Miami’s opponents by a 895-502 count in the team’s last five regular season games before the bowl season commenced in 2014. He might lack the ideal size a team might look for in a featured back, but looks are deceiving, as he has a compact, muscular frame with good chest thickness, tight waist and hips. He has the quick feet and short area acceleration to hit the holes in an instant.
The thing that keeps defenders honest is Johnson’s outstanding lateral quickness, as he is masterful in ducking in and out of traffic when working in-line. From the talk coming out of South Beach, Johnson could be handed “bus fare” on draft day, as the local Miami Dolphins are expected to make a big play for a ball carrier in the early rounds of the draft.
Johnson has very good field vision as a runner. He shows explosive lateral agility and movement and is a threat to break for a long run any time he frees himself along the perimeter. He has the crisp plant and drive agility to make sharp cuts and despite his exceptional quickness, he is a patient runner waiting for blocks to develop. The Hurricanes ball carrier has outstanding balance on the move, keeping his feet churning to break arm tackles. His acceleration makes him a viable threat on pass routes and he has more than enough moves to defeat a defense on his own to gain separation. He is best when running off tackle, but he also has the power and hip wiggle to go for big yardage running inside.
Johnson makes precise cuts when he sees the rushing lanes clogged. He has that sudden burst to get through the pile and the sustained speed and explosive acceleration to elude once he gets into the second level. He takes good angles to the corners and can take the ball to the house once he reaches top speed.
When he generates his sudden burst, defenders are left grabbing at air. Johnson is a slashing type of runner who keeps his balance on the move and is sudden shooting through the gaps. With his quick thrust through the hole, he gets to top speed in a hurry and also demonstrates that second gear to break away from the pack once he gets into the open field.
When Johnson reaches the corners, he has exceptionally quick plant and drive agility to locate the cutback lanes and a superb burst along the perimeter. Even with his speed turning the corner, you see that it is the bounce in his step that is difficult for defenders to counter. Once in the open field, his shifty moves become even more evident.
Johnson lacks the big mitts you look for in a receiver, but with his concentration and hand extension, he has developed into a capable receiver (only two drops the last two seasons). He is especially effective extending outside his framework to secure the side-line throws. With his hand/eye coordination, he is capable of adjusting to the ball in flight and with his 38 ¾-inch vertical leap and timing he is able to get to the ball at its high point.
NFL Scouting Combine measurables
5-9/207 (4.54 forty)
30 3/8-inch arm length
9 1/4 inch hands
33.5-inch vertical jump
121-inch broad jump Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.
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