Breakdown: Cardinals Select David Johnson

Everything you need to know about the Arizona Cardinals’ third-round selection of running back David Johnson out of Northern Iowa from Scout's college and pro football experts.

Awaiting Image
David Johnson
Northern Iowa / 6'1 / 224 lbs
  • RB
  • [3] #22


Johnson is one of my draft sleepers, as I was really impressed with his game at the Senior Bowl. He’s a small school guy that played in 49 games at Northern Iowa. He rushed for 4,687 yards and 49 scores and also caught the ball well with 141 receptions for 1,743 yards and 14 touchdowns. That’s some production. Johnson has good size at 6-foot-1, 224-pounds and runs well (4.5 forty). He has power and will run through arm tackles. Johnson shows patience and aggression and plays angry.

Dave-Te' Thomas Player Evaluation

Report from NFL Scouting Services' Dave-Te' Thomas:

A consensus All-American as a junior and senior, David Johnson possesses a fine blend of power and size to carry the brunt of the rushing load. He may lack explosive speed, but he is quick out of his stance, building acceleration nicely to get past the line of scrimmage. He is not the type of back that will try to elude the defender in the open, but has the raw power to easily break arm tackles. He makes sharp cuts and shows good vision for the cutback lanes and has the lower body strength to move the pile.

The thing you see on film is the way he consistently bounces off tackles, thanks to his thick upper body frame and thrust off the snap. He keeps his feet on the move and has a decent burst to clear trash. His balance and foot quickness, along with loose hips, lets him consistently redirect on the move. He is a durable athlete who has never missed game action due to injuries.

While used mostly on short area routes, Johnson has the natural hands and extension to get to the ball outside his frame and at its high point. You would hope that the offense would let him line up wide for a few plays, as he is good to come out of his breaks and makes sharp open field cuts. He has ease of movement extending for the ball and shows no flinch competing for the pass in a crowd. He keeps his feet on the move and does a nice job of adjusting to the ball in flight.

Johnson is a very patient runner and it is rare to see him not set up his blocks. He has the peripheral vision to scan the field and make smooth in-stride adjustments to separate and he is very quick to find the cutback lane. He is very good at anticipating the defensive coverage and excels at reading the blocks in front of him. You can see on game film his ability to locate the cutback lanes and his feel for letting his blocks develop.

Like the Bears’ Matt Forte, Johnson hits the holes with good stride and strength, keeping his pads down and sinking his weight to fluidly redirect. He follows his blockers well and has greatly improved his creativity as a senior, resulting in Johnson having to improvise more often than in the past. His body lean and balance lets him break the initial tackle and he shows the awareness for knowing when to pick and slide. His short area burst is functional enough for him to use to bounce outside when the rush lanes are clogged.

Johnson consistently finishes his runs with good balance and forward body lean. He won’t pulverize a defender, but has the strength and pad level to break initial tackles for additional yardage. He does a good job of keeping his pads down in order to drive through the opponent while keeping his balance. When he keeps his pads down, he is tough to contain in the inside running lanes.

Johnson is never going to shy away from contact and is more of a stalker in the open field. He has good balance attacking the defender and shows good angles to shorten the field in attempts to neutralize the linebackers. He is a contact seeker who will square up and counter the defender’s moves. He needs to hold his blocks a bit longer when working in-line, but he makes every effort to engage and sustain.

NFL Scouting Combine measurables

6-1/224 (4.5 forty)
31 1/4-inch arm length
9 5/8-inch hands
25 reps
41.5-inch vertical jump
127-inch broad jump
6.82 3 cone drill
4.27 20 yard shuttle
11.10 60 yard shuttle

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.


Prospects by: OVERALL RANK | Position | College | Home State | Name

Related: NFL Scouting Combine Coverage

Scout NFL Network Top Stories