AnalysisJohnson is as experienced as any defensive back in this draft class. This former Wake Forest cornerback started 41 of 47 games for the Demon Deacons. There, he recorded 190 tackles, seven interceptions and 35 pass deflections over the course of his career. Johnson possesses very good size (6-0/188) and he runs well enough. He’s instinctive, aggressive and has good short area quickness. Johnson tested well at the combine and had excellent numbers in the vertical jump (41.5) and broad jump (132-inches).
Dave-Te' Thomas Player Evaluation
Most felt the Texans would go wide receiver. I had a cornerback mocked to them this week, but I picked the wrong one. In the real thing Bill O’Brien opted for a complete player in Kevin Johnson. He is as experienced as any defensive back in this draft class. This former Wake Forest cornerback started 41 of 47 games for the Demon Deacons. There, he recorded 190 tackles, seven interceptions and 35 pass deflections over the course of his career. Johnson possesses very good size (6-0/188) and he runs well enough. He’s instinctive, aggressive and has good short area quickness. Johnson tested well at the combine and had excellent numbers in the vertical jump (41.5) and broad jump (132-inches). He can play everywhere and in any coverage. Barring injury, Johnson should be plug and play for the Texans.Perhaps the only bright spot for a dismal performance by the Wake Forest Demon Deacons the last few years, Kevin Johnson is a model for consistency, delivering 58 tackles with three interceptions in each of his sophomore and junior seasons. As a senior, the right cornerback posted 44 tackles with six pass breakups and an interception. He also scored on a blocked punt. In three seasons as a starter, he has defended 42 passes, intercepting seven of them while deflecting 35 others.
While he has a wiry frame, Johnson displays minimal body fat, long limbs, good bubble and hamstrings. He came into the program at 160 pounds, increasing his weight to 175 by his senior year. By the time he reached the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine weigh-in room, he checked into Indianapolis at 188 pounds, running 4.52 in the 40-yard dash, which was actually an improvement from his 4.57 closing at 175 pounds during fall camp.
Johnson is quick to pick up schemes and gets a good jump on the ball because of the way he can anticipate the receiver’s moves through the route. He is active with his feet, especially when moving back, planting and changing direction. He keeps his pad level low and is usually in control through transition. He no longer gets high on his heels, which used to cause him to look a little sluggish when shuffling his feet through routes. The thing you see on film is that he shows very little hesitation or wasted motion in his plant-and-drive.
With his quickness, balance and hip snap, Johnson can turn and make plays on the ball, even though he does not stay in his peddle as long as I would like. He does a very good job of shadowing the receiver in the short area and can trail on deep routes due to his acceleration. He is not the type that will allow a big cushion, preferring to stay on the hip of the opponent. He moves and adjusts to the receiver’s moves much better when he stays close to his assignment. He can get turned around some by the bigger receivers on deep routes, but will generally mirror without much separation.
Johnson’s ability to open his hips and turn instantly gives him good range coming out of his pedal, despite using a shuffle-and-bail technique. He has very quick feet and does not take false steps, but even with his good timed speed you do not always see the burst needed to close in a hurry. While he does not seem sudden closing on the ball, he does know how to use his arms to reach around and break up the pass. He times his leaps well going up for the ball, but you just wish he’d show more suddenness to close across and down the field.
The Wake Forest product is the type that prefers to mirror the receiver throughout the route rather than give up some cushion. Perhaps this is due to his inability to break suddenly on the ball and generate the second gear needed to recover when a receiver gets ahead of him. He has the foot speed to shadow through the route, but when he loses a step he fails to catch up.
Johnson shows the body control, flexibility and change-of-direction skills to be effective coming out of his breaks. He does a good job of timing his leaps and reaching around the receiver to deliver the pass deflection. He is aggressive with his hands combating for the jump ball and takes good angles out of his breaks in order to get position and defend the ball, doing it with good consistency. When he gets an early start on the play, he will usually make the pass deflection.
Johnson does a nice job of fielding the ball as a potential emergency punt returner. He also has natural hands and body torque to get under the ball and look it in over his shoulder as a ball thief. He will extend and time his jumps to catch the ball away from the body’s frame. His hands are smaller than ideal, but his timing and ability to leap over even the tallest of receivers has led to his considerable success going for the pass breakup or making the interception.
Johnson has the field vision and anticipation skills to adjust and make plays down field. He takes proper angles in pursuit, and even playing at 175 pounds he shows true courage sticking his hat into the pile to support on plays (has nine total stops behind the line of scrimmage), whether when closing along the perimeter, or when trying to force the issue when working near the line.
Johnson might lack power to generate much physicality behind his hits, but he is not to be confused as being an “ankle biter” who will hang on until help arrives, as 65.26 percent of his stops came via initial tackles (124 solos of 190 total hits). Unlike most light-framed corners who are more of a drag down, cut-tackle type, Johnson will not hesitate to face up, stalk and wrap. He has marginal strength to plug rush lanes and will never be confused as a “thud-them-up” type, but he closes with good urgency when roaming in the open.
As a pass defender, Johnson is very athletic and gets in and out of his breaks well. His leaping ability and timing consistently sees him make plays on the ball vs. the taller receivers, as he excels at getting to the pigskin at the highest point. Yes, his frame still looks like he’s on the light side, but he willingly steps up and challenges in run support.
Kevin Johnson Scouting Combine measurables
6-0/188 (4.52 forty)
31-inch arm length
8 3/8-inch hands
No bench 41 1/2-inch vertical jump
10-foot-10 broad jump
6.79 3 cone drill (right calf strain)
3.89 20 yard shuttle
12.19 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.
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