Scout's Notebook: S Tyrell Johnson

The Vikings traded up in the second-round to grab a player they targeted in Arkansas State safety Tyrell Johnson. They got their guy. Find out why they liked him so much in this in-depth scouting report ...

Tyrell Johnson, S
(5117, 207, 4.36-4.52) Arkansas State

Notes:  Born Marcellous Tyrell Johnson, 5/19/85, in Rison, Arkansas.  His biological father, Alvin Robertson, was a former NBA All-Star and 10-year veteran pro basketball player.  His mother, Patricia, was a sprinter at the University of Arkansas.  He credits his stepfather, Travis Bell, with essentially raising him along with his mother, from the age of six months.  Attended Rison (Ark.) High School, earning All-State and All-Conference honors in 2002, despite being hampered all season by a nagging high ankle sprain.  Helped the team to a perfect record as it captured the Class 8AA title, adding all-district accolades in each of his final three seasons.  Two-time All-Southeast Arkansas choice and a Marine Scholar.  Rushed for 1,085 yards (7.7 avg.) and 16 touchdowns, while returning 22 punts for 198 yards as a senior.  Competing as a defensive back and running back, Johnson had 353 career rushes for 2,725 yards (7.7 avg.), including 49 touchdowns, while catching 6 passes for 120 yards with 53 punt returns for 460 yards and 18 kickoff returns for 339 yards and one score.  Had 3 interceptions (one for a touchdown), recorded 20 tackles, forced 2 fumbles and recovered 2 others.  Also lettered in basketball and participated in track and field his three seasons.  Started on Rison's 2000 Class AA state championship hoops team.

College:  In 46 games at Arkansas State, all starts, Johnson registered 363 tackles with 6.5 tackles-for-loss.  He caused 4 fumbles and recovered 2 others, returning one 55 yards for a touchdown.  He broke up 15 passes and intercepted 13 others for 309 yards in returns (23.8 avg.) and one touchdown.  He gained 51 yards on three kickoff returns (17.0 avg.), 2 yards on two carries, 3 yards on a punt return and 3 yards on a pass reception.  Redshirted and participated on the scout team in 2003.  Started all 11 games as a redshirt freshman at safety in 2004; registered 94 tackles, 4 interceptions, 5 pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.  Played in all 12 games in 2005; led the team in tackles with 112 and added 2 interceptions, 2 PBU, 1 TFL, 1 FF and 1.  Led the team with 63 tackles, earning first-team All-Sun Belt Conference accolades in 2006.  He also intercepted one pass, broke up 4 others and had one tackle-for-loss.  Earned third-team All-American, first-team All-Sun Belt Conference and league Defensive Player of the Year in 2007; posted 94 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 FF, 4 PBU and 6 interceptions.  Management Information Systems major.  Involved in various community charity events, he was one of several players who visited Women's and Children's Hospital during New Orleans Bowl week.

Turned in an extremely impressive workout at the IndianapolisTyrell Johnson Scouting Combine.  Pre-draft workout bests included a 1.44 10-yard dash, 2.52 20-yard dash, 4.36-4.52 40-yard dash, 39-inch vertical jump, 10'7" broad jump, 4.42 short shuttle, 7.16 three-cone drill and did 27 reps at 225 pounds.  Has also bench-pressed 365 pounds and posted a 520-pound squat.  Measures 32 5/8-arm length and 9 5/8-inch hands.

Pro:  Selected by the Vikings in the second round (No. 43 overall) on a pick acquired from Philadelphia in exchange for their second-round pick (No. 47) and fourth-round pick (No. 117).  The Vikings also received a fifth-round pick (No. 152) from Philadelphia.  According to head coach Brad Childress, Johnson was ranked No. 17 of their draft board, and they had him rated ahead of Kenny Phillips, who went to the Giants at No. 31 (in the first round).

Positives:  Fabulous athlete with nice size, speed and range.  Muscular, well-cut physique with long arms, large hands, a lean waist, muscular legs and enough room on his frame to add a bit more bulk without losing any significant speed.  Excellent all-around measurables - strength (27 reps), speed (4.41) and leaping ability (39-inch vertical jump, 10'7" broad jump).  Very smart and hard-working with great intangibles - well-spoken, articulate, self-motivated with good character and citizenship.  Excellent open-field tackler.  Plays under control, takes good pursuit angles, breaks down, keeps his feet under him and hits with force.  Flies into the play to drop the opponent, seemingly coming out of nowhere at times to make plays.  Weaves through traffic nicely in pursuit.  Violent hitter at times.  Consistently drives through the ballcarrier.  Makes a lot of plays and is frequently around the ball.  Can cover the field in deep pass coverage, easily able to get to the deep third.  Shows good hands and will aggressively compete for the ball.  Played his best against top competition (see Tennessee and Texas games).  Stands out and makes his presence felt.  Tough, will play hurt and doesn't take plays off.

Negatives:  Hasn't consistently faced top competition and will have some adjustment.  Shows lapses in awareness at times.  A split-second late reacting against the pass at times.  Lacks some experience in man-to-man situations.  Could still improve tackling technique some.  Doesn't always fight through blockers.

Summary:  Should make an immediate impact on special teams and would likely step in and start early, except for the fact that the Vikings already have two proven veterans in Darren Sharper and Madieu Williams.  However, by his second year it may be hard to keep Johnson out of the starting lineup.  He has all the tools and the makeup to eventually become a Pro Bowl-caliber performer.

What they said: 

"We just saw a solid all-around athlete.  Where he really jumps out is if you watch him play the University of Texas this year.  He had an outstanding game against a pretty good caliber Texas team.  You always like a guy when he competes up, particularly with a I-AA guy.  We liked everything about him from our interview.  He's a very smart, clear-eyed guy.  He's a very physical football player.  He has a very quick see-to-do.  We feel like he'll be an outstanding special teams guy.  Ironically, he was the 17th-best guy on our draft board."  - Vikings head coach Brad Childress

"Him and [Kenny] Phillips were the two highest guys on our board [at that position].  He was truly the best player available on our board.  We felt very strongly about him."  - Vikings VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman

"You have a big safety that ran 4.4s at the combine.  We thought he had unique ball skills, which is very important at the safety position.  He has excellent closing burst, anticipates well and does a nice job when they do send him on blitzes.  He can play either off or up in the box, so he brings you a complete safety where it gives you some flexibility on the back end to roll your safety up.  He's effective inside when you put him up in the box and he's also very effective when you play him in half coverage and deep middle." -Spielman

"He was unique.  We thought he was unique just as a player on tape.  Again, you don't go off combine numbers when you draft a guy, but when those numbers were verified and he jumped off the charts there, now you have A-plus kid, A-plus character, A-plus athlete, and we feel an A-plus football player."  - Spielman

"I'm really proud the Vikings took me and proud to be a Viking.  Most definitely, I think I can come in and contribute right away.  It all depends on what the coaching staff has for me, and I'm just going to respect whatever they have for me."  - Johnson on being drafted by the Vikings.

"A four-year starter at the safety position, his first three season at strong before moving to free as a senior.  Has good size, range, has the speed to stay on top of receiver in half coverage.  I liked his zone cover skills (showed awareness, an understanding of routes progressions, and reacted well to the thrown ball (particularly in front of him).  Not a big hitter, but gets people off their feet.  Does so many things , but I liked his feel for the game.  Round 1 to 2 draft potential."  - Tom Marino, Scout.com

"He's probably the best tackler I ever had the opportunity to be around.  He has the ability to react and play with technique.  He understood his responsibility as a safety.  I think after all the natural ability is taken out of the equation, his biggest thing that he has going for him is his character and his work ethic.  He is a tremendous person.  Never missed a thing while he was here with the program. I don't ever remember him being late for a meeting or missing breakfast check or anything of that nature."  - Arkansas State coach Steve Roberts

"The Vikings move up five spots in order to grab Johnson - a guy who was apparently moving up everyone's draft boards due to the speed he displayed in his workouts.  Known as a physical presence at the line of scrimmage, Johnson's speed convinced teams he could be a more complete safety.  There's a chance he could even play cornerback at the next level."  - NFL.com

"Minnesota always seems to be looking for young playmakers for its secondary, and it isn't fazed by going after small-school prospects.  Johnson showed coming from Arkansas State wasn't an issue with great workouts, and other than Kenny Phillips, he might be the draft's only other potential rookie starter at the position."  - Vinnie Iyer, The Sporting News

"Is an outstanding tackler, plays with tremendous composure and balance and despite coming from a relatively unknown program, possesses the intangibles to transition to the big stage.  Is still raw in coverage but could step in and start from Day One as a box safety.  Johnson skyrocketed up draft boards after a sensational Combine performance, but that is not to belittle his tape, which was overlooked by many in the fall. Johnson is a solid run defender and very secure tackler who could be groomed to take over for the aging Darren Sharper."  - Nolan Nawrocki, Pro Football Weekly

"Johnson is a tall, lanky free safety who shows great range, along with the toughness and ball-hawking capability you look for.  He runs exceptionally well and brings a high level of athleticism to the table.  He showed outstanding ball skills in coverage, finished with 12 career interceptions.  At the pro level, he'll need to add a few pounds to his frame, ideally checking in at between 210 and 215.  Fast rising prospect over the last two months, due primarily to his phenomenal workouts, that complimented what he accomplished on the football field this past season.  Johnson could figure at either free or strong safety, while also making his mark as a tremendous special teams destroyer."  - Mel Kiper Jr.

"I had safety Tyrell Johnson going in the first round, so to get him in Round 2 (43rd overall) is a great pick because Johnson has big-time skills."  - Kiper

"He fits best in a defensive scheme that would not have him in man-to-man coverage often.  His play against the run and in deep zone coverage will help him become a quality NFL starter early in career."  - The War Room

"He is a good fit for a Cover-2 scheme, as he is more comfortable playing downhill than when parked in the deep third of the zone.  He is a superb pass thief and plays with reckless abandon, especially on special teams.  He does bite a lot on activity in the backfield and is slow to see the play develop, but does close with good urgency when he locates the ball.  Look for Johnson's athletic ability, natural hands and timed speed to impress a team more than his lack of instincts and poor man coverage skills that could scare off a few other organizations."  - NFLDraftScout.com

"The Vikings continue to add pieces to their secondary with the selection of Tyrell Johnson.  Despite picking up Madieu Williams and the presence of perennial Pro Bowler Darren Sharper, the Vikings bring in another young safety to develop.  Though Johnson will not be counted on to be a major contributor, he will be a major factor on the Vikings' special teams as a rookie."  - CNNSI.com

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