Vikings Weren't Alone in Assessing Safety

On draft weekend, the Vikings had high praise for their top pick, safety Tyrell Johnson. They weren't alone, as NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell, who studies film intently, agreed with their assessment of the safety. See what Cosell had to say about the Vikings' move up to grab Johnson and where he had the safety rated.

Just as Minnesotans can depend on cold in winter, so can football fans depend on hyperbole from their favorite NFL team following the draft. "We never thought he'd be still be available" is a statement uttered often by NFL coaches and personnel chiefs around the league on draft weekend.

The Vikings were no exception. The team traded away its first-round pick (No. 17 overall) to acquire defensive end Jared Allen in a trade the week before the draft, but Vikings personnel contend that they still were able to the draft the 17th-ranked player on their board, safety Tyrell Johnson.

"He's a very smart, clear-eyed guy. He's a very physical football player," Vikings coach Brad Childress said after the team selected Johnson. "He has a very quick see-to-do. I feel like he'll be obviously an outstanding special teams guy, and ironically when we go through with (VP of player personnel Rick Spielman's) grading system, he was the 17th player on our board, ironically. Zygi (Wilf) is the guy that pointed that out up there, so that's a little irony there."

The Vikings moved up four spots in the second round to select Johnson with the 43rd pick overall because they were concerned that either Philadelphia or Denver would draft him before the Vikings got the chance.

Childress then let reporters know that Spielman and the Vikings had Johnson rated just above University of Miami safety Kenny Phillips, whose selected by the Giants with the 31st pick. But, while the spin machine is often running smoothly on draft weekend, the Vikings weren't the only ones who thought Johnson might be just as good or even a better prospect than Phillips.

NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell believes the Vikings' second-round selection of Johnson from Arkansas State was a shrewd one. Cosell, who watches countless hours of coaches film – not just highlight reels – of all the top college prospects, also had Johnson rated as the best safety in the draft. "I think it was a great pick at (No.) 43," Cosell said. "I think three years down the road, he's a better player than Kenny Phillips (the only safety taken in the first round). Despite Johnson being from a smaller college, Arkansas State, Childress and Spielman continued to reference the safety's performance in the Senior Bowl and against Texas during the regular season, saying he elevated his game against high-level competition. Cosell felt the same way.

"Arkansas State is in the Sun Belt, not a big-time conference. But they played Texas and Tennessee this year. The thing that stood out when I was watching those games, I thought Johnson was the best athlete on the field," Cosell said. "I think he is a real smooth and fluid athlete. He has really good change of direction. I thought he played downhill from a deep safety position extremely well. He was explosive. He showed the versatility you want in a safety, playing both down in the box and playing in deep positions. I think he needs work as a deep defender. He's much better moving forward right now than he is playing over the top."

Johnson has high goals set for himself, saying his first objective is to help the Vikings win the championship, but his personal goal is to win Defensive Rookie of the Year. If he plays anything like the safety he admires the most – Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers – he might have a shot at that second goal.

"I like the way he is fast and physical. He's aggressive and he plays 100 percent each play," Johnson said of Polamalu. "I couldn't tell you the times that I have seen him take a play off, and that's the type of safety I want to be, I am going to be."

First, Johnson will have to find a role for himself on the field with Pro Bowl safety Darren Sharper returning and free-agent acquisition Madieu Williams bringing his level of play to the Vikings this season, but it's obvious that those who study film the most like the possibilities for Johnson in the NFL.

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