Nov 2, 2013; Syracuse, NY, USA; Wake Forest Demon Deacons cornerback Kevin Johnson (9) grabs the helmet of Syracuse Orange wide receiver Brisly Estime (20) on a tackle during the second quarter of a game at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Johnson is one of the top cornerback prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft. Let’s start by taking a look at Johnson’s measurable statistics from the combine and how measures up to other cornerback prospects–made possible by the fantastic writers at MockDraftable.com
Strengths: The first thing that sticks out when you turn on Kevin Johnson’s tape is his ability to back pedal. It is very rare to find college cornerbacks who are comfortable back pedaling. Johnson’s ability to back-pedal allows him to keep the play in front of him, enabling him to keep his eyes on the quarterback and the receiver at the same time.
When playing close in press coverage, Johnson shows of his fluid hips and his ability to run stride for stride with receivers.
In this clip, you can see Johnson quickly turn flip his hips and run stride for stride with Florida State’s receiver, Jesus Wilson. One of the most important, yet underrated part of this play, is that Johnson loses no speed when he turns to run with the receiver. Many cornerback prospects will lose some speed when they turn, allowing their man to gain a bit of separation Johnson doesn’t lose any speed and he is even able to make a late attempt to reel in the pass for an interception.
Johnson is a confident corner, who has a swagger about him. As you can see at the end of the clip above, Johnson gets up and immediately waves the “no-catch” sign. Confidence is such a vital part of playing corner in the NFL, so having a corner full of confidence and a corner that has an edge to him is a big plus.
Here is an example of Johnson sticking to his man on an underneath route:
Again, you can see how fluid his movements are and his ability to play man to man coverage.
Johnson has a physical element to his game. He is a willing tackler and he has the ability to lay people out. Just watch this hit Johnson lays on Kermit Whitfield:
Just as every prospect does, Johnson has a few weaknesses to his game. Just as his ability to back-pedal jumps off the screen immediately, the cushion that Johnson gives receivers also screams at you. Wake Forest played a lot of off coverage, making Johnson susceptible to underneath routes and comeback routes:
Johnson has the ability to play in press man and is not bad at it, but he needs to work on his punch. During the Florida State game, Johnson missed a few, leaving him a bit off-balance on those plays. In the NFL, it is indicative that a corner is able to disrupt a receivers route because it will throw off the timing of the play, which could lead to turnovers.
While I highlighted Johnson’s ability to turn and run earlier, during the few occasions that he does fall a half a step to a whole step behind a receiver, he has a tendency to latch on, leading to a few defensive holding calls. Watch this play against Florida State’s Rashad Greene. Johnson falls a half a step behind and he immediately latched on to Greene’s jersey for a little bit. The referee missed the call, but this could have easily been called defensive holding:
Nov 2, 2013; Syracuse, NY, USA; Wake Forest Demon Deacons cornerback Kevin Johnson (9) warms up prior to a game against the Syracuse Orange at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
As I stated earlier, Johnson plays with an edge, and even though I listed it as one of his strengths, there have been occasions where it has backfired. In the game against Florida State, after making a huge hit, Johnson made an inappropriate gesture, which should have resulted in a penalty. Similar to before, the referees dropped the ball. Along with making an inappropriate gesture versus Florida State, Johnson was ejected for targeting a player during his game versus Louisville, which was a week prior to the Florida State game.
Red Flags: Johnson was ruled academically ineligible to play in games during his sophomore season and he was also ejected during a game versus Louisville for targeting.
Scheme Fits: Johnson is fairly versatile when it comes to scheme fits because he can play in man coverage, press coverage, off coverage, and zone coverage.
Draft Projection: Johnson projects a mid to late first round pick. Most likely, Johnson will be selected somewhere between the 20th and 26th overall selections.
Team Fits: Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Arizona Cardinals