RB Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions
Kerryon Johnson heads into the NFL after an extremely productive junior season at Aubrun, finishing as the SEC’s offensive player of the year and even ninth in Heisman voting. With 1,391 yards and 18 touchdowns on 285 carries, Johnson proved to be one of the best runners in college football this past season. At this year’s combine, Johnson showed flashes of athleticism with an eye-popping 40-inch vertical jump. Most of his other measurables were slightly above average at best, but Johnson is not known for any crazy athletic abilities.
The Scout’s Notes
At 6’0” 213 pounds, Johnson has a decent frame for an NFL running back but likely will need to gain an extra 10 pounds in order to stay healthy and strong against elite NFL defenders. He is a patient all-around runner who follows blocks well and hits the hole with burst and power. He is just as comfortable outside the tackles as he is inside. Johnson uses a variety of agility moves to evade defenders and uses them well as both a runner and receiver. He has reliable hands out of the backfield and is best used on swing and check-and-go routes. Similar to former Clemson running back Wayne Gallman, Johnson runs very upright and stiff, which allows defenders to get hands on him and significantly slow him down. Another concern is he often overruns himself and loses his footing while trying to do too much instead of picking up what is given to him. He occasionally misses holes, and vision question marks are never good for a rookie running back. He is solid in pass protection and keep his shoulders square while picking up blitzing defenders, which will allow him to see the field early in his NFL career.
Johnson landed in a good spot to have a chance to contribute early. After the failed Ameer Abdullah experiment, the Lions have lacked the early down runner they desperately need. Johnson will likely take a month or two to polish his game and break in to the NFL, but once he officially takes the starting job, expect a solid runner and contributor but no elite numbers. Theo Riddick will still hold down the third down gig and catch the majority of passes out of the backfield. With new head coach Matt Patricia bringing in his boy LaGarrette Blount, Johnson will likely not have a major impact in year one. Beginning in 2019, after he has had a chance to sure-up his vision and footwork, expect Kerryon Johnson to be a solid mid-RB2 for fantasy purposes. Because of his landing spot, Johnson is shooting up dynasty rookie draft boards, so if another league-mate wants to take him in the first round, say thank you and enjoy the better talent falling down the board. Johnson is best left in the early-mid second round.
On the first play of this video, Johnson crosses the backfield when put in motion and catches a screen pass. He allows the blocks to take out two defenders, hurdles the two reaching at him, and continues to cut toward the sideline which allows him to gain an extra five yards. This play exemplifies Johnson’s style: a downhill runner who uses efficient cuts to elude and is not afraid to stiff-arm stronger tackling defenders.
The following play, beginning at 3:53, shows Johnson lining up in the wildcat formation. He takes the snap and allows the left guard to pull around and lead the way into the end zone. He runs his way through contact and practically carries a defender for a touchdown.