Photo of Curtis Johnson
  • 4.69 SEC
    Top Performer
  • 6'3" Height
  • 239LBS. Weight


One of the best-kept secrets in college football entering his senior campaign, the well-traveled rush end opened more than a few eyes in the scouting circles with his stellar performance in postseason action and a dominating 2007 final campaign.

With his quickness off the edge and ability to fly to the ball, Johnson could be in for another "change of scenery" in the NFL, with a possible move to outside linebacker.

One of five children of Joanne and Charles Johnson, Curtis was born in California, but moved to upstate New York as a child. He and his brother, J.R., starred at Cicero-North Syracuse High School, as J.R. would go on to letter at Syracuse University (1998-2001) before playing for the Baltimore Ravens (four games) and New Orleans Saints (one game) in 2002, before competing for a job in training camps with the Indianapolis Colts (2003), Carolina Panthers (2003), Oakland Raiders (2003) and Atlanta Falcons (2004).

At Cicero-Syracuse High School, Curtis was a two-time Section III All-State selection, adding All-Central New York honors and Post-Standard All-CNY accolades as a running back. He carried 128 times for 1,166 yards (9.1-yard average) and 12 touchdowns as a senior. He also competed as a linebacker, going on to play in the 2002 Governor's Bowl.

The Gridiron All-Star and Eastern Regional Elite Team pick also garnered All-American honorable mention from Prep Star and was named one of the Top 50 Athletes in New York by New York Newsday. He also served as the team's captain during his final campaign.

Because of academic issues, Johnson had to enroll at Morrisville State College in 2004. He was a two-time All-Northeast Football Conference first-team selection as a defensive end, leading the team in sacks both years, including a conference-high 12 as a freshman. He received All-National Junior College Athletics Association All-American honorable mention in 2004 and was a second-team choice in 2005. He would post 152 tackles (72 solos), 17.5 sacks, 36.5 stops for losses, four fumble recoveries and five forced fumbles in 19 games during his junior college career.

After dominating the Northeast Conference in junior college, Johnson planned to play major college football and was recruited by Maryland, Syracuse and Michigan State. He signed a letter of intent to attend Morgan State University, but instead, enrolled at Clark Atlanta University. "One of my friends from my junior college ended up going to Clark, and they were looking for a defensive end/linebacker," Johnson said. "So I sent my film down there and they liked what they saw."

Johnson would go on to earn Associated Press Little All-American honors, in addition to receiving first-team All-Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference accolades in 2006. He led the Division II ranks with a league season-record nine forced fumbles, recovering four of them for 144 yards in returns with two touchdowns. He ranked second on the team with 70 tackles (50 solos) and five sacks, ranking second in the SIAC with 18 stops for losses. He also intercepted a pass and blocked one kick, while also scoring on a pair of two-point conversions.

Johnson was a consensus All-American and unanimous All-SIAC first-team choice in 2007, adding conference Defensive Player of the Year honors. He switched jersey numbers (from 52 to 1), which was fitting, as he ranked first in the Division II ranks with 13.5 sacks and also with 27 stops behind the line of scrimmage. He led the team and ranked 21st nationally with 112 tackles (69 solos), as he caused and recovered a fumble. He also blocked a kick and deflected six passes while scoring on a two-point conversion.

At the conclusion of the season, Johnson was invited to the prestigious East-West Shrine All-Star game, becoming the first Clark-Atlanta player to appear in that contest.

"It's a big deal for the university," Johnson said. "It's the first time that somebody has done some of this. They have given me a lot of support and I appreciate it. I'm going to try to go out there and do them proud."

In 21 games at Clark-Atlanta, Johnson started 10 times at right defensive end and 11 times on the left side. He recorded 182 tackles (119 solo) with 18.5 sacks for minus-148 yards and 45 stops for losses totaling 247 yards. He caused 10 fumbles, recovered five others for 144 yards in returns, including three touchdowns and blocked two kicks. He deflected six passes and intercepted another for a one-yard return. He also had three two-point conversions.

To get ready for his big audition for the NFL against players from the major conferences, Johnson turned to former Atlanta Falcon Chuck Smith and his company Defensive Line, Inc., to help with his training.



Positives: Has a rare-sized frame with room to carry more bulk...Has an athletic physique, good muscle definition in his arms and legs, firm midsection, good bubble, low body fat and thick thighs and calves...Type of player whose short-area burst off the line needs to be accounted for on every snap...Will play with bumps and bruises and is willing to handle whatever the coaches ask from him...Has very good agility closing on the ball (stays lower in his pads vs. plays in front of him than when having to cover vs. the pass)...Nice guy off the field, but his personality quickly changes on the field (plays with total aggression)...Self-motivated type with good balance and foot speed closing on outside running plays...Has a violent hand punch that will generally see him gain advantage over a lethargic blocker...True warrior that coaches won't have to worry about motivating him...When he locates the ball, he closes in a hurry and does a good job of squaring up before taking on the isolated blocker (not stout to split double teams working inside, but still shows willingness)...If he gets his hands on an opponent, he can stack blockers and getting off his man to redirect and fill the rush lanes...Maintains good separation when he extends his arms in combat and when he shoots his hands with force, he has good success in shedding...Gives excellent chase along the perimeter to cut off the runner and stays on his feet well, doing a nice job of stringing out plays...Alert enough to locate the tiny creases up front, doing a nice job of getting "skinny" to slip and avoid blocks when working inside...Even when he gets caught out of position, he shows urgency getting back into the play...Has good eyes to read the quarterback, timing his jumps to easily track the ball when on the move (has problems finding the ball in a crowd)...Even though he has a strong hand punch, he gets most of his success as a pass rusher when he avoids the bigger people blocking up front...Plays with good effort in pursuit and has a better angle concept vs. the run than when covering vs. the pass...Can clear his feet and run a long way to deliver a crunching tackle...Good open field striker who consistently stops the ballcarrier's forward progress, thanks mostly to strong arm swipes and above average hand usage...Does a better job shadowing tight ends and backs underneath than when dropping back into the zone...Has a quick burst to close on plays in front of him...Not a natural hands catcher going for the interception, but has good leaping ability and timing to compete for the jump balls...Most effective when running stunts because of his quickness, as he is dangerous whether rushing off the edge or bull rushing inside (only when he keeps his pads down)...Stays alive and squeezes the pocket well...Can generate good power on his initial surge and has developed a strong rip move to rock the blockers back on their heels...Does a nice job of protecting his feet on the move...Has great timing as a gunner on special teams, adding more value to his resume with his pedigree on these units. Negatives: For a down lineman, he lacks ideal bulk and strength to play at the point at the next level, as bigger blockers will have success bouncing and pushing him around, especially when working in-line...Has good quickness coming off the edge, but has just decent timed playing speed...Instinctive player, but has had some academic issues and needs several reps to retain (might not be able to digest a complicated playbook, especially if it will be at multiple positions)...As a down lineman, he needs to generate a better hand punch and usage (gets his hands outside his frame at times, letting blockers lock on and wash him off the ball)...Works down the line, but must be more alert to blocking schemes, as he will get hooked on occasion...More of a speed rusher when playing with his hand down, but does not have the anchor to hold ground vs. double teams...More of a collision-type tackler, but did show improvement with his technique as a senior, keeping his pad level down to wrap up and secure...Better attacking the backfield coming off the edge, as he doesn't have the raw power to get a good push when playing the blocker head-up...Quick to locate the ball on the move, but will sometimes lose sight of the pigskin when working through trash...Shows good hip wiggle and lateral range, but must work on smoothing out his backpedal and staying lower in his pads, as he gets too tall in his stance, causing him to cross over with his feet, taking false steps in transition (showed a penchant for getting up on his heels in his pedal, looking awkward trying to come out of his breaks cleany)....Will need time to get comfortable playing with his back to the ball covering receivers on their routes, if he shifts to linebacker...Still a work in progress understanding taking proper angles and driving for depth in his pass drops. Compares To: JOEY PORTER-Miami...When Porter converted from college defensive end to pro linebacker, he was raw in his first few years before the light clicked upstairs. Johnson is not as instinctive as Porter in locating the ball and will need to totally revamp his pass drop and coverage skills, but he has a violent hand punch to overpower big blockers and a good burst off the edge to be a superb edge rusher. His strong hands have seen him have good success dislodging ballcarriers from the ball. With his ability to wreak havoc in the backfield, he will bring instant value in pass-rushing situations. He is also a very capable coverage defender on special teams. The big thing here will be getting Johnson a patient coach. Doing so could unearth a Pro Bowler before long. He was tried at both inside and outside linebacker in postseason all-star action and held up very well on the edge. The mental aspect of playing inside will be too much for him to grasp at this early stage of his possible shift to a stand-up defender from one with his hand on the ground. Look for Johnson to become the first noteworthy CAU product since former NFL fullback Chuck Evans (1993-2000), who was drafted in the 11th round in 1992.
Grade Title
9.00-10 Once-in-lifetime player
8.00-8.99 Perennial All-Pro
7.50-7.99 Future All-Pro
7.00-7.49 Pro Bowl-caliber player
6.50-6.99 Chance to become Pro Bowl-caliber player
6.00-6.49 Should become instant starter
5.50-5.99 Chance to become NFL starter
5.20-5.49 NFL backup or special teams potential
5.01-5.19 Better-than-average chance to make NFL roster
5.00 50-50 Chance to make NFL roster
4.75-4.99 Should be in an NFL training camp
4.50-4.74 Chance to be in an NFL training camp
No Grade Likely needs time in developmental league.