Photo of Dennis Johnson
Grade
70.0 ?

Draft Analysis:

  • 5'6" Height
  • 196LBS. Weight

Overview

Johnson’s had a difficult time gaining publicity from college football fans outside of Fayetteville because of the star power of fellow running back Knile Davis and quarterback Tyler Wilson. However, after Davis missed the 2011 season with a broken ankle, Johnson took on lead ball carrier duties and shined. Even when Davis returned in 2012, Johnson slowly increased his amount of touches per game until he was eventually named the starter once again. When given the chance to prove himself as a runner and receiver, he’s generally excelled using the same strength of his compact build and surprising burst that helped him score three times on kickoff returns during his career. He may be a fringe top-100 pick, but Johnson has all the traits to impact third downs as a receiver and a blocker early in his career.


Johnson made his presence felt immediately on special teams for the Razorbacks, earning Freshman All-SEC honors from league coaches after setting a school record for 905 kick return yards; he also started two games on offense (36-184, TD rushing). He upped that kick return yardage record in 2009 (1,031 yards, with a touchdown for the second straight year) while again starting two contests at running back (57-342 rushing, 10-72 receiving). He redshirted the 2010 season after suffering what was called a “bowel injury” two games in, and then missed the first two games of the 2011 season with a hamstring issue from preseason. But he stepped up as a runner (106-670, 3 TD), receiver (24-255, 2 TD) and again as a kick returner (18-461, TD) when healthy. In 2012, Johnson averaged over 5.5 yards per carry (137-757) to go along with eight rushing touchdowns. He added 160 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 25 receptions while averaging only 18.2 yards per kick return on 17 attempts. NFL teams might focus on Johnson’s 14 career fumbles, including five in each of the last two seasons.


At Arkansas' pro day, Johnson had times of 4.47 and 4.49 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He also recorded a 32 1/2-inch vertical and 9-foot-10 broad jump. He ran a 4.55-second short-shuttle and a very fast 7.11-second three-cone drill. Johnson put up 225 pounds on the bench press 21 times.

Analysis

Strengths

Low center of gravity back with thick upper body and tree trunks for legs. Possesses vision and quick feet to elude defenders on top of him near the line, slalom through creases inside, and set up defenders with a juke ten yards away. Will lower pads for contact and keep his feet churning, capable of trucking tackles going low. Short, choppy steps really help when breaking tackles. Switches the ball to his outside hand in the open field. Solid receiver out of the backfield, has flexibility to turn for throws and soft hands to snatch high passes. Able to run through poor tackle attempts by defensive backs after the catch. Decisive runner on kickoff returns, uses foot quickness to explode through lanes. Shows hustle and feistiness when blocking or going after fumbles on the ground. Willing to stand up and sustain to defensive backs and smaller linebackers in pass pro.

Weaknesses

Doesn’t have elite long speed, but is difficult to catch once in the open field. Shake-and-bake often fails to elude better tacklers in the open field. Tries to stiff-arm off tackles too often, leaving ball exposed. Rounds off cuts, but is capable of stick-and-go. Will stand up in the hole at time, giving defenders a big target despite his stature. Hasn’t consistently held his ground against larger blitzers or defensive ends. Major ball security issues with 14 lost fumbles during his career.

NFL Comparison

Michael Turner

Bottom Line

Despite being overshadowed by teammate Knile Davis for a large portion of his career, Johnson made a name for himself whenever he was given the opportunity to fill-in as the starter before eventually overtaking Davis at the top. Despite having a bit of a bowling-ball look to his game, Johnson’s burst and strength as a ball carrier not only helps him get tough yards as a runner (averaged 5.9 yards per carry in his career) but also break off chunks of real estate as a returner and receiver, which means he could prove to be a valuable mid-round pick as a regular contributor on offense and special teams. He may be the best third down back in college football.
×
Grade Title Draft (Round) Description
96-100 Future Hall of Famer Top Pick A once-in-a-generation type prospect who could change how his position is played
85-95 Immediate Starter 1st An impact player with the ability/intangibles to become a Pro Bowl player. Expect to start immediately except in a unique situation (i.e. behind a veteran starter).
70-84 Eventual Starter 2nd-3rd A quality player who will contribute to the team early on and is expected to develop into a starter. A reliable player who brings value to the position.
50-69 Draftable Player 4th-7th A prospect with the ability to make team as a backup/role player. Needs to be a special teams contributor at applicable positions. Players in the high range of this category might have long-term potential.
20-49 Free Agent UDFA A player with solid measurables, intangibles, college achievements, or a developing skill that warrants an opportunity in an NFL camp. In the right situation, he could earn a place on a 53-man roster, but most likely will be a practice squad player or a camp body.

Comments

NFL News
CONTENT
15