Despite racking up 38 sacks in his final two seasons at Sunnyvale’s The King’s Academy, Johnson received just one scholarship offer from a Football Bowl Subdivision program –- San Jose State. It looks as though the local school made the right call, as Johnson’s been a thorn in the side of college quarterbacks as much as he was high school passers. This Eagle Scout’s relentless nature and agility should help him convert to a 3-4 rush linebacker or add some weight to stay as a “wide-nine” 4-3 defensive end.
Johnson started four conference games in the 12 games he played as a true freshman, getting his two sacks in the final two games of the year (18 tackles, 2.5 for loss on the season). He’s started every game since, leading the Spartans with 7.5 sacks as a sophomore (62 tackles, 9.5 for loss overall) and ranking 10th in the FBS with 0.79 sacks per game in a first-team All-WAC junior campaign (73 tackles, 15.5 for loss, 9.5 sacks, two blocked kicks-both against Hawaii). As a senior, on his way to another first-team All-WAC selection, Johnson improved upon his numbers from the year prior. He registered 65 tackles (21.5 for loss) and 13 sacks. He was also named as the WAC defensive player of the year.
Undersized, quick, high-motor defensive end. Good get-off after the snap from stand-up or hand-down position, can get under the outside arm of left tackles to turn the corner or jump inside to get the direct lane to the quarterback. Uses hands in multiple ways to beat tackles off the edge, swipes them aside if they pause, rips down if they lean forward. Finds the ball in the backfield, displays the change of direction ability to keep containment or chase down scrambling quarterbacks for a short gain; makes a change to linebacker seem possible. Comes off the ball low and hard when at five-tech, holds his ground well for his size and can slip inside to disrupt inside runs. Senses inside runs, can beat his man into the gap or chase from behind. Solid tackler, strong enough to throw quarterbacks to the ground.
Lacks the size to play every-down defensive end at this point, though he may be able to add some weight to his frame. Engulfed or put to the ground by NFL-sized tackles, finds it difficult to disengage even when trying hard to use his hands. Could use a quicker spin move to win the inside lane, usually just spins to get off blocks downfield. Doesn’t sense or defeat cut blocks consistently. Lacks elite strength, can slip off tackles on larger targets.
Johnson is the all-time WAC leader in sacks, and was honored by being named the 2012 WAC defensive player of the year. While his gaudy statistics are unlikely to duplicated in the NFL, Johnson still appears to be a valuable player. He's quick, and uses strong hands to free himself from blockers. While he's doesn't have the strength or overall athletic talent to be an every down player in the NFL, Johnson will still be a middle-round selection as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
Future Hall of Famer
A once-in-a-generation type prospect who could change how his position is played
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).
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.
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.
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.