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Wake Forest's Kevin Johnson in hunt to be first-round draft pick

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Wake Forest cornerback Kevin Johnson was a standout player on one of the worst major-conference teams in the nation in 2014, but he could end up going late in the first round to one of the best teams in the NFL.

Johnson (6-foot-0¼, 188 pounds) had a strong showing at the recent NFL Scouting Combine and followed that up with a solid performance at his pro day Monday. At the combine, Johnson ran the 40 in 4.52 seconds, with an unofficial 10-yard split of 1.6 seconds. Johnson also had an impressive vertical jump of 41.5 inches, tied for the ninth-best of any player at the combine. He also had a broad jump of 10 feet, 10 inches, which was 10th-best at the combine, and torched the 20-yard shuttle in 3.89 seconds. His three-cone drill time of 6.79 seconds also was one of the best by a defensive back.

Johnson is No. 49 on NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah's list of the top 50 prospects, and is the No. 4 cornerback on analysts Lance Zierlein's and Mike Mayock's lists of the top players at that position. Given the value of a top-flight cover corner, Johnson could find himself being selected late in the first round.

"He could be gone by 30 based on need," one NFL scout told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The scout described Johnson as "steady" and touted his "technique, awareness, instinct, ball skills. All that good stuff."

Top five cornerbacks in 2015 NFL Draft
Rk Player School Grade*
1 Trae Waynes Michigan State 6.36
He's a bump-and-run cornerback with the length, deep speed and confidence to handle himself down the field against speed. More ...
2 Jalen Collins LSU 6.3
Immensely talented cornerback who brings the entire triangle (height, weight, speed) with him. More ...
3 Kevin Johnson Wake Forest 5.93
While he lacks desired weight at the position, his cover skills, athleticism and competitiveness give him a shot. More ...
4 Marcus Peters Washington 5.92
Talented cover CB with size, ball skills and confidence, but lacks the necessary discipline and maturity. More ...
5 Ronald Darby Florida State 5.86
Has shown the instincts to play off coverage and the athleticism to play press. More ...
* According to NFL Media draft analyst Lance Zierlein
» Draft Tracker: All cornerback prospects

Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson, who guided the Demon Deacons to a 3-9 mark in his first season at the school in 2014, is a big Johnson fan.

"He's a tall corner who can run," Clawson told the Charlotte Observer. "He's rangy and he can play press. He has the quickest hips of anybody I've ever seen.

"(An NFL team is) going to get a guy that loves football, works at it and is a really gifted player. He's long, he has range, he can run, he's got ball skills."

Clawson did not mention Johnson's tackling skills, and there might be a reason for that.

"I want to improve on everything in my game, but tackling is definitely a point I want to work on," Johnson -- who was just 5-foot-0 and weighed less than 100 pounds as a high school freshman -- told the Observer.

Almost every team picking from 20th to the end of the first round could be interested in a cornerback, and the Observer noted that the Pittsburgh Steelers -- who pick 22nd and definitely need a corner -- sent four representatives, including GM Kevin Colbert, to Johnson's pro day. Going late in the first round would mean Johnson would go to a team coming off a winning season; Wake had a losing record in each of Johnson's five years at the school (he redshirted as a true freshman).

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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