Summary: The LSU program has produced a lot of freaky athletes in recent years. Patrick Peterson, Morris Claiborne and Barkevious Mingo have all been high first-round picks. Coming from LSU, the fact that Johnson has a nickname of "The Freak" should tell you something about Johnson's athletic ability.
Athletically, Johnson is a special prospect. He has good size and strength and a lot of speed. At times, he plays very fast and runs roughshod over offensive linemen. In college, that didn't always translate to production, but Johnson's crazy skill set would flash now and then.
Johnson put on a show at the Combine. Scouts have raved to WalterFootball.com about the workout that Johnson put on display. Johnson ran well in the 40 and showed speed, explosion and agility in the bag drills. There is no doubt that Johnson has a great skill set, but he needs to land with good coaching to pan out.
Johnson was a highly touted recruit out of New Orleans, but he never lived up to the hype. As a freshman, he rotated into the game behind Michael Brockers and Bennie Logan, but still flashed a nice athletic skill set in limited opportunities. He recorded 12 tackles, three tackles for a loss and a sack. With Brockers off to the NFL in 2012, Johnson won a starting spot and totaled 30 tackles with 10 tackles for a loss, three sacks and one pass broken up.
The expectations were big for Johnson as a junior, but it didn't happen. Johnson totaled 35 tackles with nine tackles for a loss, three sacks and an interception in 2013. He wasn't as good as expected for most of this season. Johnson had a pressure and only two tackles against Alabama. He played better late in the year, but he never produced up to his potential in college. He could overwhelm offensive linemen at times, and there were other stretches where Johnson was getting consistently blocked by far inferior offensive linemen.
Johnson would be best as a three technique in a 4-3 NFL defense. He could use his speed to shoot his gap and cause disruption in the backfield. In a 3-4, Johnson would have to be an undersized defensive end, but that isn't an ideal fit for his skill set.
Sources with teams have told WalterFootball.com they have given Johnson a second-round grade.
Player Comparison: Glenn Dorsey. The 49ers got Dorsey to turn his career around in San Francisco. Dorsey (6-1, 297) never validated his high slot for the Chiefs, but he was also misfit as a 3-4 defensive end. Johnson could play some 3-4 end like Dorsey, but both players project to fit best as three techniques in 4-3 defenses. Clearly Johnson won't get drafted as high as Dorsey (fifth overall in 2008), but athletically, they are similar. It seems possible that Johnson ends up being a similar-caliber player to Dorsey in the NFL.
NFL Matches: Jacksonville, Oakland, Atlanta, St. Louis, Chicago, Dallas, Miami
There are several teams that could consider Johnson on the second day of the draft. The highest that Johnson could hope to go would be in the second round and the lowest he would probably fall would be the fourth round. Sources have told WalterFootball.com that Johnson has graded out in the second round, so falling out of day two seems unlikely.
Jacksonville needs help all over its defense including the inside of their defensive line. The Jaguars had a pathetic pass rush in 2013 and getting Johnson to cause disruption on the interior would help.
The Falcons also have to improve the interior of their defensive line. Johnson has the size and strength to fit Atlanta's desire to get more bigger and physical. He also has the speed to contribute to some pass rush.
The Bears (Henry Melton) and Dolphins (Randy Starks) both have their interior pass-rushing defensive tackles hitting free agency. If they don't re-sign them, Johnson could be in play for Chicago or Miami on day two. Johnson's size and speed combination fits the profile of a lot of Phil Emery's draft picks.
The Raiders need to improve their defensive tackles and almost drafted one in the first round last year. Oakland has to get better at rushing the passer, and Johnson could have an impact in getting Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Alex Smith to move off a spot. Johnson makes a lot of sense for the Raiders in round three.
Dallas needs to land a three-technique pass-rusher, and Johnson would be a good fit for Rod Marinelli. If the Cowboys don't draft a defensive tackle in the first round, they could target Johnson on day two.