2023 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Antonio Johnson

  • Antonio Johnson, 6-2/198

  • Safety/Cornerback

  • Texas A&M

  • Antonio Johnson Scouting Report
    By Charlie Campbell

  • Instinctive
  • Fast
  • Physical, willing hitter
  • Plus run defender
  • Very good nickel cornerback
  • Man-coverage ability on slot receivers
  • Plug-and-play starting NFL nickel corner
  • Fluid; can flip his hips and run
  • Covers a lot of ground in zone
  • Impressive ball skills
  • Adept at knocking passes away
  • Dangerous to create turnovers
  • Always around the ball
  • Tough tackler
  • Very good at picking up receivers in off-man coverage
  • Versatility
  • Intelligence
  • Plays tough and hard
  • Experienced
  • Good intangibles

  • Weaknesses:
  • Struggled as a deep free safety
  • Missed tackles in 2022
  • A little thin of frame for safety
  • Could have a hard time holding up as a strong safety, eighth man in the box
  • Needs to get stronger to tackle in the NFL
  • Needs to get stronger to avoid injury

  • Summary: Heading into the 2022 season, Johnson was seen as one of the top defensive back prospects, if not the top defensive back prospect, for the 2023 NFL Draft. That was because Johnson had a tremendous 2021 season in which was all over the field for the Aggies. He broke out that season, recording 79 tackles, an interception, five passes broken up and one sack. It looked like Johnson was poised for another big season in 2022.

    An NFC director of player personnel told WalterFootball.com during the summer of 2022, “[Johnson] has big-time potential. They went on, “he is an anomaly like Kyle Hamilton, and the question is where do you play Antonio. He lined up in the slot, played well as a dime linebacker, was excellent as a safety, and you saw him cover Jameson Williams in man-to-man. He could be an outside corner, but he would be elite at safety. [Johnson] might be similar to Derwin James, but not as physical.”

    However, Johnson’s 2022 season did not go as planned. He missed three games due to injury and also played with a hamstring issue. Texas A&M changed his role as well, which led to him not being as disruptive or productive. For his year, Johnson recorded 71 tackles, a sack, three forced fumbles and one pass broken up. After the season, Johnson worked out well at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine.

    “They changed his role in the scheme and was used in more traditional, versatile role than how Elcho utilized him, which was basically as a Nickle/Sam,” said an area scout. “Hamstring [injury] didn’t help, but had his best game of 2022 when came back off of it. Prior to, he was getting exposed having to play in space and at depth more frequently, missed a lot more tackles. Could go back to being used in his former role, but it’ll reduce his value come draft day. Gotta show a complete skill set to be first-round worthy safety, especially nowadays.”

    For the NFL, Johnson is a Swiss Army knife who can take away receiving weapons. He can play man coverage on slot receivers, man coverage on tight ends, safety in the middle of the field, dime linebacker, or even outside cornerback – on top of being able to blitz.

    Johnson is a tremendous nickel corner. He can run the route and prevent separation, showing fluid athleticism alongside very good speed. Most tall cornerbacks have stiffness that prevents them from playing in the slot, but Johnson is the rare defensive back who is a very tall and long slot corner. He shows very good instincts and route recognition. Those things, combined with his physical talent, allow him to blanket receivers.

    Along with being a very good nickel corner, Johnson is outstanding as a safety. He is willing to tackle, and he uses his speed to eat up ground in a blur. With his outstanding instincts, Johnson is always around the ball and can make a lot of clutch open-field tackles.

    Because of the two differing seasons of tape. It can be tough to project where Johnson will go in the 2023 NFL Draft.

    “The makeup and intangibles are really good, so towards backend of the first who knows,” said an area scout. “All depends of what scheme he’s going to and their plan on using him, honestly.”

    In the 2023 NFL Draft, Johnson could be a sleeper candidate to go in the back half of the first round. He probably won’t get out of Round 2.

    Player Comparison: Derwin James. Johnson reminds me of a smaller version of James. If Johnson can stay healthy and is used in the right role, I think he could have a big-time presence and be a valuable defender like James.


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