Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Player Profile: Alabama S Rashad Johnson

Pros: Although there are many questions about Johnson’s size, strength, and speed, no one can question his instincts or knowledge of the game. The former walk-on running back switched to the defensive side of the ball before the 2007 season and became a team leader and one of the nation’s top defensive playmakers. In Johnson’s last two seasons, he racked up 183 tackles, 19 break-ups, and 11 interceptions. He was unbelievable against LSU in 2008, picking off three passes, including the game clincher in overtime. For two years he was the team’s leader on defense, directing players where to line up and often making big time plays. The two most impressive areas of his game are his ability not to allow the opposing team to get behind him and his ability to play center field. He does a great job of going sideline to sideline when the ball is in the air. Johnson is at his best when he is able to sit back, read the quarterback and watch the play develop.

Cons: At 5’11’’ and just over 195 pounds, many question if Johnson has the size and strength to start at the NFL Level. He is very thinly built and must add some weight to his upper body to help make up for his lack of height and pure speed. Even though he had over 90 tackles in two straight years, Johnson wasn’t always a reliable tackler in the open field or at the line of scrimmage. He tends to leave his feet and dive instead of breaking down. He also struggles to take on blockers, bigger backs and tight ends—he is not the intimidating presence over the middle NFL teams look for from safeties. He is not great in one-on-one match-ups with quicker receivers, either. While he is a leader on the field, teams will look into his character due to his arrest in 2008 for disorderly conduct.

Scout’s Take: It is questionable to say Johnson will be selected on the first day, despite a less than stellar safety class. He definitely has the instincts and intangibles to play at the NFL level, but teams will question his strength and toughness against the run. He understands the position and does a great job of being the last line of defense. He is a natural playmaker and that should translate to the NFL if he is put in the right situation. He would fit best with a team that already has a run stuffing safety, so Johnson can play the deep free safety spot he excelled at in college. He could land as high as the mid-second round, but more than likely will hear his name called sometime in the third or fourth round.

Photo Credit: SEC Sports Media