Kerryon Johnson, RB, Auburn
(percentile rank among all RBs at the Combine since 1999, per Mockdraftable.com):
40-yard dash: DNP
Vertical: 40.0” (95th)
Broad: 126” (90th)
3-cone: 7.07 seconds (43rd)
20-yard shuttle: 4.29 seconds (45th)
Johnson made high-schoolers look silly at Madison Academy in Huntsville, Alabama.
On-field success led to offers from major programs like Alabama, Florida State and Auburn. He settled on becoming a Tiger.
Johnson’s high school career wasn’t all glory, though. Here’s a rundown of his injury history before even arriving at Auburn…
-2012: Torn right labrum in his shoulder (surgery took place in January of ’13)
-2013: Dislocated right shoulder
-2013: Dislocated left shoulder (twice)
-2013: Ankle sprain
-2013: Broken hand (sustained playing basketball and required surgery)
Johnson’s medicals remained an issue in college …
-2016: Shoulder surgery (January)
-2016: Right ankle sprain (October, 1 game missed)
-2017: Right ankle sprain (April)
-2017: Hamstring (September, 2 games missed)
-2017: Shoulder (November)
-2017: Ribs (November)
An optimist would point out that Johnson’s last surgery was over 2 years ago.
Plus, 2017 shoulder and rib injuries were a matter of pain tolerance. Johnson showed toughness by playing through them.
So, across 574 touches as an SEC back, he missed just 3 games.
When in the lineup, Johnson blended toughness with patience and burst. Despite missing 2 games, Johnson saw 285 carries in 2017 — 9th most in FBS. Pro Football Focus credited him with a rock solid 2.9 yards after contact per rush.
Johnson’s patience ways have garnered comps to Le’Veon Bell. We’ll see that — and his burst — in the clips below.
Before then, consider these words from his former HC, Gus Malzahn.
"He's an outstanding player,” Malzahn said. “He's one of the better players probably I've ever coached at the college level. I'm real excited about him moving forward and taking that next step."
High praise from a coach who’s been in the biz since 2006…
Games Watched: Missouri, UCF, Alabama, Mississippi St.
Johnson gains just 4-5 yards, but it comes on a crafty run that displays his patience and ability to sneak through small holes.
Johnson's patience again yields a positive result. In this game against Alabama, Johnson busted off 104 yards on 30 carries in a gritty performmance.
Johnson tosses a defender, indicating that his sub-par showing on the Combine bench press (11 reps) might be misleading. This wasn't some small DB -- UCF LB Titus Davis is listed at 6'2, 240 pounds.
Johnson wasn't a major part of Auburn's passing game. His 24 catches in 2017 marked a career high but ranked 5th on the team. Still, what I saw indicates that he can thrive as a pass catcher. Per Pro Football Focus, Johnson also proved reliable with zero career drops. And the tape clearly shows him as a strong pass protector.
Johnson opted against running the 40-yard dash at the Combine. He did so at his Pro Day and posted times of 4.54 and 4.58. We see his lack of closing speed in the clip below, as he's caught from behind despite a head start. While it's not ideal, NFL teams (and fantasy owners) shouldn't be discouraged. Last year, RBs league-wide combined for only 58 rushes of 40+ yards -- with just 1 RB posting more than 3 (Bilal Powell, 4).
You can find warts in Johnson's game.
He has a lengthy injury history. He lacks home run speed. And at nearly 6'0, he runs a bit upright.
Yet Johnson enters springtime as a relatively polished product. On the ground, he's a reliable runner with one of the best fumble rates in this class (1 every 191.3 touches). In the pass-game, he flashes trusty hands and pass blocks like an NFL vet. That'll surely appeal to NFL teams.
So too will Johnson's workhorse production in a tough conference. In 2017, he ranked 16th in the nation in rushing yards and tied for 7th in TDs. Again, the 20-year-old missed 2 games.
If injury concerns subside, there could be a 3-down role in Johnson's future. As a projected 2nd-round pick, he should have a shot to return year-1 fantasy value.