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NFL Draft Blind Comparisons: Kerryon Johnson (Fantasy Football)

by Mitchell Renz | @mitchellrenz365 | Featured Writer
Mar 12, 2018

One of the most intriguing prospects entering the 2018 NFL Draft is Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson. People who I highly respect in the fantasy football/NFL community have compared Johnson to Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, so I couldn’t wait to watch the film and see for myself. Johnson’s tape was complicated like the DaVinci code, ya know harder to crack. If you don’t like my quote from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, then you may not want to read the rest of my article. To the people who smirked, you may Kerryon.

At Auburn, Johnson was one of the best running backs in the SEC, rushing for 1,391 yards on 285 carries (4.9 ypc) and 18 touchdowns in his final season. His terrific Junior season is why he earned second-team Associated Press All-American and first-team All-SEC honors. Despite his college production, Johnson isn’t in the Top 10 for FantasyPros Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings. After my player comparison article, that may change.

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I’ve been asked multiple times on Twitter (@MitchellRenz365) “what’s a good NFL comparison for [insert player name]?” This is a great question considering how elite rookie running backs have been and the uncertainty of how college players will translate into the NFL. Therefore, I wanted to write NFL Draft blind comparison articles. To read my others click the links below:

To avoid the trolls of the internet when comparing players to current or past NFL players, I use blind comparisons. I’m an advocate of blind comparisons because it’s an effective method to ensure impartiality and avoid bias.

Below is a tweet from my personal twitter account of three running backs. One is Johnson, one is a current running back and the other is former running back.

Player A is Johnson. As you can see, the dude has some explosion in those legs. It’s easy to see why he was an All-State basketball player in high school. His bench press is nothing to write home about, but for a running back of his size to be able to leap the way he does is impressive. Johnson didn’t run at the NFL combine so his 40-yard dash time is from his recent Auburn Pro day on March 9th.

For strengths, it starts with Johnson’s patience and devastating jump cuts. That patience and ability to jump cut is why I can see the Le’Veon Bell comparisons. He shows great discipline following his blockers and uses his strong legs to keep the pile moving. His ability to burst to the second level of the defense is special. He gives 100 percent effort on every single run, showcasing his heart and toughness and never wanting to go down.

For weaknesses, Johnson may be too patient at times at the line of scrimmage. He tends to wait until there is a clear running lane, which results in negative plays. Despite his size, he doesn’t run with as much power and takes a lot of hard hits. His upright running style leads to punishing tackles, which worries me about his longevity.

Back to the question, “what’s a good NFL comparison for Kerryon Johnson?” He is a mix of Player B and C. Player B shares Johnson’s determination and has surprisingly quick feet. Johnson’s burst, build, and weaknesses remind me of Player C.

Player B is former NFL running back Shonn Greene. Green played six years in the NFL racking up 4,110 yards on 993 and 24 touchdowns. Greene is a good comparison for Johnson because their leg drive and ability to take defenders for extra yards is very similar. Johnson and Greene both seem to have the ability to fall forward with every rushing attempt. Greene had surprisingly quick feet like Johnson, which allowed him to bounce laterally and accelerate up the field. Greene didn’t have breakaway speed, which limited his ability to make the big play just like Johnson. Lastly, Greene had the skill set to be a decent receiving option but was never given the opportunity to showcase it.

Player C is Eagles running back Jay Ajayi. Ajayi will be entering his fifth season in the NFL. In his career, he has 517 carries for 2,332 yards and 10 touchdowns. Ajayi has devasting jump cuts like Johnson because of his great footwork and acceleration. Ajayi has incredible burst, which allows him to explode into the second level of a defense. For weaknesses, sometimes Ajayi gets too cute with his jump cuts which leads to negative gains. Also, Ajayi and Johnson run into defenders taking big hits far too often.

So, Green’s determination and feet + Ajayi’s burst, build, and weaknesses = Kerryon Johnson. I wasn’t a math major in college and you would probably laugh at my SATs, but this equation is how I see Johnson.

The team that selects Johnson will impact his fantasy stock since he is a running back who needs a solid offensive line and may be taken off the field on third down because he is a below-average blocker. His hands are underrated and it will likely lead to him being a value in PPR leagues, but he right now is RB7 in FantasyPros Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings. He has the talent to be a successful running back in the NFL, however, he really needs to find a good landing spot to be successful for the 2018 fantasy football season.

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Mitchell Renz is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mitchell, check out all his fantasy football articles and follow him on Twitter @mitchellrenz365.

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