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Scouting Profile: Running Back Kerryon Johnson

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Mar 21, 2018

Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson isn’t really elite at anything, but also isn’t bad at anything

Kerryon Johnson, Auburn

Height: 5’11”
Weight: 213 pounds
40-yard dash: N/A
Vertical: 40 inches
Broad Jump: 10’6″

While watching Johnson on tape, he looked like he played bigger than 5-foot-11, but that’s what the measurement came in at the NFL Combine. Maybe his 40-inch vertical showed up on tape? Whatever the case, Johnson is a well-rounded running back who may not be near the top of the class in anything, but also isn’t near the bottom in anything.

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Playing the workhorse role as a three-down back in Auburn, Johnson accumulated at least 15 touches in every game last season, including 23 or more touches in 9-of-12 games, showing he’s able to handle a massive workload. If your team is looking for a potential workhorse who can play on all three downs, Johnson is a solid solution who should be available in the later rounds. His versatility is his best attribute.

Vision/Patience: 3.0 out of 5 stars
Johnson is in no hurry when he gets the ball on a handoff and is the type of back who waits for the play to develop in front of him. There are pros and cons to this, but whether it works or not will be dependent on his landing spot. Because of that, he gets a ding in this category. It’s rare you see him make a run completely untouched, which should happen no matter what system you’re in. He also stays in between the tackles 95 percent of the time. He’ll likely get what’s blocked, but his vision isn’t anything particularly special.

Elusiveness (twitch, juke, tackle breaking): 3.0 out of 5 stars
He’s a bit up-and-down in his running style, which should make him susceptible to big hits, but he does bounce off defenders inside the box quite often. You can see him clearly lower his head into contact, so it’s quite obvious when he’s anticipating it. There were also times where he’d get tangled with a linebacker, only to toss him aside. There’s strength in his running, but he needs to get lower to the ground if he wants to succeed running the ball in the pros. He’s not a downhill one-cut runner, but he’s also not particularly lateral in his running style, either. Again, he’s a solid mix of the two, but it comes down to his pad level not being where it needs to be.

Speed: 2.5 out of 5 stars
He gets a mixed review here in the speed category, because he has short-area burst, but really lacks long speed. He will get caught from behind in the open field, so he’s not what you’d consider a homerun threat. At the same time, he’s got solid burst inside the tackles, though we don’t see it often enough because of how much he’ll wait for blocks to develop. With running backs, you’d rather have that short-area burst because they should be able to consistently get you yardage. Put the two together and I believe he’s average for running backs his size.

Pass-catching/Pass-protection: 4.0 out of 5 stars
This is an area where teams will be intrigued because he has shown the ability to handle a workload on the ground, but is also one of the better pass-blockers in the draft class, meaning he doesn’t need to come off the field very often. I’ve seen some criticize him in pass-protection, but I don’t see it being a problem. He’s also someone who can be used effectively in the screen game, as it forces him to be less patient in the open field. His hands seem natural and doesn’t have to concentrate as much as others do when bringing the ball in, though he was rarely used as a receiver. This is an area of his game that’s likely underrated because of the school he went to.

Balance: 2.5 out of 5 stars
You’re not going to see him starting to the edge and cut back on a dime any time soon. He’s someone who takes time to decelerate to make his cuts, which is why he’s so patient at the line of scrimmage. Once he starts moving, he isn’t the type of running back to shift laterally very much. It’s likely because of his upright running style that prevents him from making such cuts, but when heading into contact, he’s got a solid sense of his body overall, not going down on first contact very often. Like the rest of his game, he’s not over the top impressive, but he makes up in some areas where he lacks in others. He should develop into a more downhill runner given his body type and inability to cut suddenly.

Potential Landing Spot
Until he learns to get downhill in a hurry, the ideal landing spot would be somewhere with a great offensive line. The reason Le’Veon Bell is able to be as patient as he is, is because there aren’t defensive lineman hitting him in the backfield very often. With the Chargers revamping their offensive line, Johnson wouldn’t be a bad fit there. We’ve been hearing rumblings that the Chargers are looking to upgrade their depth chart behind Melvin Gordon, so them taking Johnson later in the draft makes sense. Should something happen to Gordon, he can come in and fill that void.

NFL Comparison
When looking for a comparison for Johnson, I landed on Matt Forte. Before running to draft him, I want you to know that he’s not as good as Forte was, especially in the passing game, but he’s one of those players who’s solid in all areas. Forte wasn’t ever the greatest runner but had patience similar to Johnson’s. He was also a bigger back who could lower his head at times, though he didn’t ever score many touchdowns because of his dancing behind the line of scrimmage. In the end, Johnson could be someone who makes an appearance as a fantasy football starter, but it won’t be at the start of his career without an injury in front of him.

Don’t miss the other Scouting Profiles on top prospects below:
Saquon Barkley (RB – Penn State)
Derrius Guice (RB – LSU)
Ronald Jones (RB – USC)
Sony Michel (RB – Georgia)
Nick Chubb (RB – Georgia)
Royce Freeman (RB – Oregon)
Rashaad Penny (RB – San Diego State)

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Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.

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