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The 2014 draft class may not have the ultra-talented running backs, but they do have a few solid, lesser known prospects.  Storm Johnson was one of those backs that stood out to me in bowl season this past winter.  He is one of the taller storm johnsonbacks in his class measuring in at 6’ and 209 lbs., while running a 4.60 40 at the Combine.  There was not a lot of game film available for Johnson in 2013 as I could only find games against Baylor and Penn State, so I also included his game against Ohio State in 2012.  These bigger, more football savvy schools were a good challenge for the young, skilled back. 

Johnson brings some concerns with his game as he only started for one season at Central Florida after transferring from the University of Miami. While this means that he has less wear and tear on his body, it also means that the fourth year junior is quite inexperienced compared to other backs in his draft class.  He wasn’t used much as a pass blocker and has not shown the skills that are needed to protect an NFL starting quarterback.  This will limit how an NFL team can initially use him, but the back is excellent at getting into the flat quickly on pass plays.  Johnson does need to work on catching the ball more with his hands than his body, but he performs well in space with plenty of open field in front of him.

The young back has a slashing running style that takes defenders by surprise as he finds a crease, puts his foot down, and gets to daylight in a hurry. It’s rare to see that much fluidity for a back his size. His initial burst is usually limited to the first 15 or 20 yards, but it is quite effective.  He has good close combat vision, finding the cutback lane quickly, but at times struggles to find running lanes 20 yards or further down the field. He is more of a straight ahead runner, but he has quick feet that give him a little wiggle.  The back tends to be a long strider down the sidelines.

Johnson can also be a patient runner, who waits for blocks to develop and follow his offensive linemen right to their hip before changing directions. That is what makes his counter plays some of the best I have seen in this class.  The back tends to run with a lot of power, generating force with his hips, and backside.  This certainly helps make him an effective short yardage and goal line runner. Johnson can get low and gain leverage making him hard to stop.  He may decide to run over an opponent on second, and then suddenly uses a spin move to create space against the next would-be tackler. This unpredictability makes him a bit awkward to defend.  I would say he is a slightly more effective inside runner, but Johnson can get to outside the tackle box in a hurry as well.

Most of the time, the runner gets good leverage and lean behind his pads delivering more punishment than he takes.  He has a good stiff-arm that he uses to keep defenders off his body.  There are a few times when he runs to high and he doesn’t always do a good job securing the ball. He needs to get better at taking what the defense gives him. Johnson makes a point to always fall forward and shows a lot of second and third effort on his runs. He has a great center of gravity as he usually runs through arm tackles and higher hits.

It’s his lack of playing time that makes Storm Johnson such a wildcard.  I have him slightly above Ka’Deem Carey and Tre Mason in my rankings because I envision him as a starter in the NFL, while I am not sure that those other backs could handle significant touches.  The inexperienced back will need significant coaching, but he can adjust to any blocking scheme and offers a young team the opportunity to get a talented back on the cheap.  Dynasty owners should pay attention to where Johnson goes with the glut of wide receivers, tight ends, and quarterbacks that get selected around him in your rookie drafts.  My guess is that he will be available after the first 25+ picks unless he goes to a running back needy team like the Titans.

For questions or comments, please contact me on Twitter @AndrewMiley or @Dynasty_Blitz.

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