One of the more exciting young backs in the 2015 NFL Draft class is Miami Hurricane, Duke Johnson. There is a lot of debate whether he is an every down back or a specialist. I reviewed eight of his games against: Louisville, Nebraska, Duke, Cincinnati, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Florida State, and Georgia Tech to get a good feel for what skills and attributes he brings to the next level and what the young back needs to work on. Here is what I saw:
RB Duke Johnson, Miami 5’ 9” 207 lbs.
Cons: He is more quick than fast, which gets realized once you look at his 4.54 40 yard dash time. Johnson has very skinny legs, which do not seem to generate a lot of leg drive. The back runs a bit too high, at times, and should sink his hips more. I did not see him create creases on his own, instead he was reliant on his offensive line to put a hat on a hat to spring him loose. There were a few times that the runner did not pick up his feet, which caused him to get easily tripped up around the trash. Johnson has a tendency to bounce most of his runs outside, which will allow most defenses to catch up with him more quickly. He has a habit of body catching the ball and doesn’t get low to fire out against would be blitzers in pass protection. His health issues are a concern too as he didn’t finish a few of his games this past season.
Pros: This competitive slashing back relies on his loose hips, jump cuts, wiggle, spins, and explosive lateral movement to outmaneuver the defense. Johnson has good burst, amazing balance, along with fluidity and great acceleration from a complete stop. He uses a mean stiff-arm, runs through arm tackles, and always kept his feet chopping, making sure to fall forward. If Johnson can go to a one cut and go offense, he will be difficult to contain, especially in the open field. That is where his second gear makes defenses look silly. The runner is quite effective on delays, counters, and draws that allow him to out-quick everyone around him with a touch of patience. He is a good receiver out of the back field and can also be split out wide. Johnson can do serious damage downfield on wheel routes and bubble screens. The back does a great job of making the first man miss or catching the ball in stride, despite his tendency to body catch.
Overall thoughts: Duke Johnson is a more explosive CJ Spiller, who in the right one cut and go offensive system will be a fantasy superstar. The problem is that if he gets drafted by a more traditional offense, his talents will make him more of a change of pace back.
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