2018 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Kerryon Johnson
By Charlie Campbell
Summary: Entering the 2017 season, Johnson was not expected to be the feature back at Auburn after Kamryn Pettway led the Tigers in rushing during an impressive 2016 season. As the backup running back in 2016, Johnson ran for 895 yards and 11 scores. However in 2017, Johnson became the lead back for Auburn and was dominating runner for part of his junior year. Johnson carried Auburn to wins over Georgia (32-167) and Alabama (30-104-1) to put his draft stock on the map late in the 2017 season. Versus both defenses loaded with NFL talent, Johnson was very impressive and had his way with them. A shoulder injury slowed him down in the final two contests of the year.Johnson averaged 4.9 yards per carry in 2017 for 1,391 yards with 18 touchdowns. He also took 24 receptions for 194 yards and two scores.
In 2017, Johnson showed that he has three-down starting ability for the NFL. The junior is a well-rounded runner with quickness, cutting ability, vision, patience and balance. He is a tough runner who can go North-South or hurt defenses with runs to the perimeter. Johnson also runs smoothly, possessing nice change-of-direction skills to weave his way through the defense and glide for yards. He also played banged up, illustrating his toughness to withstand a heavy work load and some hard hits. Johnson dealt with a few injuries, however, and durability could be an issue for him in the NFL.
Johnson was impressive as a receiver in 2017, showing some nice route-running and soft hands. He was a dangerous outlet receiver for Auburn and could be that in the NFL. As a pro, Johnson will have to learn NFL blitzes, but in time, he has the potential to be a three-down starter.
In the 2018 NFL Draft, Johnson is likely to be a a second- or third-round pick.
Player Comparison: Arian Foster. Team sources suggested Foster as a comparison for Johnson. They said that Foster was a thicker, heavier version, but they are similar as a smooth runners who weave through a defense. Foster also was a receiving threat like Johnson was at Auburn. Foster went undrafted because of a variety of issues, but the Texans were very wise to sign him as he turned into one of the best running backs in the NFL during his prime. Johnson is grading out on the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft.
NFL Matches: Cleveland, New York Giants, Indianapolis, Tampa Bay, Oakland, Detroit, San Francisco and Pittsburgh
There are a lot of teams that could consider taking Johnson on the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft. The Browns moved on from Isaiah Crowell and signed Carlos Hyde. If they don't land Saquon Barkley in the first round, Johnson could make sense for their third-round pick.
In the Big Apple, the Giants could use a feature back for their offense, and Johnson would give them a physical rushing attack that they haven't had in years. If they doesn't take Barkley at pick No. 2, the Giants could be interested in Johnson in the second round.
Similarly, the Colts could use a running back of the future to pair with Andrew Luck and bring a more steady rushing attack to their offense. Indianapolis could target Johnson with one of its trio of second-round picks.
Tampa Bay needs a feature back after moving on from Doug Martin. I think the Bucs are more likely to target other backs in the second round, but if they trade down from that pick, Johnson could be in play for them.
In the Bay Area, San Francisco could use a lead back for its offense. Johnson could be a fit for Kyle Shanahan with his ability to contribute as a receiver. Oakland badly needs more consistency from its rushing offense. Predictably, Marshawn Lynch was a disappointment coming out of retirement, and Doug Martin isn't a long-term answer. The Raiders need a true feature back to go with Derek Carr.
For years now, the Lions have had one-dimensional offense with one of the worst rushing attacks in the league. Detroit needs a true No. 1 back to bring some balance to the offense. Johnson would be a nice fit for the Lions as a second- or third-rounder.
The Steelers have Le'Veon Bell for another season, but they have not signed Bell to a long-term contract extension. Johnson has a similar style to Bell, and the Steelers could draft Johnson to be Bell's future replacement.
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