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2015 NFL Draft Prospects: Kevin Johnson, CB Wake Forest

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Pittsburgh hasn't drafted a corner in the first round since 1997, Kevin Johnson of Wake Forest should be a player the team considers to help their secondary.

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Johnson joined the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in 2010, following his best friend, neighbor, and former high school teammate Michael Campanaro (currently a WR for the Baltimore Ravens). He was undersized weighing just 154 pounds but despite this disadvantage he was one of only three true freshman to play for Wake Forrest in 2010 starting five games.  The following year he was deemed academically ineligible did not play. He returned in 2012 as the starter and never relinquished the role making 41 straight starts, earning two All-ACC honorable mentions and was named two  2nd team All-ACC in 2014.

Strengths

Johnson is a taller, leaner corner at 6-foot, 188 pounds with 31 inch arm length. He is a fluid athlete who flips his hips with ease in coverage. His quick feet allow him to mirror opposing receivers and make him a natural in man coverage. Johnson is quick but in control with his backpedal and transitions out of it with good burst.

Breaking down and attacking throws underneath him are not an issue and Johnson does this as good as any CB in the draft.  He is what scouts consider "quicker than fast".  This quickness and his awareness are the reasons why he played well in off coverage.

In off coverage on this play Johnson is in off coverage. He begins the play in a nice smooth reading the receiver. He immediately recognizes the difference in stride as the receiver's left heel plants on the ground. (This signifies that the receiver is going to cut off his route.) Upon seeing this Johnson plants his right foot into the ground and gets ready to break on the route. A slight moment of hesitation causes Johnson to take a false step and prevents him from making a play. Despite this, Johnson's quick recognition of the receiver's body language is impressive.

Johnson doesn't just use his awareness in man coverage. In this play he is in off coverage as the Wake Forrest defense appears to be in a Cover 4.  He is reading the quarterback's eyes the entire time. Recognizing the receiver breaking down in front of him with QB starring him down, Johnson breaks on the route before the receiver  can turn  around completely. With the aid of a late throw , the play results in an easy interception.

In tight coverage Johnson is just as good.

Johnson is in tight man coverage here with inside out leverage. At the snap his right hand comes up quickly to prevent the receiver from crossing his face.  He isn't fooled by the receivers fake and stays with him. He is in great positions on just on top of the route. As the receiver break so does Johnson who then uses his length to knock away the football. Johnson's ability to stop his momentum and break when the receiver does is an important skill for NFL corners. His ability to find the ball in the air and make a play on it is just as important.

Weaknesses

In coverage, Johnson doesn't have many weaknesses in his game. He has only average long speed (ran a 4.52s 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine) which may require him to need help against some burners in the NFL. In his off coverage he has a tendency of giving up too much space which allows receivers to complete short throws underneath. He can also be overly aggressive in coverage biting on double moves.

Johnson's most glaring weakness is in his run support. Undersized during his entire college career, he struggles to get off receivers blocks. Like many corners he isn't a great tackler, often lunging. While he is a willing tackler he doesn't display the love for being physical like some other corners do in this draft.

Conclusion

Kevin Johnson is an experienced college corner who can play both man or zone coverage, at the line of scrimmage or off of it. He has quick feet and a controlled backpedal. He understands defensive concepts and has excellent recognition.  It can be difficult for defensive backs to make an impact early in the NFL because of the complexities of pro schemes and  the different rules about contact down the field. Johnson's ball skills and route recognition coupled with his quickness should allow him to make the transition more easily in the NFL that is strictly enforcing any contact down field. There is no doubt in my mind that Johnson is one of the best corners in the 2015 draft and he is definitely worthy of a first round pick.